Esther’s Space- journey through my life

January 29, 2008

Let’s talk about it

Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age — estherspace @ 11:18 pm

I’ve been mulling over Kim’s last comments in class regarding the transmedia storytelling phenomenon. Jenkins’ was very much interested in The Matrix for this reason. I have a little bit of a problem with how the two mesh with some of our other discussions regarding the concept of the networking of an experience, but it could be my limited exposure.

Jenkins defines transmedia storytelling as:

the art of world making. To fully experience any fictional world, consumers must assume the role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of the story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups, and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience. (21)

And later, directly referring to The Matrix, Jenkins states:

The Matrix is entertainment for the age of media convergence, integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium….Each step along the way built on what has come before, while offering new points of entry. (95)

At the end of class, Kim asked us to think about the relationship of the various elements of a transmedia storytelling experience to the primary text. In the example of The Matrix, then, the video game, Animatrix, and online discussion groups would all act as elements of the transmedia storytelling and The Matrix movies as the primary text. She described, as does Jenkins, how viewers need to play the videogame, watch the animated shorts, and participate in online discussions in order to ‘get’ the movies completely. Fans were not willing to invest that much effort, and therefore the movies did not do as well as anticipated.

What I am interested in discussing, however, is the concept of how a transmedia story is told. If all of the different elements are meant to aid in understanding the primary text, aren’t we working with a very linear system (like the book), where footnotes, etc. are simply side notes to the central idea.

If I try to think about the transmedia storytelling experience as a network, where any part of the experience can act as a entry point to the whole, I am again stuck in a very traditional situation where the various experiences are designed to draw you to a central point, which progresses in a linear narrative mode.  For example, The Matrix videogame was designed as a means of expanding the story in The Matrix film, yet, if it is the point of entry for viewers (audience members, experiencers, readers?  what are they?), it is designed to bring him/her into the center of the story, the core Matrix film (and later, films).  

Furthermore, while Jenkins cites the convergence of media as a way of consumers having the opportunity to dictate to producers about what they want for new media, his ideas of what a transmedia story-receiving experience would be like is biased towards the producers in terms of power.  Jenkins sees the goal of a transmedia storytelling as “everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience.”  However, this implies that the answers are there, waiting to be found by the viewers, not that the viewers will have the power to create any new understandings in relation to the primary text, but instead that the viewer can only more completely (or even, at all) understand the primary text if he or she goes to the lengths of investigating all of the provided avenues.  

So, in relation to transmedia storytelling, I’m having difficulty imagining the network.  Yes, the storytelling is multifaceted, but it’s not as easy to enter anywhere as Jenkins would have you believe.  It kind of feels like instead of the idea of anyone can become an expert, we’re in a position where one must become an expert in order to ‘get’ the texts ‘properly’. 

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1 Comment »

  1. Okay, my role for the week is apparently to connect you to people who are considering the same questions you are. So, when you have a mo, go on over to Joe’s blog, and then check out Cassie’s, and then you three should have a chat (real or virtual) about the ways that you’re thinking about this stuff! (Note—both you and Joe consider the film the “core” of the story. Interesting—and directly linked to your ideas about how books work with reference to their errata…)

    Comment by kmiddleton — February 2, 2008 @ 11:23 am


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