Terminology and Meaning




In this current time and place, in 2011, with the onslaught of convergence culture, we find ourselves amidst change and advances in storytelling. However, through all of this, there is much confusion within both academia and industry regarding terminology, definitions and simply the various meanings within this overall area known as Transmedia Storytelling. It is due to this confusion and differing definitions that we will present an array of possibilities, mostly by others, and then attempt to provide our own interpretation of what the terms like transmedia, multimedia, crossmedia, franchise, storytelling and storyworld mean.

There’s always a lot of confusion when new technologies and practices emerge, and the relationship between academia and industry is really what drives much of the push for understanding and the proliferation of these technologies. But, as a result of commercial intent, industry tries to put labels on particular concepts and define words as a marketing approach, in order to establish a vibrant industry and bring income. This is a valid action as the constant defining and re-defining of words and semantic play will help push certain areas of development. Continuous research into the field will also back these ideas up.

But it is important to recognise that this muddle of definitions and differing interpretations has great significance. Firstly, if there are no solid and concrete definitions, it makes it extremely difficult to prepare models of engagement and interaction. Of course, as is explored throughout this research report and website, there are theories and certain paradigms that have proven to be successful, it is not a system that is anywhere near as established as a media industry like film, television, magazine or radio etc.

However, there is most certainly an upside to this current confusion that one should acknowledge and appreciate. Industries like TV, Film and Radio have established terms, processes and rules of production, distribution and behaviour, stretching from business models to the very structures of the forms and narratives themselves. Whilst these formulae work to a large degree, these boundaries and walls that have been put up constrain much thought and innovation. Experimental films do exist, but they are only exist in a space that is very limited in terms of its distribution and audience. All of the traditional media industries have conventions that restrict creative bodies, and it is actually quite a good thing that conventions have not been totally applied to the arena of transmedia. As Jenkins explains in his blog post Hollywood Goes Transmedia: “while the Transmedia Hollywood conference drew criticism from some quarters for having too elastic or "vague" a definition of its core concept, this very expansiveness is what allows us to bring many different voices to the table, to map diverse kinds of experiments, and to promote new innovations and explorations” (http://henryjenkins.org/2010/04/hollywood_goes_transmedia.html). Basically, as Christy Dena also advocates (http://www.christydena.com/2010/04/pgas-transmedia-producer/), formalising notions of transmedia down into marketing terms, structures and models has the great potential to restrict people’s attitudes on transmedia production and uses. This, in turn, could force people to specialise in skill sets that would inhibit them in expanding their creativity through transmedia. Whilst speaking with Katherine Phelps, we found her attitude to echo this, in that he does not want metaphorical “marketing walls” to be put up around a creative individual.
The point is, we should not be too quick to give such tight definitions to words that, at this stage, should be vague enough to encompass a lot more, and leave room for more ‘toying’ and experimentation.

But, how does this help us when communicating our projects to others. Well, when it comes to definitions, explaining exactly what you mean, in a direct sense, with your own personal intent and meanings, is probably the best way to communicate. In this research paper, these definitions can be given to provide some understanding on certain concepts, but it almost doesn’t matter what words you use, as long as you comprehend the various principles and notions behind the general area of “transmedia”.

Multimedia usually refers to the technologies themselves, without much regard for anything to do with content, especially narrative and storytelling.

According to Nicoletta Iacobacci (http://www.lunchoverip.com/2008/05/from-crossmedia.html), crossmedia and transmedia are very similar and have a lot of crossover, but use multiple media storytelling in different ways.
“In a crossmedia environment, content is repurposed, diversified and spread across multiple devices to enhance, engage and reach as many users/viewers as possible.” ‘Content 360’, which crossmedia is also called, is a re-editing or re-using of the same program or content, specialised for the different devices that consumers use. The reason for the repurposing is to enhance or focus the user’s experience according to these devices’ features and functions. [LINK to consumption devices and platforms] A crossmedia story is a single story re-told in several ways.
“In transmedia storytelling, content becomes invasive and permeates fully the audience's lifestyle... A transmedia project develops storytelling across multiple forms of media in order to have different "entry points" in the story; entry-points with a unique and independent lifespan but with a definite role in the big narrative scheme.” It is within this definition of transmedia that notions like ‘story universe’ and ‘storyworld’ start to appear.

The storyworld is something that quite unique to transmedia creation. More detail can be found about it here.

Steve Peters, one of the great transmedia gurus, provides a good set of definitions from various sources in this blog post.