There are many products of media convergence (the way that the Internet and advancing technology is sucking content away from traditional devices like televisions and radio, and pushing it onto the Internet to be consumed across personal devices like smartphones and laptops), one being transmedia storytelling. This phenomenon sees many well loved, and new, stories being transformed into a franchise which can be consumed in many different forms. Jenkins asks, ‘Will transmedia storytelling enrich popular culture or make it more formulaic?’ (2004).
The world of transmedia is a world of possibilities, where the transmedia formula is both creating opportunities to generate massive profits in the entertainment industry, and enriching culture through the world of online fandom. Transmedia isn’t just about big companies storytelling across multiple platforms and different types of media, but also about amateur content creators and storytellers immersing themselves in ‘participatory culture’ (Deuze 2007) pushing the boundaries of where the official content ends and where fans can use creativity to extend the story as far and wide as they want to.
No longer is it a mark of success to make it in one medium. No, you haven’t really made it until the world of convergence is inhabited by your brand, whether it be a TV series, movie, or book, your content spread across many different media and platforms. In many cases this is paid for by big companies like TimeWarner and Disney. Take DC Comics’ Batman, recently rebooted across the comics, movies, video games, apps, and YouTube miniseries. Maybe the truest mark of success emerges within the Lego Franchise; some of the most successful transmedia stories have been recreated in Lego form, reaching new and younger audiences through which the story can live for longer than it may do in the hands of adults, as is the case with Batman Lego and Batman minifigure, complete with Batman villians. The success of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit franchise also shows the success of transmedia and the partnership of entertainment giants with the various branches of convergence media.
As shown in Peter Hirshberg’s ‘The Web is More Than Just ‘Better TV‘, the younger generation, who have grown up with both old and new media in their hands, understand that convergence is more than just an opportunity to consume one-to-many media in a new place. These are, and will become, the fans of the age of media convergence. Social media has become a key way in which young fans get heavily involved in promoting and thereby becoming part of their favourite content and franchises, exemplified by the recent promotion of the newest installment in the adaptions of the Hunger Games books, where fan created memes and art, professional trailers, and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts from fans are built into The Hunger Games Explorer.
We now consume media not just by sitting back and observing. When we hear music we like, we upload our own versions of them to YouTube (Same Love/Macklemore covered by ‘fan’ Sierra Ward-Bond) and Vimeo (My Love/Justin Timberlake covered by ‘fan’ Tender Forever). When we see movies we like, we create art (Disney Characters in College) and merchandise (Despicable Me knitting pattern for Minion dolls, might usually be sold commercially) which re-conceptualizes and adds new ideas and dimensions to the them. When we find TV shows we like, we are the reviewers (IMDB), creating blogs and websites which collate opinion and content (Dexter Daily), art (Dexter on Etsy) and literature (Dexter on FanFiction) that add to, not simply comment on, the success and sharing of these shows around the world.
So, Mr Jenkins, transmedia storytelling may have become formulaic, but the formula is a good one.
Deuze, M. 2007, ‘Convergence culture in the creative industries’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol. 10 No. 2, 243-263.
Jenkins, H. 2004 ‘The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol. 7 No.1, 33-43.