Transmedia isn’t Just for Sci-Fi & FantasyBy Neela Sakaria February 19, 2013
In many ways, the talk around cross-platform or “transmedia” storytelling has been about giving audiences more: more information about characters, more exclusive content, more uncut scenes, and so on—ultimately, more ways to go deeper and deeper into a story-world.
All good stuff — I’d argue that there’s a second half of the equation we should be paying more (or at least equal) attention to now. Instead of only going deeper into a story-world, how can we find ways to bring the world of the story out?
What do I mean? At Latitude, we have been conducting a multi-phase study on The Future of Storytelling. As part of this project, we asked more than 150 early adopters worldwide to generate ideas or “future requests” for new ways to experience or interact with their favorite narratives. We developed The 4 I’s of Storytelling framework to highlight key dimensions of good storytelling experiences:
The last two dimensions, “Integration” and “Impact” suggest interesting possibilities for story creators, particularly those working on non-fiction narratives. Often we assume that “transmedia” is just for sci-fi or fantasy narratives, but I’d urge those in the nonfiction space to explore these new opportunities. Some already are:
Robot Heart Stories is an experiential learning project funded in part by the Tribeca Film Institute. Two classrooms in underprivileged neighborhoods in Montreal and L.A. (with other children across the world) use math, science, history, and more to help a lost robot return home. Their creative, written submissions and practical know-how guide the robot’s course across North America; wherever the children decide, the project team goes (and snap a photo of the robot in that place)—then, designers and illustrators bring the children’s ideas to life. Essentially, children collaboratively unravel a real world story in real-time, learning along the way.
NBCUniversal’s upcoming hybrid game/TV series on the Syfy network, Defiance, integrates sponsors on an entirely new level—beyond just cross-platform. (Okay, Defiance is a great example of transmedia in the sci-fi space, but I’m talking about the brand narratives within.) Fans can play the Defiance MMOG, whose events directly influence what happens on the TV show (and vice versa), building a story—and sponsors’ stories—that are completely conversant across two different mediums. Dodge recently signed on as a Defiance sponsor; the Dodge Challenger, souped up with various weaponry and big tires, will appear in the game, while the Dodge Dart and Charger will be featured prominently on the TV series, which will even utilize a burnt-out old Dodge dealership as one of its sets.
Image credit: Syfy
The 4 I’s give us insight into how to think about these types of story experiences differently. They also give us a framework for potential new measures of true engagement. At Latitude, we’re continuing to define these metrics. New technologies mean there’s a largely untapped opportunity to allow people to tie stories directly into their own lives—bringing narratives “out of the screen,” so to speak, often through meaningful connections with characters. My hope is that content creators, especially in non-fiction, can use the 4 I’s of Storytelling framework to understand that the desire for interesting cross-platform experiences isn’t as niche as some might think. There are exciting new opportunities for educators, news creators, advertisers, and even retailers to use storytelling principles to engage people more deeply.