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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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. 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

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