Unpacking a “TransMedia” video

On May 19, 2007 by Christy

I stumbled across this video by Mickey Gilchrist and Scott Bartlett that is titled “transmedia”. The inference, then, is that this video is a collection of transmedia examples. Have a look:

Now, in an effort to demythologise what ‘transmedia’ and ‘cross-media’ etc is, I’ll take the opportunity to unpack the relations between the segments presented in this video:

  • Segment 1: Superman cartoon = 2D animation probably circa 1940s which is an ADAPTATION of comic books introduced in 1938 (although there may be some TRANSMEDIA expansions of the storyline);
  • Segment 2: Superman movie = live action ADAPTATION of segment 1. At quick glance, the adaptation occurs on a few levels: 1) Medial (2D to live action); 2) Cultural (storyline alteration for contemporary audiences);
  • Segment 3: The Simpsons cartoon = 2D INTERTEXTUAL relation (Genette) where the cartoon alludes to the Superman storyworld, also a ‘metaform’ (Johnson);
  • Segment 4: The Simpsons videogame = 3D ADAPTATION of The Simpsons 2D cartoon;
  • Segment 5: The Simpsons real life version & The Simpsons original cartoon = MASHUP/REMIX/INTERTEXTUAL relation (quoting) of original 2D cartoon and fan live-action APPROPRIATION/ADAPTATION/HOMAGE (source);
  • Segment 6: The Matrix title sequence & The Simpsons original cartoon = INTERTEXTUAL relation (quoting) of The Matrix feature film within The Simpsons original 2D cartoon;
  • Segment 7: The Matrix Lego animation = fan live-action APPROPRIATION/ADAPTATION/HOMAGE/PARODY of The Matrix live-action feature film;
  • Segment 8: The Matrix feature film = excerpt from live action feature film (that is what it looks like);
  • Segment 9: The Matrix videogame = INTERTEXTUAL relation (quoting) of 3D videogame ADAPTATION of The Matrix feature film within iPod interface REMEDIATION (transparency relation – Bolter & Grusin).

So, from this little analysis we can see that there the media relations exhibited are those that have been present for decades. From what I can tell, there is only one that is only one example of a weak form of expansion of a storyworld: the parody. I bring up the point of expansion because that is the contemporary understanding of ‘transmedia’, as popularised by Henry Jenkins. Jenkins’s definition of ‘transmedia storytelling’:

A transmedia story unfolds across multiple media platforms with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole. In the ideal form of transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best—so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics; its world might be explored through game play or experienced as an amusement park attraction. Each franchise entry needs to be self-contained so you don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy the game and vice-versa. (Convergence Culture, 139)

Transmedia storytelling, in Jenkins sense, refers to the expansion of a storyworld, with each unit being self-contained. This is actually just one type of transmedia expansion of four (4) top-level ones that I have identified. But the point about expansion is there. That is why I baulked at the video being described as ‘TransMedia’. Now, ‘cross-media’ is a term that has been around for a long time. It has many meanings to different parts of industry, different industries and different academics. I employ ‘cross-media’ to be an umbrella term that describes all inter-textual relations in a multi-platform environment: repurposing (remediation), adaptation and transmedia expansions (and more).

I find it interesting that ‘transmedia’ and ‘cross-media’ are often employed to described intertextual relations that have been present for a while. One of the reasons is that some people enter the notion of intertextual relations through these forms and so label them according to what they have just found out. Another reason is a fetish for the new. To label an intertextual activity according to notions that have been around for a very long time negates the excitement and uniqueness of it. With this analysis we can see that the activities listed in the video are not new in terms of the intertextual relations. What is new, however, is the range of media and artforms that we can employ for adaptations; the ways digital technologies enables easier appropriation of forms & the broadcasting of them; the growing preference for these forms and they way ‘official’ producers are engaging in these behaviours as well…

One thing is clear from this video though: people really do love seeing fictional worlds persist in every media platform and arts type, irrespective of the creator.

2 Responses to “Unpacking a “TransMedia” video”

  • Christy,

    So this may be a case less of transmediation, and more of dramatic irony or radical intertextuality. The video you analyze was a project made by two of my undergraduates in my class Media Technology & Cultural Change this spring. The assignment was to make a remix video that offered some critical commentary or exploration of media, using only found footage, and posting the result to YouTube. It was made shortly after reading Convergence Culture and a campus lecture from Henry Jenkins. Scott & Mickey did a nice job exploring the historicity & pervasiveness of transmediation, although I think they (admittedly) struggled with trying to get the footage to make an argument rather than just present examples.

    I’m glad you found it worthy of analysis – and I figured some “authorial intent” might help clarify it! I’ll be blogging about more of my students’ work in this course in the coming weeks.

  • Hello Jason,

    I didn’t know they were your students! I found the video quite inspiring because of the mix of ideas presented in it, and obviously because it is a handy springboard for a greater discussion about intertextual relations. I was actually thinking that a video of transmedia relations really is needed now, to augment the one created by your Mickey and Scott. I should do that as I have a truck load of examples in my repository…

    But as for the video and how your students interpreted Jenkins’s work. I find it really interested that there is a default mono-story paradigm when talking about texts across multiple media. So, there is a mono-media platform perspective that many have (that the medium content begins in will be the medium the content continues in), and a mono-story perspective (that any content in another platform that is related will be the same story). Both of these assumptions are understandable given the prevalent practices over the last few decades.

    But I’m fascinated in the reasons why some people naturally see through a multi-text, multi-story and multiple platform, some take a long time to see and some just don’t. Is there is a schema, in other words, that governs this way of conceptualising that affects not only how media relations are seen? There are neurological studies that identify ‘holistic’ and ‘reductionist’ operators in the brain. I do not feel comfortable, however, with bundling media understanding with a neurological capacity. I make it my mission, though, to help people see a little differently.

    N.B. The particular ways of seeing that I am talking about come under what Sue Thomas et. al. now call a reading ‘transliteracy‘. I like the term. 🙂

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