Basics | Transmedia Storytelling

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Short intro to transmedia storytelling. (TMS), 2014I. TMS | what is it about?II TMS | How to do it? III TMS | Which tools and platforms?


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    [3x3 Basics | Transmedia Storytelling]

    juttafranzen | 2014

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    3 x 3 Basics | Transmedia Storytelling (TMS)

    At the International Summerschool of the CCCLab (, I introduced already some years ago transmedia storytelling (TMS) as a creative way to communicate the issues of climate change. Here again and updated, some basics of TMS. Transmedia is one way of talking about convergence as a set of cultural practices. one logic for thinking about the flow of content across media. (Jenkins 2011) Transmedia Storytelling you now find it almost everwhere: commercials and entertainment use it, and even when sharing their lifestyle or spreading their (political) messages, people like to tell their stories. They do it in a special way, telling the stories across a variety of media, opening many entry points and offering a pervasive and intense, engaging experience of their story. I. TMS | what is it about?

    (1) Definitions

    Since Henry Jenkins in 2002 coined the term "Transmedia Storytelling" (Jenkins 2003) there

    have been numerous definitions to try and explain how it can be understood. Some of the

    most common definitions are:

    Transmedia is

    " telling stories over a number of media platforms, stories that are connected to a higher or

    lesser degree, but always connected and rooted in a common story world. " (Staffans 2012,


    telling multiple stories over multiple mediums

    that fit together to tell one pervasive big story.

    (One 3 Productions 2011)

    the story-universe does not limit itself to one

    single medium but takes advantage of the strengths

    of every medium to create something new out of

    their symbiosis. (Coelle et al. 2011, thesis 06)

    transmedia 101 | one 3 productions

    In order to have a clear understanding, it is helpful to consider each term closely, which are

    each used partly as synonymous.

    (2) Storyuniverse, storyworld, canon

    Unlike various Grand Stories about progress and

    freedom - which were significant for the Modern Age,

    but ended with the postmodern era (Lyotard 1979) - the

    storyuniverse or the storyworld offers no meta story.

    However, the storyworld provides a kind of narrative

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    superstructure which consists of a canon, a set of binding rules for the storytelling: e.g.

    opinions, principles, figures, and events. (Pratten, 2011 p.61).

    In developing the storyworld and its canon, it is important that the storyworld leaves space for

    variety in history and figures. For transmedia, a storyworld with many different optional paths

    is perfect; as my path = / = your path. What I experience in the storyworld is not precisely

    the same as what anybody else experiences (Wendig 2012, 09)

    The storyworld can be an existing or a fictitious world. It is crucial that it will be widely

    described in its canon with:

    a past and a future, so that the stories are able to look back, tell a vision, and can

    show surprising turns;

    captivating and pleasing figures who are pursuing their goals, delivering conflicts,

    overcoming barriers, and experiencing climaxes and downs etc

    offers to the participation.

    (3) Multiple stories, big story, entry points, rabbit holes

    Each multiple story in the storyworld is related to each other and they fit together to tell one

    big story which is wider than only the sum of

    the separate multiple stories:

    The multiple stories tell supplementary

    insights (additives comprehension, Neil

    Young), and only from them, the whole story

    can be revealed. There is no singular original

    text existing, apart from the multiple stories,

    with a linear narrative from the beginning

    (about the crisis) until the (happy) end, as we are used to in classical story.

    This is a very different pleasure than we

    associate with the closure found in most

    classically constructed narratives, where we

    expect to leave the theatre knowing everything

    that is required to make sense of a particular

    story (Jenkins 2007).

    The multiple stories open up different forms of

    access (entry points, rabbit holes) where

    different ways and connections (bridges) can be followed (Wendig 2012), for example how

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    the rabbit hole of Lewis Carrol's "Alice in the wonderland" introduces the depth and

    complexity of the wonderland. The multiple stories offer attractive access from which non

    linear and tied up paths into the story can be experienced and entertained. Story bridges

    and rabbit holes - places they can cross knowingly or spots they can fall into the narrative

    unexpectedly - are necessary components to the infrastructure. (Wendig 2012, Point 18).

    II TMS | How to do it?

    (1) (Endless) telling

    TMS is, above all, the "telling", and the process of developing a story. With the storyuniverse,

    a horizon is outlined which is open to a

    continuous adding of parts, re-editing,

    and so on. The big story in principle

    finds no definitive end, but stays open:

    The story-universe has the potential to

    become a breeding ground for a never

    ending story through sequels, spin-offs

    and perpetual re-use of story-

    elements. (Coelle et al. 2011, Thesis


    (2) Collaboration

    Due to its open and diverse structure, TMS is the ideal format for collaborative storytelling.

    "Transmedia storytelling is the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence...A

    transmedia text does not simply disperse information: it provides a set of roles and goals

    which readers can assume as they enact aspects of the story through their everyday life.

    (Jenkins 2007).

    Different forms of knowledge, from the everyday experience to the particular academic

    knowledge, can feed into the multiple stories. It is highly impossible to put all this on one

    persons shoulders much better (and much more true!) to give key people the mandate to

    interact with each other and with the audience, within the context of your story and story

    world. Youd be amazed at what springs up. (Staffans 2012a, 31)

    The integration and coherence of collaborative story telling will be protected by the canon of

    the storyworld as a common and obliging reference point.

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    (3) Participation, cheese-holes, sandboxes.

    Actively involving the audience is the next step of the collaboration. Your audience is your

    audience, but at the same time they are your co-creators, investing themselves in your story

    and inevitably bringing change with them, engaging the audience (Staffans 2012a, 07).

