A year ago, I stopped using the term transmedia in reference to my company and my company’s projects. I had just returned from SXSW in time to catch the first ‘Transmedia, Hollywood’ conference, and the cross-currents going on in the transmedia space forced me to re-evaluate my use of the term.
A lot has happened in the last year, much of it in the last two weeks, to influence my views on transmedia. It seemed a good time to re-evaluate my decision from last year.
- Thy name is Transmedia…sort of.
Within a month of my post last year, the Producer’s Guild of America created a new credit: the Transmedia Producer.
From my small and subjective corner of the world, this seemed to have one very profound effect: it ended some of the global debate over whether this practice should be called transmedia, cross-media, multi-platform integrated whosiwhatsit, or something else.
The upside was that it shifted many of the conversations from “what should we call it?” to “what does it mean?”
The downside was that it acted much like a time machine, executing a kind of revisionist history around the world, ignoring much of the prior work not labelled transmedia (but which clearly addressed that space) to go ignored in Google searches.
But regardless of the true impact of the PGA’s announcement, the last twelve months definitely saw new organizations and people embracing the transmedia term:
- Transmedia Artists Guild
Although the Transmedia Artists Guild debuted at last year’s ARGFest, I think their SXSW talk this year really served as their official launch (the site went live earlier this year, and their talk at SXSW was very well received).
- Transmedia Storyteller
The Transmedia Storyteller community has been actively connecting people and sharing content/ideas/updates in the transmedia space for months. While it’s a company-backed community, its founder, Robert Pratten, has encouraged input from others around the world.
Gary Hayes founded StoryLabs to share best practices in the transmedia space and provide a global clearinghouse for creatives seeking transmedia mentors.
- You Suck at Transmedia
Started by Christy Dena, You Suck at Transmedia is meant to limit the amount of, well, sucky transmedia.
- Hello, My Name is Transmedia
I was thrilled to see so many new voices like April Arrglington, Lucas Johnson and Simon Pulman entering the transmedia conversation with blogs a blazing, bringing new insights, perspectives, and energy.
- The Royale with…Transmedia
Karine Halpern has been rallying transmedia support all over the world from her European base of operations. She is determined to make the world Transmedia Ready.
And though the explicit link to transmedia in this next point is perhaps tenuous, I would be wrong to omit a significant capital event that occurred recently involving Fourth Wall Studios:
- How Much is that Transmedia in the Window?
Almost a quarter of a billion (with a “B”) dollars ($15,000,000 in operating capital, plus what amounts to a $200,000,000 line of credit, to be exact).
That’s how much the richest man in Los Angeles valued transmedia earlier this year when he committed those funds to Fourth Wall Studios (which also partnered with No Mimes Media earlier this year, bringing together some of the biggest ARG veterans under one roof).
It’s hard to determine the company’s official position on the term transmedia, since their website is literally a one-page website with zero information on it. However, just about every online press release for this funding included the word transmedia, and Googling “‘fourth wall studios’ transmedia” yields hundreds of hits. Whether or not Fourth Wall views its work as transmedia, the rest of the world apparently does (and Fourth Wall isn’t publicly disagreeing).
Yet, for all of the positive momentum behind the term, or perhaps because of it, the past two weeks demonstrated that the backlash is very much alive and well. And even within the transmedia community, there was some recent dialogue that raised issues and pushed back on the term.
This happened last year about this time, so perhaps it’s a cyclical kind of thing.
I recently tweeted that building a community is not the same as building consensus. Based what I saw online in the past couple of weeks, we still a long way from consensus about transmedia.
- There is no ‘me’ in Transmedia!
Steve Peters recently got on the anti-transmedia wagon (which he started at SXSW, posted about, and is still continuing on twitter under the hashtag #antitransmedia). Steve is a great and funny storyteller, and his #antitransmedia tweets are hilarious. Worth reading even if you disagree with him.
4DFiction gave a great synopsis of many of the recent comments from lots of people in the transmedia space, and it took a similar position to transmedia v. franchising as Peters.
- “Excuse me, waiter, but there’s a man in my transmedia.”
No stranger to transmedia, Andrea Phillips started a…how shall I put this?…passionate discussion about ‘Sexism in Transmedia.’
- If you call it ‘buzzwordgasm,’ that’s bad, right?
