Even as it becomes more and more widely disseminated, and more people both use it and think they understand what it means, and as it takes on the dubious distinction of “buzzword” status, the term TRANSMEDIA is still one whose definition is debated, even (especially?) amongst those purporting to create it.
To some, it’s a marketing strategy; to others transmedia is just the mainstream word for ARGs (alternate reality games); and some contend that transmedia entertainment has moved beyond the ARG. Some see cross-media enterprises like the Star Wars expanded universe as transmedia; others think it’s when a single story is told across multiple platforms, requiring all of them together to form a complete picture. Some think transmedia requires some kind of interaction, others don’t. I’m not going to pretend to be able to explicate every definition out there — as Guy LeCharles Gonzalez says, if you ask five people for a definition of transmedia, you’ll get ten answers.
(The following articles offer some glimpses into the discussion of what transmedia is and can be, and I highly recommend them:
- Guy LeCharles Gonzalez — Wrestling With Words: Defining Transmedia
- Alison Norrington — Publishers to sell experiences and not products
- Simon Pulman — The Future of Publishing
- Scott Walker — Transmedia 2.0 — Participatory Entertainment
- Daniël van Gool — PICNIC: Everything we know about transmedia is wrong
- and especially Andrea Philips — WTF is Transmedia?)
Some people think we don’t need a specific definition, that we can just keep doing what we’re doing without having to call it something. But as transmedia writer Andrea Phillips points out, if we as transmedia creators are going to be able to find work, find an audience, build an identity, build a FIELD, we need to be able to talk about it. When people ask us what we do, we need an answer that doesn’t require twenty minutes to explain.
I highly recommend Andrea’s post on defining transmedia, as it brings up a lot of good points and actually does a pretty good job at explaining what transmedia is and can be. She also suggests that transmedia might not remain the term that describes all of these possibilities, that it might be co-opted by one segment of the industry to mean one specific thing.
But I would like for cast my hope alongside her that the term transmedia will continue to be one that encompasses all stories told across and through multiple media, from world-building cross-media enterprises like Star Wars — which she calls the sequential model — to the spiderweb structure of immersive stories and whatever ARGs evolve to become. We need that blanket term to encompass everything that transmedia can be, and the possibilities of what it can be are staggering and inspiring. Limiting the term will only serve to limit what people think they can do with it.