This thesis represents the end of a long and exhausting journey of self-discovery at Middlebury College.  It is also, I think, the beginning of a new focus, a new passion, and perhaps even, a new career-goal. I did not take a direct path to get to this point, but I believe wavering off the road and wondering where I was has made reaching the final destination even sweeter. As such, I could never have completed this project without the help of a number of people.

A special thanks to the incredibly smart (trans) media scholars and professionals who took the time to answer my questions: Ivan Askwith, Christy Dena, Sam Ford, Jonathan Gray, Geoffrey Long, and Mark Warshaw.

To my teammates and coaches of the Middlebury Basketball team for showing me the meaning of hard work. Thank you to my roommates, friends, and Ashton for keeping my spirits up. And I am eternally grateful to my family, my parents, and my sister for well, everything.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my advisors Christian Keathley and Michael Newbury for reading this work. And I am deeply indebted to Jason Mittell, who sparked my interest, calmed my nerves, and has overall been the best advisor and mentor a student could hope for.

Closing Thought: The Future of Transmedia Storytelling

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.  <>
[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.”

CHAPTER 5 Lost’s Transmedia Lessons: Five Takeaway Techniques

There is no definitive paradigm for how a television show might use transmedia storytelling and no two shows will use it in exactly the same way. Nevertheless, in this thesis, I have offered some techniques for transmedia producers to craft multiplatform stories. If we combine my proposed model from Chapter 3 with the lessons learned from Lost in Chapter 4, we might come up with five takeaway tools for transmedia producers to apply to television.

1.) Construct a fully furnished world and then gradually reveal the space/mythology of that world. Gradually revealing a world’s hyperdiegesis and borrowing the spatial configuration of video games creates an environment that encourages exploration. This environment propels hard-core fans to seek out more information, draw connections, and gain a better understanding of the fictional world. At the same time, casual fans can imagine a vast expanse while focusing on the characters and main events of the show.

2.) Develop a hierarchy of narrative gaps or mysteries that allow different viewers to engage with a show in a variety of ways. The hierarchy of mystery increases the likelihood that any given fan will find some question or mystery that interests them. And by inserting plenty of implied and hidden mysteries, there will always be potential for transmedia extensions to contribute valuable information to the overall storyline without affecting “the mother ship.” Thus, it is important to include a wide range of endlessly deferred, lingering, implied, and hidden mysteries so that transmedia producers will always have options when creating the narrative pay-off to transmedia extensions.

3.) Transmedia extensions can explicitly answer implied and hidden mysteries or provide enough clues for hard-core fans to make informed theories about lingering or endlessly deferred mysteries. The key is to identify what type of mystery a particular transmedia extension will address and adjust the narrative pay-off accordingly. The Lost Experience definitively answered endlessly deferred mysteries (upsetting casual fans), while the answers from The Missing Pieces mobisodes were not definitive enough for a series promising to “fill in narrative gaps” (upsetting hard-core fans). Thus, answers to implied and hidden mysteries should be definitely answered in transmedia extensions, while answers to endlessly deferred and lingering mysteries should be more open-ended, sparking fan speculation and anticipation. Of course, transmedia storytelling can also function as an outlet for any mystery that is not going to be addressed in the show (like Libby’s story, for example). Because Lost has a near infinite amount of mysteries, transmedia storytelling seems to be a perfect tool for providing narrative closure to all remaining questions.

4.) Each transmedia extension should aim to be a satisfying individual experience in addition to offering narrative insights. The process of discovery matters as much as the narrative revelation. As the Lost Experience illustrated, the journey in hunting down narrative information and bonding with a social community is often more rewarding than the end result. For ‘new episode extensions’, the process of discovery may involve experiencing how a new medium presents the story in an interesting way, while alternate reality extensions are best at facilitating a community of interest. Either way, a transmedia extension should balance the narrative-pay off with the fun of discovering it. As Damon Lindelof told the Fuselage, “the road is long, friends, but hopefully, when at last you reach your destination, you’ll look back and remember having enjoyed the journey even more than where you ended up.” Lindelof is talking about Lost as a whole, but the same principle applies to a transmedia extension. Each transmedia extension should not be another thing for fans to do or a gimmicky way to present new information, but an engaging individual experience all its own.

5.) Reward the efforts of hard-core fans by adding suspense in how a narrative revelation will be addressed and then validate the revelation. As Find 815 showed, hard-core fans can theorize about how a narrative pay-off relates to the show and then take pleasure in seeing how the show validates their findings. Because of television’s nowness, learned information can be confirmed quickly, giving a sense that the show is reacting to hard-core fans’ off-screen activities. Validating transmedia extensions in subtle and interesting ways can lead to new modes of engagement in that hard-core fans can admire how transmedia creators are able to create a story on multiple levels. As Jonathan Gray and Jason Mittell note, “A good story can be a well-told tale, but it can also be a puzzle and a challenge, an object to be marveled at (directing focus to the well-told tale’s actual telling), a familiar space, a complex network to be mapped, and a site to stimulate both discussion and the proliferation of textuality.”[1] The validation effect calls attention to the formal construction of transmedia narratives, adding a new pleasure in seeing how a story can be dispersed and expanded across other media, only to be molded back together to form a unified whole. In this sense, it would not be unreasonable to think of transmedia storytelling as a kind of game, where players search for narrative information and then anticipate how that information will be relevant in the core television text. Transmedia storytelling certainly offers new opportunities for mastering a diegetic world, but it can also provide a pleasure in observing how the transmedia story is constructed, how it sparks fan discussion, how it alters expectations for future episodes, and how it rewards consumers with an insider look into the process of piecing a complex tale together.

[1] Gray, Jonathan and Mittell, Jason. “Speculation on Spoilers: Lost Fandom, Narrative Consumption and Rethinking Textuality.” Particip@tions.