May 2, 2011

Transmedia Storytelling Goes Beyond Entertainment

Transmedia Storytelling, according to media psychologist Pamela Rutledge in Psychology Today is “the new standard for 21st century communication:”

Transmedia storytelling uses multiple media platforms to tell a single, coherent story or narrative that unfolds across time. Each media piece-whether it’s a website, novel, video games, mobile apps, or a film-provides different points of access and can engage different demographics. Each media components add to the story while functioning as a standalone experience.  Each component invites some level of participation.  The story can be experienced and appreciated at any stage, but the cumulative effect of all the pieces makes a larger, richer and more engaging message experience.

Until recently, transmedia storytelling has been primarily a term-of-art for the entertainment business. The concept is making its way beyond entertainment into the world of business and organizational strategy. Rutledge explains it as a branding and marketing function, but also holds out executive development benefits.  In a transmedia context, the message cannot precede the media.  Instead of telling the same story in the same way in different spaces, executives will begin with an understanding of the simultaneously fragmented and interlocking qualities of our communications space, and seek to help us experience their story across time and in different spaces.  In the midst of this basic process, they will learn their own story–and its gaps and inconsistencies–much better, according to Rutledge.

The potential applications of this framework in other contexts readily suggest themselves.  Political campaigns, development projects, education, and business, could all make use of the formula that transmedia storytelling proposes, in which different pieces of a coherent story are told through different media, in different ways, at various times.

New ways of exploiting this framework are sure to arise, as the list of commentators elaborating, and stretching the concept to new limits, suggests:

  • Transmedia Storytelling 101, by Henry Jenkins
  • Georgy Cohen on transmedia storytelling as part of higher education branding
  • Transmedia Storytelling, What is It? by John Ryan



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