Storytelling is a foundational human experience across time and cultures (thank you Joseph Campbell). Stories are a means of entertainment and escape; how we pass on culture and history; a way we connect and belong; and how we share who we are and come to know each other. Humanity has used stories from the very beginning as a fundamental tool to make sense of our world and our selves – from tales around the campfire to Shakespearian theater. Today, we continue to use story to share, express, belong, connect, think, learn and hope but in convergence culture we are doing so via many different media platforms.
The end of uni-directional storytelling
Transmedia storytelling has emerged as a result of the rise of different media platforms, which has provided us more ways to tell and experience story. Early media storytelling technologies, such as TV and film, provided a way to tell stories on a mass level, but it has been one directional where as an audience, we experienced being told stories and we lost the joy of being a part of the storytelling experience.
Today with the rise of new media, we are able to have a more dynamic relationship with story. We no longer need to simply listen passively, we can actively engage in the storytelling experience. We can ask questions (Google it), talk with others (Twitter and FB) and when we want more story we can go looking for it (buy the book, write fan fiction). In a way, we are returning to storytelling as a community event – like telling stories around a campfire. We’ve evolved back to the way storytelling used to be – social.
Transmedia and the return to community storytelling
Oftentimes discussions of transmedia storytelling assumes that if we simply build a transmedia story across platforms, then audiences will just come out from no where to consume the transmedia story. This is a crude assumption that shows little regard for the complexity of human behavior and a lack of understanding of how storytelling is evolving in a digital age – as a community experience.
Therefore, when we think about building transmedia stories, in order to create engaging experiences, we need to think beyond just “telling stories across platforms” and consider the complexity behind the audience’s experience of community and story consumption across platforms. In order to keep them wanting more, we need to understand what it takes to create the ultimate story experience.
In order to do that, we lean on social psychological behavioral theory and research to inform the transmedia storytelling/story consumption experience. I’ll discuss that in more detail in my next post. More soon …