Thursday, June 30

Introduction
10:00-10:45 Ulrich Förstermann (Vice President for Research of the JGU Mainz)
Jürgen Falter (Appointee for the GRC-Network)
Karl N. Renner (Mainz)
Greetings and Introductory Remarks
10:45-11:30 Marie-Laure Ryan (Boulder/Mainz)
 

Abstract

The proliferation of media in the 20th and 21th centuries and their ever-increasing role in our daily life has produced a strong sense that “understanding media” is key to understanding the dynamics of culture and society. The power of media to shape opinion and to participate in what has been called the “social construction of reality” is primarily due to their ability to configure and transmit stories. A narrative approach to media not only explains their cultural importance, it also provides a standard of comparison that makes it possible to capture how media differ from each other in expressive power. In this introduction I will attempt to clear up the confusion that reigns in media studies by disentangling the many senses of the term medium—semiotic, technological and cultural—and by sketching a program of research for each of these three dimensions. Next I will turn to the concept of storyworld, situate it with respect to other narratological uses of “world,” and present an overview of its constitutive elements. Finally I will propose some applications of storyworld that make it an indispensable tool for transmedial narratology.

Video (.wmv)
Panel 1 Transmedial Worlds (Chair: Jan-Noël Thon)
12:00-12:45 Lisbeth Klastrup/Susana Tosca (Copenhagen)
 

Abstract

Talking its point of departure in transmedial world theory, previously developed by Tosca and Klastrup (2005, 2009), this talk will present and discuss the very recent instantiations of the transmedial world “A Game of Thrones”. This world originates from George R.R. Martin´s best-selling book, A Game of Thrones, which has just been turned into a TV series by HBO, which is showing on American TV from April 2011. The book is the first in a fantasy series of 7 (of which so far 4 have been published) which has an enormous cult following across the world. The producing channel, HBO, has turned to cross-media viral promotion strategies releasing several games related to the work, and involving the fan community in different ways both before and during launch.

The development of the game “The Maester’s Path”, has created an immense fan-hype before the lauching date. It is a series of five interactive puzzles that were unveiled one every week during the time prior to the launching of the show in the US. Thousands of fans participated, sharing information between them in various fora in order to solve the proposed enigmas. Every time, the prize for solving the puzzle was to view a never-before-seen fragment of the coming series, which in turn inspired a lot of comment in the fora. All this process was supported by the use of social media, specifically Facebook.

This makes the TV series an interesting case for a cross-media study. We both have the interesting question of adaptation to the different media and the order in which it has happened in this case (book > game > tv), and we have the use of social media and interactive games, involving the community in a viral manner similar to that of alternate reality games (ARGs). The difference to traditional ARGs such as The Beast is that this game is about an object that fans know very well in advance. How do they embrace the development and the new instantiations of the world, and how is the fan community involved? Are the rhetorical strategies used in the process of unfolding an ARG also at play here and if so, in which way? Our talk is based on an analysis of all the related instantiations of the Game of Thrones universe, as well as a combined study of fan reception of the corresponding transmedial world.

Video (.wmv)
12:45-13:30 Colin B. Harvey (London/Bournemouth)
 

Abstract

Transmedia storytelling, as defined by Henry Jenkins, refers to stories told across multiple media platforms. Such stories can be viewed contingently but can also exist and be understood in isolation from one another. According to Jenkins, consumers of such stories are more active than is usual, playing the roles of ‘hunters and gatherers’ in their pursuit of the narrative threads supplied by these various interconnected media artefacts. For Jenkins, The Matrix epitomizes this approach in its use of film, video games and animations to tell a series of linked stories (Jenkins 2008).

Although the fluidity of the fantasy and science fiction genres goes some way in accounting for the popularity of these forms in relation to transmedia storytelling, distinct narrative practices are also evident (Harvey 2011). In its current iteration the Tron franchise erases memory of the 2003 sequel video game and associated comic book in favour of the high profile relaunch of the franchise that occurred in 2010, centred around the official cinematic sequel to the original 1982 movie, and associated media such as the Tron: Evolution video game and Tron: Betrayal comic book. In contrast, the fifty-year-old Doctor Who franchise – now a paradigmatic example of transmedia storytelling for the BBC (Perryman 2008) – offers mechanisms by which its active fan-base can incorporate previous spinoff merchandise, including material bearing only fleeting fidelity to the ur-text of the television iteration.

Drawing on my own experience writing officially licensed spinoff material for Doctor Who and Highlander and using Christy Dena’s insights as a starting point (2011), I will examine the particularities of a range of transmedial storytelling examples in an effort to identify distinct characteristics, which in turn can be used to adumbrate a taxonomy of transmedia storytelling techniques. Central to my investigation will be a series of necessarily transdisciplinary perspectives offered by the burgeoning field of memory studies.

