Fish Fight: Transmedia Storytelling Strategies for Food Policy Change

Fish Fight: Transmedia Storytelling Strategies for Food Policy Change

Renira Rampazzo Gambarato (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia) and Sergei Andreevich Medvedev (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJEP.2015070104


The 2010–2013 Fish Fight campaign, produced by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and hosted by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, is a transmedia experience designed to (1) draw the public's attention to the reckless discarding of caught fish because of the quota system intended to conserve fish stocks in the domain of the European Union; and to (2) pressure the authorities to change the European Common Fisheries Policy. The article analyzes the transmedia strategies of the Fish Fight campaign in order to demonstrate how the multiplatform media production contributed to (1) make the public aware of the wasteful discarding of healthy fish at sea under the European fishing quotas; and (2) to amend the European Union's fishing policies. The research findings point to the effective role of transmedia storytelling strategies in raising awareness in the political sphere through public participation in supporting relevant issues, influencing policy change.
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Today’s complex media environment is changing audience expectations of how, when, and where information is consumed. Media convergence is driving the development of new forms of storytelling in which integrated narratives are presented across multiple media. Participatory engagement of audiences through games, remixing content, and original user-created content is increasingly common. (von Stackelberg & Jones, 2014, p. 58).

This is the scenario in which transmedia storytelling is inserted. Although transmedia storytelling remains under construction, there are solid indications of its conceptualization. The advent of convergence culture made people’s daily contact with media more complex from the viewpoint of the media platforms involved in the process as well as the blurring boundaries between audience consumption and production. Convergence as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 2) is closely associated with the idea of transmedia storytelling. “Thus, if convergence culture involves a multitude of mediums to provide the consumer with numerous ways of gathering communication and to enhance the participation and enjoyment of the audience, the use of TS [transmedia storytelling] seems the natural way to fulfill these expectations” (Gambarato & Alzamora, 2012, pp. 5354). In this context, transmedia storytelling contributes to the increasing need for media projects that conform to the new multiscreen and multiplatform modes, content expansion, and audience participation. The transmedia approach provides the audience the opportunity to stay within the scope of a single story universe, while accessing unfolded content through various media channels. The term transmedia storytelling was coined by Henry Jenkins (2003, 2006) and defined as the art of building a storyworld, in which each extension makes a distinctive and valuable contribution to the overall story. Transmedia storytelling is not about repurposing the same content across different platforms but about the meaningful experience that the audience can have by engaging with the content extension of a story spread throughout multiple media channels. Pratten (2011, p. 1) emphasizes the importance of participatory elements inherently incorporated into transmedia narratives: “transmedia storytelling is telling a story across multiple media … with a degree of audience participation, interaction or collaboration.” Hancox (2014) discusses transmedia strategies applied to social change and concludes that this kind of approach highlights “the dignity of the subjects and strives to convey the complexities of the lives and issues by taking advantage of the technology available to challenge audiences to enter, experience and interact with the stories in new ways.” Gaming elements and participatory features, often present in transmedia projects, help transmedia producers interest audiences in various topics unrelated to the entertainment industry:

Transmedia storytelling creates experiences that are more than entertainment; it is now possible that personal education and societal transformation can be as entertaining as commercial entertainment properties. Because the story is at the heart of effective transmedia narratives, understanding how and why stories transmit meaning and foster understanding can provide foresight professionals with a framework for effectively integrating narratives into many different types of projects. (von Stackelberg & Jones, 2014, p. 61).

In this article, we analyze how the non-fictional Fish Fight campaign took advantage of transmedia storytelling strategies to engage the public and encourage them to take purposeful political action. The structure of the article includes (1) the participation theory framework outlined in the realm of transmedia storytelling; (2) a brief description of the methodological approach; (3) the Fish Fight transmedia analysis; (4) the repercussion of the Fish Fight case; and (5) the conclusion, in which the key research findings are summarized.

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