Transmedia Storytelling; Yes, It’s a Thing

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transmedia storytellingTransmedia stories are single stories that are told using multiple digital platforms and technologies. I’ve come upon a variety that impress in my travels, my favorite being Inanimate Alice. I also found some resources for teachers and writers who are ready to try this form themselves or learn more about transmedia learning. Take a peek:

  • Laura Flemming provides a tidy introduction to transmedia storytelling in this Edutopia article.
  • This description and the visuals provided offer a wider context.
  • Henry Jenkins offers thoughtful reflections, perspective, and protocols for approaching transmedia education on his blog.
  • Jenkins provides the introduction to these slides on learning through transmedia play, created by Becky Herr-Stephenson and Erin Reilly.
  • Here are some examples of transmedia stories for elementary and middle school teachers.
  • These examples at Conductrr are intended for a much wider audience.

The notion that a writer can take a single story, divide it into chunks, and tell each portion using a different platform or tool changes everything about the story writing process and how writers approach craft. The realization that readers and viewers inform and even contribute to the shape of the story as its being written?

Well, that changes everything.

I’m planning to explore transmedia storytelling with middle and high school writers next week, and I’m wondering how we might begin. Here’s my plan so far. I’d love your feedback:

First, we’ll do a bit of research. As writers gather varied examples, we’ll come together to study them. I know that complexity varies from one story to the next. I don’t want beginning writers to be daunted by the work of experts, but I don’t want to assume anything either. I’m thinking that letting the kids collect the examples themselves and coaching analysis from behind might be the best way to begin. They can define levels of complexity and start to define which stories might serve as the best mentor texts for them, given their unique interests and abilities.

I’ll encourage those who are interested in creating a transmedia story to begin generating ideas. Here, I’ll try to remember that the narrative is just one small piece of the story. The way they divide the whole into parts will matter. The platforms and tools they choose will as well. I’m imagining the conversations that might unfold as writers grapple with what’s possible, what’s purposeful, and which approaches and tools will help them achieve what they intend to best. They may revisit the examples they found in order to gain inspiration, or they make seek new ones to study.

Writers will likely need to tinker around with tools and forms for some time. Accounts will need to be created. They’ll need to tease out the potential of each.

Here’s what I’m wondering: does it make sense for writers to plot their entire stories from the start? Or, would it be better to plot the first chunk, tell it, and invite audience participation? How readers and viewers engage could inform or even completely change the next chunk. Maybe I’ll open this up for discussion. They’ve taught me a great deal about how they write in the past, and I have a feeling that transmedia storytelling might have them rethinking everything they thought they knew.

I love the potential for the audience to write the story beside the original author. Incredible, isn’t it?

If you have experience with transmedia storytelling, I hope you’ll share some of what you’ve learned in the comments. If this form is new to you but I’ve peaked your interest a bit, I hope you’ll tell me how. This is all new to me, and I’d love to start a wider conversation.

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.
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