Transmedia and the Vagueness of Narrative Structure

Transmedia and the Vagueness of Narrative Structure

Ahmet Oktan (Ondokuz Mayıs University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5357-1.ch009
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This chapter focuses on the types of transformations that transmedia applications cause on the narrative structure of motion pictures and television series. Since different methods are used to construct the story as a transmedia narrative in different films or series, as many works as possible are included in the study to make more accurate determinations. In this context, examples of Star Trek, The Godfather, The Matrix, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Shrek, Madagascar, Lost, Game of Thrones, Medcezir, and Vatanım Sensin have been examined in terms of their narrative structure. In these works, the condition of the parts constituting the story universe compared to the main narrative, the elements that enable the construction of new narratives related to the main narrative in different media, fictionalization of the elements such as story lines, characters, spaces, atmosphere, and sound, the methods that are used for the transition among stories, etc. have been examined.
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Digitalization is at the center of the period of change that has allowed the media to reshape itself in the past thirty years. The transformation that takes place based on digitalization includes many aspects such as production processes, the ways broadcasts are delivered to the viewer, the viewer's profile, and the relationship between the viewer and the broadcaster. In this process, new media such as sharing sites (Hulu, YouTube etc.), social media environments, blogs, wikis are emerging while concepts such as interactivity and mobility gain importance. The traditional means of communication are also undergoing a transformation in accordance with the new conditions and the boundaries between different media platforms have become uncertain.

It can be said that this transformation in the field of media is a part of the process Henry Jenkins calls the convergence culture. In his work “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide” (2006), Jenkins uses convergence so as to describe the flow of content between multiple media platforms, cooperation between different media industries, a process of social, cultural and technological transformation that has appearances like migratory behaviors of media buyers who will go almost everywhere to capture the kind of entertainment experience they desire.

Toschi refers to convergence as the disappearance of the differences among the mass media (Toschi, 2009, p. 4). For instance, mobile phones, are not just communication devices. They can perform many functions such as forwarding messages, playing games, accessing networked applications and social networks, downloading data from the internet, taking and sharing pictures, reading e-books. It has also become possible to connect to the internet via televisions and perform many things which are be able to be done on the internet via computer.

The convergence process has also transformed the structure of media texts and storytelling patterns. Instead of narrative forms built in a single media environment, new narrative strategies called transmedia storytelling are emerging and becoming widespread in which users can participate in the production process in a multiple, spreading and fragmented media. The concept of “transmedia” was first used by Professor Marsha Kinder of the University of California, in 1991, in his work titled Playing with Power in Movies, Television, and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kinder, who is involved in the narrative elements of new media contents and the audience's interest, has introduced the term “transmedia intertextuality” at a time when the transmedia concept has just begun to emerge. Henry Jenkins, who introduced the concept of “Transmedia Storytelling” to the literature, used it in a 2003 article and in his book “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide” published in 2006. According to Jenkins, transmedia storytelling, which emerges due to media convergence, represents a modern narrative strategy that is used more interactively with multiple media platforms and more preferred day to day. As Jenkins states, “a transmedia story unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole. In the ideal form of transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best—so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics; its world might be explored through game play or experienced as an amusement park attraction” (2006, pp. 95-96). As stated here, the transmedia story consists of pieces spread out in different media environments, and every media organ is involved with its own language and ability.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Convergence: The concept, which constitutes the main theme of Henry Jenkins' “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide”, expresses that different media environments are similar in terms of their features and cooperate in the spread of their contents among users. Toschi defines this concept as “the disappearance of differences among mass media” by giving the example that mobile phones have functions other than communication. According to Jenkins, an intense stream of content is emerging from the inter-media collaboration and the users are invited to social and cultural transformation. Jenkins explains these behaviors of receivers, who are delighted with the flow of content they follow due to logic of “discovery”, through the metaphor of “immigration”.

Open Storyworld: This concept emphasizes the nonlinear nature of narrative content in transmedia. The narrative does not follow a certain sequence of events or fiction. The user is drawn into a discovery process in which he / she can move freely. The fact that it is not linear is due to the fragmented structure of the story and the active role of the user in the storytelling. Robert Pratten describes the nonlinear nature of the transmedia narrative structure by relating it to the difference between a passenger traveling on a seat and a passenger wandering at his will among carriages. While the sitting passenger shares the same experience with everybody else, the wandering passenger completes his journey with different experiences.

Apocrypha: The concept of the apocrypha expresses the extended world and its products in other media environments. It is the second step of fiction process after canon. The distinctive dimensions of the main story acquire a new identity in other settings but continue to be a part of the whole. Apocrypha is, in this respect, dependent on the main story, made up of its by-products. The main story, whose different dimensions spread with new channels and different narratives, expands its world.

Fanon: Fanon expresses the third step of the fiction process. There are products produced by the fans of the original product, independently of the story created as a transmedia strategy and of the creators of the story. Although related to the main story, the independent narratives that emerge under the control of fans take place in this phase.

Canon: Canon is the first step in the operation of transmedia. It is the basis of the inter-media transfer process of the main story. Canon is a group of texts in which the main story is discussed and evaluated among fan groups. In this way, both the story proves itself against the users and the users contribute to the construction of the narrative they follow.

Story Bridges: Spreading certain elements of the main story by creating a new narrative in different media environments and continuing to the main story is possible with some applications that function as “bridges”. The application called BIP is only one of them. Some pieces of the story in a medium are kept secret in this application, and followers who want to reach these pieces are following the instructions of this application and set out on a journey of discovery.

Story Universe: Transmedia creates a story universe. Story universe means that different narratives are created and shared within a story world. It is necessary to establish a connection between stories to create the story universe. The connection of each narrative is established by the incorporation of common elements. By adding new elements in this structure, new narratives can be created in different environments and the transmedia narrative can be expanded by including new narratives to the universe.

Transmedia Storytelling: This concept, which Henry Jenkins used in his work “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide,” expresses a narrative that requires the interaction of multiple media environments and emerges as a result of convergence culture. The user is directly involved in the construction process of the narrative through the journey of discovery among the pieces of each media organs in its own language, in order to reach the unified structure of the narrative built fragmental in different media.

Rabbit Hole: Gambarato explains the transitive structure of the Transmedia narratives which constructs cooperation with different media by using the metaphor of “rabbit hole”. He correlates an analogy between Alice’s journey that she set out from a rabbit hole and the journey of users among different media. Media users also discover new worlds by following clues like Alice and become a part of the story belonging to the worlds they discovered.

Franchise: In Transmedia applications, each piece of the story carries a product feature on its own. Each product is called a “franchise”. The franchise does not mean that the story is repeated in different environments. The narrative of the story is not repeated, it spreads. In short, the franchise expresses different interrelated narratives. Not only does each narrative have a fun and meaningful structure, but it is also a part of a single unified narrative structure at the same time.

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