Writers Search for Transmedia Story in 2010.

I should go deeper into the ideas in this post, but Im tired and Ill let the medium be the medium and rely on “comments” and “replies” to expand my thoughts if anyone wants to get into it. I am expanding some thoughts based on some back and forth in a horribly placed facebook thread on transmedia storytelling etc, that i got into. Ill link it later…–updated:


So overview of thoughts. Writers….write. they write stories with words. They are being enamored with “gold in those darn hills” this year by the same things that got them to leave NY for CA in 1950s. Plays and Novels were dead paying mediums, TV and Films were making them a living or rich out west… so they went. Eventually a new type of professional was born, screen writer. But as we saw,  only a few became masters at it. it was new, it required different thinking and bias.

Transmedia by definition “i thought” was -“trans -media”  –multiple across many mediums- and “story” so it seems to me is the core from writing- narrative linear communication.  So Storytelling (idea transfer)–StorySelling( + economics) goes beyond writing and can of course be expressed in images, audio, and interactions. Its this pallette that allows for transmedia actions to occur and be experienced by a viewser/s.

Writers keep telling us that GOOD Transmedia is Story driven. I disagree. I see most successful Transmedia Ips today becoming less an less story-written required. IM NOT saying this is a GOOD thing, but the outcome of decades of electric/ now networked digital media. But that gets us into a whole other conversation, let’s just yack about some of the most basic “transmedia memes” that have been flowing past me on the web for the last year or so..OK?

Let’s hope one day I can run a panel or get a discussion going truthfully about this. A great mechanism would be that panel that has the creators of these 3 often used examples of “transmedia” online taking part and discussing the real beginning of the IPs of STAR WARS, TRON and the Matrix.

All used FILM as their Core Media Sell- Experience and the idea of STORY quality can be examined with the 3 to find any truth to the STORY as Key for successfull transmedia ip  meme.

My rough  thoughts on the 3 IPs :

Star Wars ( and i speak of first 77 movie alone, all star wars universe we know came later-really;0)  Was the most successfull in terms of impact and dollars, fans etc… had the most simple mythic story, kinda badly written for both audience of adults and actors to say;) but was visually “new and stunning” to mass audience, as well as it had ” good toy -play potential” as an IP..

TRON; which IMO was the most fully transmedia Ip thinking of the 3– had the most intergrated “play potential”- all those grid games – but suffered becuase of not the derivative star wars wrting-story.. but becuase its visuals( core film medium) were too “outhere” for the mainstream non geek cmp science audience on 1980… they needed dirty spaceships… not geometric expressionism:) ( bravo syd mead for doing both)  So Tron failed to make superstar transmedia IP levels.. not because of bad storytelling, but bad visual connect with mass audience… the Video games BTW- pure gold..pure to their medium— the trans worked for that media;)- they the games -played-, were the reason that 30 years later the IP is revived from history.

The Matrix- in all ways it had the most complex writing and story offered. So much that each sequel lost its main mediated mass of gen y geeks  more and more upon there release…The world presented-written  didn’t make for as good as games as Tron (though both used similar vr themes) and the real success of the movie to a mass was its visual style of bullet cams and anime fu choreagraphy. The toys/character visuals weren’t as diverse via “iconography”  as star wars or even tron..so its transmedia play wouldn’t reach as deep as those IPS with  younger generations.. it was also written for an older IQ…. more fail for them I guess but again more writing work for writers in more written media around VR culture…literates rejoice.

So that’s a rough blog post making some thoughts that really need a 2 hr panel discussion… so lets do it in SF, invite me, pay for my hotel and flight. And lets get Lucas, Brothers Wachowski, and Lisberger on panel and lets rip apart the “story” thing…

But then we can bring on JK Rowling to show that written story- CAN be core media for a transmedia major success, but that it’s really tough and that masters of words into story that can create transmedia ips are very rare indeed. A good question though to ask her and the audience would be their thoughts on what do they think the CORE memory of Harry Potter will be in 50-100 years, the Novels or the Movies. Which would be the fodder for the Transmedia projects of 2060?. Crazy? well what Frankenstein do you think of today? Mary’s or Boris’s — and which would you INVEST in today, Mr/Ms. StorySeller;) ?

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8 responses to “Writers Search for Transmedia Story in 2010.

  1. Larry, had a chance to peruse your blogpost, and I think our difference in perspective makes more sense to me now. Let me see if I can make a more cogent argument.

    You used four main examples of what “transmedia storytelling” might be — Star Wars, Tron, Matrix and Harry Potter. Many of us would make the argument that those aren’t transmedia storytelling at all, they are examples of franchising (allowing others to create something utilizing your characters and/or story universe) or adaptation (finding a way to tell a story in a different medium from the one it was originally created for.)

    We could dig more into why many of us don’t believe those examples are transmedia storytelling, but I think that’s been hashed quite elegantly by others in the comments above. The spectrum of design at any one moment is still monomedia, even if it has some level of storyworld continuity (which in some, like Star Wars or Star Trek, doesn’t have a high level of continuity across the whole body of adaptation and franchising.)

