A Shift in Paradigm

2011/365: June 22 At last week's Transmedia Vancouver Meetup, we had a number of new faces in the crowd, which was exciting. So I decided we should talk a bit about what transmedia storytelling is, before letting the discussion go into the minutiae of funding and such concerns. I asked three long-time members to give their definitions, and was actually surprised by the cohesion of thought -- given that everyone in this community seems to have somewhat different ideas. It was encouraging.

I then gave my standard spectrum definition -- you have ARGs on one side, and integrated transmedia franchises on the other, and transmedia is kind of basically everything in between.  But then I brought up something else I'd been thinking of more recently, and that is that transmedia isn't so much a thing itself -- the fact that we all have slightly different ideas of what it is and yet still manage to have great discussions and whole conferences speaks to that -- but rather a kind of way of thinking about storytelling. It's a frame of mind.

This was partly thrown into relief for me during a discussion I had last week with Brian Clark. (Discussions with Brian have a way of turning my thinking on its side. In a good way. Darn mad scientists.) Brian made the argument that "transmedia" is not an industry, but an artistic movement. It is the most recent form of the avant-garde, literally the forefront of an army or movement -- an artistic movement in the same way the beat generation was, but instead of being united by a geographic area in which we meet and gather and mutually explore each other's ideas, we are united by the internet, on which we gather and...mutually explore each other's ideas.

A year ago, I was much more concerned with the discussion of "this is transmedia, this isn't." Today, my thoughts have shifted more. I don't care as much any more if you call your project transmedia, or if you let me. There are of course issues with funding and branding and jobs that are important to consider.

But to me what makes transmedia exciting is the community, this group of people from around the world sharing ideas about awesome ways to tell stories, and awesome ways for an audience to experience stories.

That, to me, is the essence of transmedia, whatever the definition. Transmedia is a way of thought, a way of conceptualizing storytelling and experience in a way that is not limited to a single form or medium, and at its best takes full advantage of that tack.