Reflection and a Transmedia Storytelling Question


Last week’s teleconference/webinar/e-interview/I’m-not-sure-what-to-call-it with Kim Jaxon and Henry Jenkins went very well. I got nervous and began to ramble when I was asked to talk about my research, but my ideas were met with interest and positivity, and that’s a huge encouragement. I still don’t feel like I’m “part of the club,” but I am reassured that I’m on the right track to becoming a card-carrying scholar. Thanks to our guest speakers and the others who tuned in to listen to them, I’ve received some more great research leads and opportunities. I may even get to survey or interview Young Writers Project alumni to help answer my question about whether skills, ideas, and attitudes acquired as adolescents in online participatory cultures transfer to real-life work and higher education scenarios. I’d actually like to cite some of the things I heard and took notes on during the e-interviews, and I’m wondering if this is permissible. I’m assuming I would follow the citation format for a personal interview, but since this was a more informal, group-format interview, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to use things that were said as legit, citable research. Any clarification on this would be much appreciated.

I’m also looking for some clarification on another concept: Transmedia storytelling. According to Jenkins (2006), as he is cited on the first page of a paper by Dr. Leigh H. Edwards, “Multi-platform storytelling refers specifically to texts where content appears in a coordinated way across many different media formats (such as television, film, webisodes, mobile phone applications and mobisodes, games, books, graphic novels, and music albums)” (2012). Edwards’s paper talks about corporate mass media entities hogging the transmedia storytelling game, and using their wide-stretching fictional worlds as a way to exploit fans and make more money. Some examples Edwards talks about include the Glee and Harry Potter franchises (2012).

What I am curious about is whether what is occurring in the closed species (CS) communities that I’m researching is indeed an example of transmedia storytelling. If it is, then I would be able to make the claim that CS communities are examples of financially-sustainable, grassroots transmedia storytelling, something that I’m learning would actually be a pretty big deal. It would fit in with the civic imagination portion of my thesis because it would be showing people an alternative, more genuinely participatory and nonexploitative method of transmedia storytelling. It would show that independent emerging artists can make money from transmedia storytelling and fictional universes; it’s not just a game for the big brands. I guess it would be kind of like seeing a mom-and-pop pharmacy thrive in a neighborhood with both a CVS and a Walgreens, except instead of pills there’d be weird creatures with chicken feet. Witnessing the success of one mom-and-pop pharmacy lets other prospective pharmacy owners know that they don’t have to buy into a franchise in order to survive; they can do things their own way, perhaps in a way that’s more responsible and community-oriented, and still make a living.

I think CS communities would be examples of transmedia storytelling, especially the two that I’m examining. Participants are given the freedom to explore their characters in a wide variety of mediums, and they take advantage of this freedom. While one member of GremCorps may like to write about their Grem2 characters, another may prefer 2-D visual art (drawings, paintings, etc.); others may gravitate toward making sculptures, animations, or plush dolls. Beyond that, I’ve even seen people program simple games/software applications starring their Grem2s, and there’s a user that does Grem2-inspired industrial design (custom high-quality pens based on the colors and physical attributes of a user’s Grem2 characters). In the Griffia community, certain prompts, like Crafty Sunday, require that non-digital mediums be used. This variety in mediums does gel with the definition of “content [appearing] in in a coordinated way across different media formats,” (Jenkins, 2006, as cited in Edwards, 2012). 2-D visual art, 3-D visual art, written texts, software programming, and industrial design are all examples of “many different media formats” (Jenkins, 2006, as cited in Edwards, 2012); users’ Grem2s or Griffians are examples of “content” (Jenkins, 2006, as cited in Edwards, 2012); and the fact that they’re all created with the express purpose of sharing them in the community means that they are “appearing in a coordinated way” (Jenkins, 2006, as cited in Edwards, 2012).

What concerns me, and makes me doubt whether CS communities are truly engaging in transmedia storytelling, is the fact that these multimedia works of art are all curated in one place, in one medium: the community gallery on the DeviantArt website. Unlike the examples given in Edwards’s paper, there’s not one narrative spread out over multiple mediums, with which one must interact to get the full story; instead there’s little fragments of multitudinous stories, all of which feature the same species and world. It’s a little more like a hypertext story, except instead of different parts being connected by a hyperlink, they’re connected by a thumbnail in the gallery, and some of those thumbnails represent works in mediums that cannot be uploaded to the Internet. Like, if someone has a plush doll of their Grem2, only they can touch and interact with it, but other users can see the representation of it (photos, sewing patterns, etc.) in the community gallery. Does this inability for every member of the community to fully interact with every piece of the story in every medium disqualify what’s happening in CS communities as transmedia storytelling? Or is it just a different kind of transmedia storytelling?

Looking for Sources in All the Right Places

This is going to be a bit shorter of a blog than usual, as only a few significant things have happened in the past week.  I have been able to locate, curate, and analyze a lot more sources, and I am feeling pretty jazzed about that.  My white whale, however, continues to elude me.  Moby Relevant-Longitudinal-Study is still splashing out there somewhere, and I am determined to find and harpoon him.  With my word harpoons.  And my computer cursor.  It’ll be epic, I swear.  Blood and greasy metadata smeared all over everything.

Zotero: Cognitive Balm for a Raw and Cluttered Mind

Prof. Levine showed us Zotero last week, and I have to say: it’s a frickin’ game changer!  I have been saving links, notes, and quotations in random word documents, then shoving them into random folders this whole time.  Being able to organize my sources and annotate them with a click is amazing.  I’m terrible at organizing things, even my own thoughts, so I am super thrilled to have Zotero doing all that work for me.  I’m really enjoying using it, and I wish I had known about it years ago.

Structured Serendipity

Applying the concept advocated by Dr. Zamora, and following the advice of my more scientifically-minded step-sister, I have branched out in my search for sources.  I’m now scouring databases for other disciplines and areas of study, typing in keywords relevant to my thesis, and seeing what comes back.  In doing this, I’ve actually found a lot of really useful information in unexpected places, as well as models for methodologies and structures.  I never imagined an article about mental health treatment in Buenos Aires, Argentina could be so relevant to my research.  Something else that has been pretty cool is seeing researchers in other fields name-dropping Howard Rheingold and Henry Jenkins.  It’s like, “Oh, I know those guys!”  It makes me feel part of a broader scholarly community, and it reinforces the fact that I’m learning things from all this research.

*Nervous Breathing*

Hi Kevin

I’m really looking forward to the video chat with Henry Jenkins today during class.  But I’m also crazy nervous.  I’m starting to get a cold, so I’m feeling a bit out of it, and I’m just so terrified of seeming stupid.  I’m willing to bet everything will go just fine, but it’s such a big deal to speak to THE participatory culture guy.  It’s very intimidating, and it’s just one more reminder of the reality of my thesis.