Video (.wmv)
13:30-14:15 Van Leavenworth (Umea)
 

Abstract

This presentation will explore issues related to the transmedial storyworld which has developed out of a loose framework of terror tropes presented in the fictional writings of American gothic writer H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). This storyworld is notable in that Lovecraft’s name is and has been relatively consistently applied to ideas and themes within it, even when those ideas come from another author, film director or game designer, and so the boundaries between Lovecraft’s terror tropes and concepts that have developed since his death are blurry. In fact, unless they read his tales, many people’s first experience of the Lovecraft universe is likely to include or even be dominated by details that are primarily attributable to others (such as the conceptual term ‘Cthulhu Mythos’). Ideas from the storyworld have also been appropriated as non-fiction in contemporary occult practices in ways that Lovecraft almost certainly never intended. This development suggests several questions. Why has this storyworld developed so extensively? What allure does it hold for both audiences and producers? More specifically, how are narratives derived from the written foundations of the storyworld presented in different media forms? How do those forms employ their mediality to further conceits of the storyworld? Finally, how has this developing storyworld contributed to ‘pulp’ writer Lovecraft’s apparent elevation into the American literary canon? This exploratory presentation will attempt to answer these questions, in part through a consideration of how the Lovecraft storyworld is used in Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu role-playing game (1981-present), the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s silent film The Call of Cthulhu (2005) and Michael S. Gentry’s interactive fiction Anchorhead: An Interactive Gothic (1998). These different narrative (generating) formats have the potential to provide distinct experiences for the player/viewer depending on her/his familiarity with the storyworld.

Video (.wmv)
Panel 2 Transmedial Storytelling (Chair: Nicole Labitzke)
15:45-16:30 Jason Mittell (Middlebury)
 

Abstract

Over the past decade, American television has emerged as a leading medium for innovative storytelling via complex serialization, constructing storyworlds that seem to bulge at the boundaries of the television screen. As digital media have emerged as a site of convergence and corporate synergy, television serials have creatively embraced multiple platforms to build immersive transmedia storyworlds. In this presentation, I will outline some of the strategies and challenges exemplified by transmedia television fiction, focusing on two specific case studies: Lost and Breaking Bad.

Lost exemplifies how transmedia storytelling has enabled television producers to expand their storyworlds, encourage participatory engagement for fans, and generate a ludic mode of interactivity around extensions like official websites, licensed videogames, tie-in fiction, and alternate reality games. But Lost also highlights some of the potential dangers of transmedia television, as fans map their expectations for narrative payoff and engagement across media forms, as well as trying to maintain a cohesive canonical story that makes sense both with and without transmedia knowledge. The lessons of Lost show both what is to be gained and risked by extending a complex program across media and building a vast serialized storyworld.

Breaking Bad represents another approach to transmedia storytelling, with the extensions providing character depth, backstory and hypothetical narrative possibilities. While not as expansive and exploratory as Lost, Breaking Bad’s transmedia strategy highlights how storyworlds can develop by layering narrative elements and exploring genre play through online extensions. Breaking Bad also points to the limits of ludic engagement within the framework of a serious character drama. Comparing these dual transmedia strategies highlights how serial television can build storyworlds either through a centrifugal approach to a vast expansiveness, or via a centripetal model of drawing inward with layers of backstory and psychological depth.

Video (.wmv)
16:30-17:15 Maria L. Leavenworth (Umea)
 

Abstract

The media forms under scrutiny in this presentation illustrate the complexity of the transmedial text world of The Vampire Diaries. L. J. Smith published the original novel quartet between 1991 and 1992, with sequels appearing in 2009 and 2010. The CW Television Network’s TV-series began airing in 2010 and is presently continuing into its second season. TV-series producers Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec have, together with Smith, published two books which flesh out the background story of the TV-series’ vampire characters in ways which veer sharply from its equivalent in Smith’s individually authored novels. The presentation examines differences between these written and visual texts with a sharply delineated focus on the transmedial representations of good and evil. The central characters, the human Elena and the vampire Stefan, are ambiguously portrayed in the original novel quartet, and questions concerning their moral choices are posed. In the TV-series, on the other hand, they induce audience identification through their innate good. These differences have consequences for the function and scope of the evil of Damon, Stefan’s vampire brother. That is, his role as antagonist is more clearly identified in the TV-series. In Smith’s most recently published novels, which focus on Damon, a more nuanced view of his moral corruption is presented. This is also a tendency in the co-authored book series which presents the background to the brothers’ turning. Here, Stefan is represented as the evil vampire, and as a corrupting influence on his brother. The conflicting images of good and evil, and the designation of concomitant roles, raise questions about how readers/viewers re-envision characters and navigate through the transmedial text world. Close readings of The Vampire Diaries fan fiction evidence both affordances and limitations of different characterizations. Selected examples illustrate how depictions of good and evil compete and how sometimes contradictory representations are negotiated in yet another instance of adaptation.

Video (.wmv)
17:15-18:00 Andreas Rauscher (Mainz)
 

Abstract

In recent years, Transmedia Storytelling has become a trademark concept for creative fan activity surrounding popular film, TV, comic and game franchises as well as a culture-industrial brand to adapt established formulas across a variety of platforms.

In his study Convergence Culture (2006), Henry Jenkins named the Matrix franchise (1999-2003) as a paradigm for Transmedia Storytelling, a narrative for the age of convergence with several possible points of entry. But instead of looking for an entrance a large part of the audience, originally intrigued by the first film’s mixture of anime aesthetics and pulp philosophy, was more interested in the next point of exit after the sequels turned out to be lackluster attempts at franchise building.

Instead of regarding Transmedia Storytelling as a “Gesamtkunstwerk”, that becomes more and more complex by following it across as many platforms as possible, the paper examines as an alternative three different types of Transmedia Storytelling as pop-cultural patchworks that can combine narrative and ludic concepts as self-contained kernels surrounded by optional satellites. Examples from transmedia franchises like Star Wars, the DC and Marvel comic universes and the Computer-Role-Playing games by Canadian developer Bioware will be discussed in regard to the construction of background stories, character biographies and world-building.

Video (.wmv)

Comments are closed.