In 2009, I submitted my PhD on transmedia practice. It is titled Transmedia Practice: Theorising the Practice of Expressing a Fictional World across Distinct Media and Environments.

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[Personal introductory post here]

I am thrilled to say that all of my examiners gave glowing and insightful comments, such as these quotes from each:

“I am particularly impressed with the wealth of material tackled in the dissertation, and also the numerous theoretical sources applied. Despite its almost encyclopaedic nature, the dissertation is clearly and engagingly written, and the richness of material does not congest the flow of argument. Dena furthermore manages to engage theorists and prior commentators in a generous yet critical manner, identifying their weaknesses while pointing out and employing their useful aspects. Her level of scholarship is impressive and style convincing.”

“But its significance extends far beyond the novelty of the phenomenon under investigation. This is a truly groundbreaking work whose strengths are too numerous to list: the breadth of its scope, the extent of its scholarship, its development of new analytical tools, its extension of the vocabulary of new media studies through interdisciplinary ideas, and above all its lucid examination of the design problems encountered by multi-media projects.”

“I would like to reiterate my strong appreciation of this excellent thesis that explores a vast field of fascinating practices, that demonstrates an impressive knowledge of numerous theoretical works on the various aspects of the question, and proposes an ambitious model that encompasses domains that are too often treated separately “ traditional media and Internet, narratives and games, entertainment fiction and experimental works of art. That Christy Dena has done this without lapsing into syncretism is much to her credit, and I would like to congratulate her warmly.”

I’m now putting it online for researchers and practitioners interested in this area. Here is a direct link to the PDF for download [it is print-ready quality = 24mb]. I welcome any thoughts you may have.


In the past few years there have been a number of theories emerge in media, film, television, narrative and game studies that detail the rise of what has been variously described as transmedia, cross-media and distributed phenomena. Fundamentally, the phenomenon involves the employment of multiple media platforms for expressing a fictional world. To date, theorists have focused on this phenomenon in mass entertainment, independent arts or gaming; and so, consequently the global, transartistic and transhistorical nature of the phenomenon has remained somewhat unrecognised. Theorists have also predominantly defined it according to end-point characteristics such as the expansion trait (a story continues across media). This has resulted in the phenomenon being obscured amongst similar phenomena. Therefore, rather than investigate the phenomenon as it occurs in isolated artistic sectors and with an end-point characteristic, this thesis investigates all of these emergences through the lens of transmedia practice. That is, this thesis investigates the nature of transmedia practice in general, according to the way practitioners conceive and design a fictional world to be expressed across distinct media and environments.

To do this, this thesis draws on the semiotic theory of multimodality and domains of practice (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001) to illuminate the unique knowledge and skills of practitioners involved in the design of transmedia projects. The industrial and aesthetic implications of the employment of distinct media are discussed, along with their semiotic activation. Related theories such as hypertextuality and transfictionality are problematised in light of transmedia phenomena. Since the phenomenon involves both narrative and game modes, a new methodology is introduced to study their presence at various stages of design: transmodality. The employment of the actual world in transmedia practices is discussed in light of Aristotle’s dramatic unities and through deictic shift theory. Through research questions from media, narrative and game studies as well as semiotics, this thesis aims to explain how transmedia is a peculiar practice that demands its own research area and methodologies.








Chapter 1: Introduction

From Interpreting to Constructing Meaning

The Disciplinary Methodology of this Thesis

The Terminology of Transmedia Practice

The Structure of this Thesis

Chapter 2: Art, Commerce, Media and Environments in Transmedia Practice

Artistic Vision, Commerce and Practice

Theorising Economics and Aesthetics in Mass Entertainment

The Implications of Commerce in Transmedia Practice

Distinct Media and Environments

What does Distinct Media Mean?

Why Environments?

Beyond Media Specificity

Transmedia as UnMixed Media Aesthetics


Chapter 3: Relations Theories and Distinguishing Transmedia Types and Practice

Recognising Inter- and IntraCompositional Transmedia Phenomena

Theorising InterCompositional Transmedia Phenomena

The Problem with End-Product Traits

InterCompositional Relations Theories

Understanding InterCompositional Transmedia Practice

The Who of Transmedia Practice

Continuity Documentation

Adaptation and Transmedia Practice

IntraCompositional Transmedia Phenomena

The Breaking Boundaries Rhetoric


Chapter 4: Narrative, Game and Interactivity in Transmedia Projects

From Ideologies of Interactivity to Literacy

Problematising Narrative and Game Elements

Current Narrative- and Game-Based Theories of Transmedia Phenomena

Rethinking Game and Narrative Similarities

Theorising a Transmodal Approach

Transmodal Concepts

Design Documents, Interactivity and Media

Reactivity in Transmedia Projects

Non-Computational Game Mastering

Players as Co-Constructors

Tiering: Understanding Distinct Media and Fragmented Audiences in Transmedia Projects

