Story Telling in the Digital Age

You may not be familiar with the term transmedia storytelling, but you’ve more than likely experienced it in some form or another. My last blog explained a little bit about what transmedia means and how this technique is used to advance a story line by utilizing multiple media platforms. For those that want more in-depth knowledge, see Jenkins, Transmedia Story Telling 101.

My “in a nut shell” for transmedia storytelling:scrat-nut-iceage

A story that is placed in multiple media presentations — film, games, books, online discussion boards, social media, YouTube, Internet, etc.  Each piece provides a bit more information and depth to the story line. The individual pieces can be enjoyed on their own but, each has unique background information which helps build a more complex and richer understanding of the story. The use of different media also allows for unlimited expansion of characters, plots, and sub-plots.

All of this creates magic for the fan base and marketing opportunities out the wazoo for the creators.

So, you might be able to tell that I think this type of storytelling is a bit of a commercial windfall for corporations that are media conglomerates.  Yes. Yes, I do.  While a story may have been an artistic endeavor to begin with, once it shows promise — well the sky’s the limit for the profits a transmedia story can create.  Imagine the huge audiences to be reached by spreading the story out over different media.

Through intense marketing, a fan frenzy can ensue even before movies or games come out.  It just has to have a start — think of Harry Potter —  The popularity of the books let the story explode into movies, games, costumes, clubs, fan fiction, book parties, amusement parks, and Harry Potter themed merchandise available at your local retail store.

In fairness, such rampant commercialism is nothing new.  Corporations have simply used technology to ramp it up a notch. Artists who were once “true to their craft” take the road to gazingabillionaire by commercializing their art all the time. And I’m not really blaming them…much.


 Click here to see a list of famous “sell-outs”

Savvy businesses help them get there while raking in hefty profits in the process but, that’s what a business does.  While disturbing to many, we must also concede that often times this commercialization is in response to public demand.

How powerful is this way of storytelling for commercializing a product?

Creating a Transmedia Product


The above video gives you an idea of how a transmedia production may work.  Now let’s look at a practical approach on a piece of art from the Cummer Museum of Art in Jacksonville, FL.    

Suppose they wanted to

  • create  buzz about the new piece of art
  • Increase traffic on the museum’s website
  • Increase visitors to the museum


Yowser!  Now here’s a hot property we can turn into a multi-platform phenomenon.  How?  Here are some ideas on creating the buzz on what some may consider a rather, um, austere looking portrait.
  1. Create a back story on the history of the woman based on historical records or tales from the time period and begin a blog attached to the museum’s website.
  2. Create a contest with questions about the portrait that can be taken online or at the Museum.  Entries are eligible for a prize from the gift shop.
  3. Create a video of an expert discussing the intricacies of the painting and the techniques used in the painting. Additional historical information can be included.
  4. Hold an event at the Cummer to celebrate the woman’s birthday.
  5. Posters with the caption “Have you seen this woman?” with a website address and no explanation
  6. Have a docent dress in the period and offer speaking engagements to schools and civic organizations
  7. Books that include the piece of art can be sold online and in the gift shop
  8. Have the woman tweet out pictures from her “vantage point” in the museum.
  9. The “ghost” of the woman can roam the halls of the museum and report goings on in her blog
  10. A fundraiser help the lady get some “work done” on her face…..meaning a cleaning or restoration.
  11. Create a news release about the haunting of the museum.  Create a “tale” that would garner media interest.
  12. Commission a local performing arts school to create a play about the character
Each piece builds into the main story line of the artwork. The above works become “additive comprehension” — A term coined by game designer, Neil Young — moving the viewer towards a different, more complex understanding of the original work.


By this example, we can see how transmedia can be used for good instead of simply corporate evil .

3998596-dr-evilThis form of story telling allows the creator to reach different audiences by creating facets of a story that appeal to different niches rather than just a general, mass audience.

Confession: Our mission was to use a contemporary artistic property but, I love the idea of taking an antiquity and making it interesting to the younger generations.  Any art — ancient or still drying on the easel — can be transformed into a transmedia story. That’s one of the many fascinating uses of our modern technology.

Peace out



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