    None of the above, though, is meant to dispute the fact that more and more people are using “transmedia” as some kind of noun instead of an adjective, and are using it to point to things like Star Wars as an example of what transmedia is. Those of us who feel that’s really franchising and adaptation are just as uncomfortable with that short cut as you are. You’re solving the dilemna by heading down “the medium is the message” route, which I personally think isn’t always useful as a dialog among creators. Others of us are solving it by saying “transmedia franchising is redundant — most franchising is from one medium to another” or “transmedia adaptation is redundant — adaptations are almost always from one medium to another”.

    What many of us are trying to focus on is how the act of creation is different when you’re no longer thinking about it as a series of monomedia. The medium isn’t the message: the message is the medium.

  2. actually i dont think star wars or potter are transmedia created. One was a film script, the other a novel. What Im discussing here is only the written word media- writing- and the idea of story that is formed by using words. Plus the writers use of transmedia as a new “method” for business. The Transmedia Storyteller is the OTHERS major blog meme, not mine;)

    “What many of us are trying to focus on is how the act of creation is different when you’re no longer thinking about it as a series of monomedia.” ok.. the first step to this is to place “story” and “written words” into their proper place.. BECAUSE the medium IS ALWAYS gonna overpower the message.

    LEGO has been shown to be a better TRANSMEDIA IP than any story word written piece.

    Again, this blog post was not about whats a TRANSMEDIA IP..but about the delusions that STORY/WRITING is what drove the successes of the most COMMONLY BLOG USED examples of what TRANSMEDIA is.
    For the record, what i found “new” in 1995 was the ability i now had to use the networked web medium to offer a 2 way viewser IP, that could span across multiple mediums via a central media HUB (website) that could be used to distribute various media..text, image audio film etc…and that the single universe conciet of “starbasec3” could be presented as one POV of its creator. Econmomics certianly played a part of the new… economics driven by the technologies cost, then…. but as markets crowd, economies change. and today starbasec3.com -still online- is a hidden piece of non well publisised history..;) swallowed by todays current budgets and press around the idea of transmedia mainly being talked about at tradeshows and conferences.;)

  3. “(which in some, like Star Wars or Star Trek, doesn’t have a high level of continuity across the whole body of adaptation and franchising.)”

    today, id say both franchise IPs have a pretty HIGH level of continuity…each has teams of “protectors” and high desire to “monetize” in all mediums created. they dont work as single design studios producing all products offered, which may never truly be workeable– but they certianly are working at levels very differnt from those in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.:)

    This is a comercial medium.. STORYSELLING.;) so economics and media economics will always dominate ALL TRANSMEDIA expressions… even writers needed to buy paper;)
    Today they need an ipad.;) or so “every” potential client/patron says;)

  4. Hey, Larry — your comments clarify your positions for me. Let me offer some observations:
    1) You’re an indie, then. Gotcha. So am I and most of the people participating in that thread. That means we’ve been violent agreement all along on most of the core points, but suffered the exact syntaxical breakdown that I was talking about in the FB post to begin with.
    2) Makes more sense that you’re looking at this from a written word perspective: I don’t, which means we’re using story in slightly different ways — you’re using it more a synonym for written word, I’m using it in the abstract from a pre-mediated sense (it could be a story I’m telling you in person, for example.)
    3) Sometimes we’re still talking past each other with the word “IP” — for example, you quote me making a comment about story continuity and reply talking about IP continuity. To me, those are two very dfferent things. I think most commercial work these days actually has a pretty horrible sense of story continuity as it franchises.
    4) I’m not sure I entirely understand what you’re trying to say with “storyselling” — I feel like you might be assuming that everyone is trying solve the economics the same way. So the idea that media economics will dominate all transmedia expressions leaves me scratching my head … I’m not sure whether to interpret what you saying as “everything is economics” (which is true) or that “we should be focused on the media economics” (which I’m not sure I agree with, the form of creation is something that should work irregardless of your intentions on monatizing or not monatizing it, otherwise aren’t saying revenue is the only bellweather of success?)
    5) Maybe that’s where we’re disconnecting the most — to me, IP is expression of ownership, story is an expression of creative control. Totally fair that both owners and expressors need to be able to view transmedia methods from their POV, but I don’t believe they are equivalent. Media economics might be the tension between those two positions.

  5. actually, we are in violent agreement on all the points you metion in this post, even on what IP is… but control IS control.. and Value IS value.;)

    i dont think were in agreement over the reality of the media though… and that the message is always subservient to it. to me that just TRUTH.

    As to storyselling and what i get from it, read the first to posts and maybe mediabastard.wordpress.com as i said. IM not the one whos chosen it to be marketed;)– how many cigarette ads have you done?;)

    accept for being on facebook i liked the orignal postings desire. and majority of its POV. read my first “comment”…

    what I think is of value isnt the point..thats the message of THIS medium.:) thats the driver of facebook /google etc.. and how “we” plural have decided to use the net…. just as we decided to use radio or tv before it… or books… all media;)

    storytelling as biggest stick?… yes thats what has gotten the transmediates just as it gets any “gold in hills” trend group” before…. but because of how technolgy works/ media works today… you get a much shorter time to master any “art” or “craft” before its gone…. and then one must ask oneself.. WHAT GOOD is A CULTURE BASED ON STORIES you forget 10 seconds after they are done….?