Then there’s this somewhat related post I found on the Guardian that wasn’t about transmedia but instead about the efforts of some companies to influence paid-for blogging reviews (in this case, for the film, “Source Code”). It’s hard to defend transmedia when so much of what’s called transmedia either isn’t or is awful. Perhaps someone on the “Source Code” team should have taken the time to spin through You Suck at Transmedia.
What struck me about this post is that there’s still a ton of mis-information about transmedia out there. If your first encounter with the term transmedia is an article referring to a pretty awful entertainment experience, how likely are you to want to learn more about it?
So, What’s Next?
I have no idea what’s in store for transmedia over the next twelve months, so I’m not even going to bother making predictions.
But here’s what the last twelve months indicate to me.
- The Transmedia Community is Growing Overall
For all the negativity, the past year saw an increased interest in transmedia, as well as demonstrated the desire for many around the world to connect with others in the transmedia space. And despite the discord and disagreement over the term and its definition, I perhaps naively still cling to the view that there’s value in the word ‘transmedia’ and the concept behind it.
Moreover, there’s value in constructively discussing our differing opinions.
To that end, I will continue advocating transmedia, mostly through building communities around the topic.
I’ll continue to support the Transmedia Los Angeles group that Jay Bushman and I co-founded (and which Tara Brown is now co-organizing with us). We’ve had steady attendance for over a year, and tonight’s meetup with the Starlight Runner team quickly filled to capacity.
And I’m devoting time and energy to a new project called Transmedia Feed, an organization I co-founded with Brooke Thompson. TF aims to bring together the various – and often isolated – transmedia conversations around the world and across industries. I’ve been waiting for someone to create a site like this, and after almost two years of waiting, I’ve decided to build it with Brooke.
- Community is not Consensus (and that’s a good thing)
We will never all agree on the term transmedia, much less the definition behind it. For a practice so grounded in creativity as transmedia is, I think that’s good.
As Guy Gonzalez recently tweeted, “consensus is evil.” I posit that no one fully grasps transmedia as it is, much less as it will be in the future. Now isn’t the time to put transmedia into a one-size-fits-all straight-jacket. Doing so would simply stifle the creative experimentation at this early stage.
I’m encouraged by all of the conversation about the term, even if it isn’t all in agreement or positive in nature. I hope the conversation is constructive and open, but I’ll take any conversation over silence.
If anything, I’m even more enthusiastic about the transmedia community than I was a year ago. I continue to meet smart, talented, and nice (nice!) people in this space. It’s a group of professionals unlike any I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
- Transmedia Me
For better of worse, though, I’m sticking with transmedia. Heck, I’m doubling down from a personal standpoint.
Ah, but where does that leave my company? Honestly, in a place not much different from last year, but the difference is very important.
I still don’t have the word transmedia on my company site, Brain Candy, LLC.
I am not (yet) referring to Runes of Gallidon, my company’s IP, as a transmedia property, though I hope to at some point.
I’m creating a story that starts on the Gallidon site, moves to a live-action-role-play (LARP) experience at this year’s Wyrd Con, then comes full circle as the LARP experience is brought back into the Gallidon world as official canon (most likely by writing up the LARP as a short story/novella).
I’ll start the story online, but I’m not scripting the LARP, so I don’t know how the story will end. No one does, actually, since the narrative conclusion will happen improvisationally during the LARP. This kind of experience totally hits my sweet spot for collaboration, improvisation, and participatory entertainment.
But does that qualify the story as transmedia? Does it qualify Runes of Gallidon as transmedia? I’m not sure, though I think it puts the property a step closer to transmedia.
So, what’s different twelve months later?
I’ve found a comfortable place to exist within transmedia at the professional level, and that’s as someone who views it as adjacent and complementary to my focus on participatory/collaborative commercial entertainment. I somewhat brazenly called collaborative commercial entertainment ‘Transmedia 2.0‘ in a presentation last year, but working through that presentation really helped me understand how the two concepts align.
My view of participatory entertainment can exist perfectly fine without transmedia, and much of the transmedia out there doesn’t meet my qualifications for participatory entertainment. Put those two concepts together, though, and a whole new future of entertainment experiences begin to open up.
Brain Candy, LLC remains outside the transmedia field and focused on finding ways to collaboratively bridge creatives and audiences.
But I’m flexing my transmedia wings this year and taking my first tentatives steps towards the creative edge. Here’s hoping this monkey can fly!