    "Cheese holes" or "sandboxes" (Staffans 2012b) invite the audience to participate with

    their own stories. Usually, the cheese holes are various social media such as blogs, social

    networks (Facebook, Twitter) and platforms for different media (Instagram, Pinterest,

    YouTube, Soundcloud). (Miller 2012 Slice 12)

    You can measure five levels of increasing participation in your TMS project:

    Attention: people find your story and read it.

    Evaluation: people reflect on your story.

    Affection: people are touched by your story and show it, becoming followers or


    Advocacy: people share your story, telling friends.

    Contribution: people tell and add their own stories. (Pratten 2011, 23)

    While the first two stages attention and evaluation comprise of a more passive

    participation by reading and forming one's own opinion, active participation starts with the

    "affection" e.g. when you like a post on Facebook, followed by advocacy, when you share

    on Facebook or retweet on twitter. Strong participation means to contribute to the storyworld

    with a story of your own.

    Not each TMS project must engage the audience until the last level of participation, and the

    mode of participation can also vary during the project. (Pratten 2011, 07)

    My ideal transmedia project tells a story that is striking and resonant with its audience,

    fostering their participation and creative expression within the context of the story world, but

    also sparking dialog between us all outside of the story world. The power of this technique is

    that it triggers action, whether that is the action of "liking" something on Facebook or the

    action of taking an insight from the story and your dialog with the story world and applying it

    toward improving your life in the real world. (Jeff Gomez in: Staffans 2012a, 16).

    III TMS | Which tools and platforms?

    (1) Media

    The storyworlds multiple stories imply a variety in media. In the ideal form of transmedia

    storytelling, each medium does what it does best-so that a story might be introduced in a

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    film, expanded through television, novels, and comics, and its world might be explored and

    experienced through game play. (Jenkins 2003)

    Medium and message, medium and story, build a strong relationship as the medium is not a

    neutral transmitter, but leaves its traces to the message: Medium is the message (McLuhan

    1964) The media at the same time generate what they transmit. (Krmer 2005) So it is

    important to tell your story by the medium that fits best to the message which is being told.

    Using different forms of media - text, picture, video, audio transmedia storytelling takes

    advantage of the strengths of every medium to create something new out of their symbiosis.

    (Coelle et al. 2011 Thesis 06)

    For example, a main character can be introduced on a social media network by a

    personal profile with pictures, personal news, friends and interests); background

    information on places or locations can be provided by maps; an exciting sequence of

    events is shown within a video, but quiet considerations are written in a blog article etc.

    (2) Platforms

    Platforms are the combination of media plus technology. So YouTube and ITunes would

    be two different platforms even if they can both deliver video. A printed book and the Kindle

    would be two different platforms. A cinema, a living room and an outdoor public space are all

    different platforms. (Pratten 2011, 28)

    There is no universal rule for selecting the right platform, but you should consider two


    - The strength and weakness of each platform, scored by these criteria:

    Cost (including time) of delivering content

    Ability of platform to enable social spread of content

    Remarkable features as popularity, timeliness, quality. (Pratten 2011, 28)

    - Think about your audience:

    Where and how do the people hang out who should experience your story? Which platforms will appeal to your audiences lifestyle?

    How skilled is your audience in using media and specific platforms? Do they like to go online or do they prefer print media and events on site?

    What are the interests of your audience and on which platform do they share them?

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    A mix of currently existing and

    popular platforms is recommended,

    such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,

    vimeo, Instagram, SoundCloud, Tumblr

    and Wordpress.

    In a storyboard, the media, platform

    and scenes can be organised in order

    to facilitate the coordination of the

    multiple stories for making a big story.

    (3) storify: Build and share your story

    To arrange the multiple stories to a big story, you can use a platform such as or


    Storify is used by numerous NGOs to tell and spread their stories on the web. A storified

    TMS can be a documentation of current events, a call for action, a personal experience, or a

    fictitious story. Transmedia is one way of talking about convergence as a set of cultural

    practices. one logic for thinking about the flow of content across media. (Jenkins 2011).


    Storify makes it easy to build, publish and share your story. The story is always editable,

    open for adding new elements and stories. Storify helps your story go viral, too. All the

    people whose stories you add, will be notified and you can share and embed your story

    anywhere on the web.

    jf 2014-06-18

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    Coelle, Maike, Kristian Costa-Zahn, Maike Hank, Katharina Kokoska, Dorothea Martin, Patrick Mller, Gregor Sedlag, and Philipp Zimmermann,. 2011. Transmedia Manifest - The Future of Storytelling.

    Jenkins, Henry. 2003. Transmedia Storytelling | MIT Review. MIT Technology Review.

    Krmer, Sybille. 2005. Turning Viewers into Witnesses. Reflections on the Context of the Performative, the Media, and Performance-Arts. Inst. fr Philosophie, FU Berlin und Helmholtzzentrum fr Kulturtechnik, HU Berlin.

    McLuhan, Marshall. 1964. Medium Is the Message. In Understanding Media - The Extensions of Man, edited by Marshall McLuhan, Reprint 1994, 0721. London: Routledge.

    Miller, Carolyn Handler. 2012. Transmedia Storytelling - What It Is and How It Works. Entertainment & Humor, May 17.

    Pratten, Robert. 2011. Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling Transmedia Storyteller.

    Staffans, Simon. 2012. One Year in Transmedia. January 11.

    Transmedia 101 by One 3 Productions. 2011. YouTube.

    Wendig, Chuck. 2012. 25 Things You Should Know About Transmedia Storytelling. Terribleminds: Chuck Wendig.