While new technologies and new consumers may alter the television industry’s business model, the demand for compelling and exciting stories will always be vibrant. More and more television programs are incorporating transmedia components into their DNA. Jesse Alexander, a writer on Alias, Lost, and Heroes, sees a need for television producers and writers to educate themselves about gaming and new media.[1]  Similarly, Mark Warshaw, a transmedia creator on Heroes, believes the role of a transmedia producer/writer will be even more important in television’s future.[2]  Indeed, while it is still difficult to pinpoint exactly what constitutes a successful multiplatform narrative or how to monetize its various extensions, transmedia storytelling will likely play a crucial role in ushering television into the era of convergence.

Undoubtedly, many television shows will follow in Lost’s footsteps, pushing the level of complexity and difficulty in narrative comprehension and cross-media navigation. Yet transmedia storytelling can have more value than merely serving the economic interests of television executives and media conglomerates; it can have creative and artistic merit as well. As consumers grow more accustomed to transmedia exploration and polish their skills in new media literacy, transmedia storytelling is poised to build its own unique set of aesthetics and develop its own version of  “narrative special effects.” [3] (The validation effect may be one example of this)

After all, transmedia storytelling does not require a big, bloated budget. Web series like Lonelygirl15 and Kate Modern illustrate the ease with which transmedia content can exist at relatively low costs.[4] And alternate reality games, a form of cross-media storytelling, are most often grassroots and independent productions. In today’s participatory culture, anyone with an idea, some time, and basic knowledge of digital media, can create a transmedia story. As the Millenials, a generation quite familiar with multiplatform consumption, filter into the workplace and pursue their storytelling careers, one can imagine transmedia narratives exploding as a popular 21st-century form of entertainment. Yet while the logistics of transmedia storytelling remains unclear, storytellers face a bright future full of opportunities to weave narrative threads in an out of another, stitch them together with a compelling mythology, and craft some complex, dazzling narrative tapestries.

[1] Taylor, Alice. “Hollywood & Games: An Interview with Jesse Alexander. Wonderland Blog.  <http://www.wonderlandblog.com/wonderland/2007/06/hollywood-games.html>
[2] Interview with Mark Warshaw. 4 May 2009.
[3] Jason Mittell argues that narratively complex shows involve “narrative pyrotechnics,” allowing viewers to marvel at the craft in constructing the narration.
In “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television." The Velvet Light Trap.
[4] The company producing both shows, EQAL, uses the tagline “The show is everywhere.”

Posted by Aaron Smith on July 5, 2009
Tags: Uncategorized

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