Introducing Tiering

Tiering to Address Artistic and Media Preferences and Literacies

Tiering to Facilitate Social Interaction and Cooperation

Tiering to Bring Remote Participants Together


Chapter 5: Dramatic Unity, Verisimilitude and the Actual World in Transmedia Practice

The Aesthetics of Dramatic Unities

Action and Representation: Dramatic Unities in Transmedia Practices

Recentering a Fictional Universe with the Actual World

Understanding Recentering through Deixis

Recentering with Fictional World Abstraction (Concepts)

Recentering with Media and Environments: Property Resemblance

Recentering with Paratextuality

Recentering with Hypertextuality

Recentering with MetaTextuality

Recentering with Catalytic Allusions



Studying Transmedia Practice

From the End-Point Experience to Meaning Construction

Transmedia Knowledge and Skills

Theorising an Ongoing Tendency

Future Directions


Works Cited


  1. Yay! Thank you all. Love your comments and I’m really happy you’re all so excited! 🙂

  2. Congratulations Christy! Really looking forward to reading this, I’ve read your previous academic papers and I’m a fan =)

    My PhD deals peripherally with transmedia storytelling, or rather how transmedia storytelling elements sort of tangle up and collide with existing online community practices and discourses, so this is very welcome read!

  3. Christy,

    Thanks so much for putting this online. I’m eager times three to give it a read. I just wish I could buy it bound through Lulu or CreateSpace – instead of printing it out at work. But ohhh well, well done and thanks for sharing your efforts.

  4. @Henri Weijo – thank you! I do discuss intertextuality in chapter three of the thesis, and so I’d be interested in your thoughts on the subject. 🙂

    @Bud Caddell – thank you too! I did consider putting it online as a book of some kind. However, the thesis is written for academia for my PhD, not for general audiences. The thesis may be published in book form, and this will involve rewriting it. So, I decided to leave it as it is for now…rather than having two books out there… 🙂

  5. Christy, congratulations, i got here through bbhlabs twitter. i am very happy i did, amazing job, thank you for sharing.

  6. Congratulations Christy and thanks for sharing. I’m just embarking on my PhD journey in a related field and from the outset, your papers have been a refreshing inspiration. I’m looking forward to reading your thesis – as well as being informative, I’m sure it will encourage me to see the challenge through.

  7. Congrats!!!!! Really pleased that you have finally completed what was clearly an epic journey. Really excited about reading the PDF. Let me know when your going to be in London and we can catch up over a drink. Congrats again! Jolyon

  8. Hey Christy
    Congratulations. Thanks so much for putting this on line and so promptly too. I cant wait to read it.

  9. Hi Christy
    I am in Cardiff and came to your presentation yesterday as part of the local contingent. Was moved to follow up all your references and tracked down your Phd which I will pass onto my students. I teach on an MA programme here in Cardiff and this is a wonderful resource so thank you very much.
    I don’t know how long you are in Cardiff but I am in and out of PttP for the week til Thurs. Hope you enjoy being here.
    Best wishes
    Fizzy Oppe

  10. Hi Christy,
    I have just completed a course in a related field last year and am embarking on a journey to bring Transmedia into main stream. Really looking forward to reading your PhD. thanks for sharing it.
    Zoltan Deak

  11. Thank you for sharing this amazing work ! I’m starting my dissertation on the subject and you will help me very very much ! Thank you 🙂

  12. Sibel! Thank you very much for the cheers! I really appreciate it and I look forward to hearing about your dissertation. 🙂

  13. Dear Christy, have you come across any studies interpreting merchandising as part of transmedial immersion, rather than commodification? I was thinking of the way children use action figures or dolls, say, to enact the original and their own versions of transmedial worlds. In so doing, they are experiencing as immersive an engagement as any other format. I wish I could still reach that intensity of transference unaided!

    Speaking of imaginative transference, merchandising objects such as mugs and T shirts, do they not facilitate the immersive experience of the transmedial world by way of reinforcement of and enabling a ‘belonging to’? As such, is Lean quite so correct in his condemnation of such things?

    If these issues have not been considered before, I would like to posit them now and, may I say, you heard it here first!


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