    Explain to me how that ISNT the world of the Internet and the medium we are InterFACEBOOKING into with by “law” almost every day now:)?

    I evangelized “new media” 20 years ago… im trying to stop the damage done by ignorant youth;)

  6. oh. and in one point above youre wrong. IM not the one using storytelling as only words…. i hate writing.. hate it. im perfect for the web… visit 1993s tHUNK! The Digital Network… 😉

  7. Larry, you continue to argue with strawman positions that no one I know is making, let alone me. Let me dispel a few of those:

    I’ve never met anyone who advocated that control is not control or that value is not value; I’ve never done cigarette ads, I don’t even know anyone who has; I’ve never met anyone who advocates for a culture based on stories your forget in 10 seconds.

    The rest of the argument you’re building against that strawman opponent is an interesting one, but here’s where our perspective differs:

    I don’t believe all experience is mediated, I just as frequently work with unmediated experiences (that bear more theoretical heritage to the performance arts, where media is “mere documentation of performance” and not the point of the authorship.) I frequently design so that audience themselves are expected to be the documentarians of the experience. In performance, the “message” comes out of a moment in time through the dynamic of interpretation of “the text” by the audience and the performers. Media documentation of that, I agree, inherits the underlying politics and limitations and economics of both the capturing process and distribution process of that media object.

    So it isn’t that I’m as ignorant of McLuhan as you might think I am, it’s that I view the role of media as a subset of the role of experience. Some mediums, like the novel, have very little performance in their process, they are more like the fine arts (focused on the final artifact). Some mediums, like film and television and music, have in their heart the same performance process as theater and then a media abstraction of that. Plus, there are always artists to point to that use the exact opposite on purpose (like the painter who paints whole works in 5 minutes on a stage live for an audience – painter, or performer?) I think the Web is the most ambigious “medium” of all, it is a flexible enough system that it can be used to support numerous models simultaneously. I think some of those are rather performance based (ex, your “10 second culture” argument could be made about a live performance … what good is it if it ceases to exist as it happens?) while others are rather authoritive (like, say, a blog post).

    So when I pithily toss off the McLuhan dichotomy, I’m NOT arguing that message over-rides anything intrinsic about the nature of that medium. I’m arguing that since I’m an experience designer, I can actively choose which mediums I express the message in … I can even choose to deliver that message through unmediated experiences and avoid the McLuhan distortion entirely (but introduce a few different ones inherited from performance theory.)

    Thinking all experience is mediated is a post-modern concept, and it has been one of my core criticisms of the transmedia term since Jenkins started popularizing it. You might find broader vistas to consider in that performance theory pile, Larry — diving into that 8 years ago really changed the way I conceptualize my own work. For example, the body of work around “theater of the oppressed” and the concept of the spectactor (the spectator who is drawn in to become an actor) re-crystalize the job of the playwright in ways that seem valuable metaphorically in a more interactive media age, where the Web can (and does) get used like theater of the oppressed (the work of the Yes Men come to mind as an example.)

    The other difference in our perspectives is that I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying I think there are other valid schemas for thinking about this than just the McLuhan one (for example, the Campbell school of thought, which I also don’t think is the sole valuable construct.) Personally, I work from a number of influences but if I had to grudgingly pick only one to hang hat with it might be experience design as described by Nathan Shedroff in 2000: that work crystalized my thinking on how to design across multiple channels meaningfully, it explained what I was seeing during my less disciplined experimental youth 🙂 http://www.nathan.com/ed is a good starting overview, his book “Experience Design 1.1” is a good deeper dive if you’re interested.

  8. “I’ve never met anyone who advocated that control is not control or that value is not value; I’ve never done cigarette ads, I don’t even know anyone who has; I’ve never met anyone who advocates for a culture based on stories your forget in 10 seconds.”

    funny how they all get done then… i have done them all.;)- so now you do.

    ive spent 25 plus years doing experience design. human interface, exhibit, industrial etc., whatever name it gets this year… and its clear that all experiences are mediated by some modifier be it natural or tech. But you can disagree as much as you like.;) media as a noun just dose not work for my world view.

    The web is not about performance of message- its about the performance of speed. Its not about quality but quantity. Its a medium grounded in binary impulses. Its not analog.
    Web viewsers? all there to be singularized.

    strawmen?.. the problem is burning men. 😉

    keep up the good fight. The right tool for the right job.
    BTW- i checked out the “Experience Design Book Website”– its all fine good stuff.. i wrote about and lectured on most of its ideas from about 1990 -97 in NY. i guess i just bristle at a book from 2000 calling the disiplines nacent and new. I found jay Doblins 1985 Information Design to be one book that made most of the same points as well…( and that got me hooked) and he was reporting from his career in design that went back decades earlier.

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