MIT has a dedicated Transmedia Storytelling Lab!

Henry Jenkins was one of the first media theorists to identify the subject of my research and and what he terms “transmedia storytelling”. He is co-heading a dedicated research lab at MIT now, called the Convergence Culture Consortium. The Consortium is geared towards, it seems, providing data to industry as well as contributing to scholarship. They are addressing the following:

Transmedia Entertainment describes the newfound flow of stories, images, characters, information, and sounds across various media channels, in a coordinated fashion, which facilitates a deepening expansion of the consumer’s experience.

Participatory Culture describes the way consumers interact with media content, media producers, and each other as they explore the resources available to them in the expanded media landscape. Consumers become active participants in shaping the creation, circulation, and interpretation of media content. Such experiences deepen the consumer’s emotional investment in the media property, and expands their awareness of both content and brand.

Experiential Marketing refers to the development of novel approaches to brand extension and marketing which play out across multiple media channels so that the consumer’s identification with the product is enhanced and deepened each time they re-encounter the brand in a new context.

Their ethnographic approach focuses on “three key, yet different, cultural groups”:

Fan Cultures
Brand Cultures
Style Cultures

These are the research questions the consortium will answer:

  • How has the intersection between old and new technologies shifted the ways that people consume entertainment and brand content?
  • What new media methods and models can sponsors and advertisers use to build a lasting emotional connection with their brands? (e.g. product placements, advergaming and viral marketing)
  • What happens as brand cultures (the most hardcore consumers of a particular consumer product) interact with fan cultures (the most hardcore enthusiasts of a particular entertainment franchise)?
  • What strategies do brand managers need to adapt to the instantaneous global circulation of entertainment content (such as Japanese anime, Korean soaps, and hip-hop)?
  • Does greater consumer participation in brand cultures result in stronger brand affiliations?
  • Where do companies “cross the line” in their efforts to attach themselves to particular entertainment franchises through product placements and tie-ins?

My heart nearly skipped a beat when I saw this group. But I was relieved to see they are concentrating on the audiences and not narrative design in particular. Initially, my research design included studying companies and the reception of their content. But, I found not many companies actually knew what they were doing! Times have changed though and this consortium will provide alot of valuable info, along with the busy researchers in Europe. [I’ll be doing a round-up of the cool stuff happening over there soon.] This is a huge area that has researchers & creators popping up everywhere across the globe. I had better hurry up and get my PhD out there (next year folkls!). They have a blog that seems very informative.

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