In transmedia storytelling, integral elements of the story are told through different media and each media type provides distinct contributions to the participant's understanding of the story. Participants may have many different entry points into the story and are able to extend the story through their contributions.

Transmedia Storytelling

  • Provides different ways to explore the same story such as comic, movie, and game.
  • Expresses different aspects of the story through different media such as print materials, graphics, audio, video, or animation.
  • Encourages people to become immersed in the story through participatory elements such as place-based activities, online discussions, story extensions.

Henry Jenkins identified Seven Key Principles of Transmedia Entertainment and Transmedia Education: The 7 Principles Revisited. Jenkins also has a Ning where you participate in discussions on this topic. These seven ideas can be applied to the transmedia environments we design for children and the worlds they create for themselves.

  1. Spreadability vs Drillability. Spreadability involves exploring the world for interesting and useful pieces of information, while drillability can add depth to the learning experience. As educators, we need to provide ways for students to explore diverse interests, while also providing an opportunity to dig deep into content that matters in a story or in a learning situation. Learn more about this ideas in the article If it doesn't spread, it's current educational practice by Daniel Thomas Hickey.

    In Changing the Balance, participants seek a cause-and-effect relationship between climate change and the impact of deadly parasites. The materials include a wealth of options to explore as well as deep resources that include text, audio, video, and animation.

  2. Continuity vs Multiplicity. Continuity involves thinking of different ways to express the same idea. For instance, the book, the comic, and the movie have continuity and help a students explore different ways to think about a single topic. They tell the same story simply using different media. However another approach is to use the unique nature of each media to tell a slightly different story, to expand the characters or look at a different aspect of the story. This enhances the experience rather than simply duplicating the experience. Rather than focusing on well-known people in history, tell the story through the eyes of an ordinary citizen. Or explore what's happening in many places in the world at the same point in history.

    In US Mission, participants take on different roles as they work their way through a series of games that explore different aspects of the American Revolutionary War period.

  3. Immersion vs Extractability. It's not always possible to go to a real-world location for a learning experience, so immersive environments can help young people gain experiences in a particular time or place. At the heart of remix and mashups is lifting exciting aspects from one story and infusing them into new works. Rather than simply entering the world of the story, participants take away new ideas and ways of thinking. Bringing real-world materials into the classroom can help provide the basis for rich new experiences.

    In Welcome to PinePoint, participants are immersed in a Canadian town that now longer exists. This type of experience might encourage teens to create their own way of thinking about the town where they are growing up. The NFB/Interactive website contains other interesting interactive experiences.

  4. World Building. The story is just the beginning in a world building environment where participants experience and create new worlds for the characters. The setting of the story takes a life of its own when others are invited to create characters, places, and artifacts for the world. This can be created by a single author and illustrator or by participants. Jenkins suggests that this type of activity can be done in the classroom with role-playing and world building based on historical fiction or the study of culture.

    In Lost Zombies, participants create characters that become part of a community-created Zombie world.

  5. Seriality. Increasingly the world is filled with ongoing stories dispensed in chunks over time and across media. The story may begin as a web comic, continue through a movie, and end in the real world. The key in teaching is creating exciting ongoing experience that motivate students to want to learn more.

    In Lure of the Labyrinth, participants read comic-type stories as they work their way though a series of activities.

  6. Subjectivity. Many genre are telling a story through multiple points of view. This allows many media to be used. In the book Skelton Creek, the book is presented as a journal from one character's view and the videos are told from the view of another character. This approach can be taken across the curriculum. Compare the perspectives of George Washington with King George.

  7. Performance. With the tools of technology, anyone can be a storyteller. When many people get together, they can create outstanding productions. The Hunt for Gollum is an independently produced film inspired by Lord of the Rings and created by fans. Young people don't just need to watch film, they can build their own and become active content creators. They may add their own characters or participate in a discussion.

    Some activities even get people out into the real-world to recreate or reenact. For example some people perform music or recreate art.

Wave ActivityThink about the transmedia experiences you've explored.
Do they address Jenkin's seven principles?
How do these elements connect to educational experiences?


Go to the next section: An Experience.

The Transmedia Wave

| Overview | The Wave | Defined | An Experience | Elements | Content| Design | Skills | Fluid |