Media and Learning 2011

Transmedia – mixing formats to create innovative and compelling stories

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Discussion

Transmedia is an increasingly popular approach to digital storytelling. It aggregates a variety of formats and weaves together diverse storylines across multiple outlets, to create an overarching narrative structure.

This session will provide an opportunity to share experience in transmedia and to explore how it can be used in a learning context.

Moderator: Deborah Arnold, University of Burgundy, La Passerelle, France

Comments

Deborah Arnold

Transmedia is an increasingly popular approach to digital storytelling. It aggregates a variety of formats and weaves together diverse storylines across multiple outlets, to create an overarching narrative structure. What potential does transmedia offer for those involved in learning?

Deborah Arnold

Hello all!
I'm very much looking forward to moderating this discussion session designed to help us get to grips with transmedia and its potential for learning. I'd also like to take the opportunity to introduce our international panel: Andrew Tomlinson, Yannick Mahé and Eleonora Panto. Over the coming days, we'll be kicking off the discussion online right here, so if you have questions for the panel or your own examples and insights to share, this is the place!

Philip Penny

I am dabbling with the Mac App 'iBooks Author' where learning content (ePub) can be developed combining video, sound clips, links, quiz, text and still images all in the same lesson.

Q. for general discussion... Is iBooks Author a Transmedia development tool or is this view too limited?

Deborah Arnold

Hi Philip,
Maybe we have the answer to your question in Yannick's post below (or maybe you already have the answer yourself and you've given us this example to get us talking!). I think one of the outcomes of this discussion will be a clearer understanding for us all on what transmedia is and what it isn't... and once we've got to grips with that we can start to see how it can be mobilised for learning.

Philip Penny

Hi Deborah,
Yannick's very comprehensive response does provide an answer confirming for me that a much broader view of transmedia is required... I already have a clearer understanding. I am particularly interested in Yannick's view that this trend or concept could encourage learning outside the narrow confines of the classroom and this brings into play the whole mobile learning debate and blended learning. What do others think?

Yannick Mahé

I guess we all agree that today if you have access to the internet and are motivated (presumed you can read and write), you can learn a lot of things without being in a classroom. What the teacher does is to set up a learning path through which he accompanies the student by motivation, pedagogical help and assessment.
Many learning spaces exist already on the internet, but what is more difficult to create is the motivation factor that triggers the learner who is not self-motivated to follow the learning path. Through a transmedia-like approach with gamification and involvement of an active community (learners, teachers...) the physical absence of the teacher could to a certain extend be compensated.
Externalization of a part of the curriculum outside class can create free time for a more dynamic exchange between learners and teachers. Also the particularity that the learner is exploring the transmedia space in a very individual manner offers interesting class activities where the individual experience of each student is integral part of the pedagogy (exchange different point of views and try to understand how opinions are made).

Yannick Mahé

For the last years I have been creating educational multimedia resources and am especially interested in new trends such as transmedia.

Although the term of "transmedia" is more and more used, its definition is not yet really settled. Most actors in this field however agree on some main characteristics:
Transmedia is storytelling across different media supports (broadcast, web, books) where each chosen support will best suit to the narrative purpose. Each media product is part of an overall unifying story and the way these different entry points are linked to each other makes it an immersive experience for the audience. The story is engaging and incites the audience to participate.

So, assembling a couple of different media such as text, images, sound and video on a web page or as an ePub file is not sufficient to make it "transmedia". There is a matter of creating an emotional motivation to get the audience travelling and exploring the whole story through the different types of products.
Actually, the term is mainly used to describe a marketing strategy designed to promote and sell a product and this raises up the question of how multiple extensions (web site, community management) can be offered for free. New business models have to be found.

For the moment it is difficult to find convincing transmedia examples for educational purposes. But for sure it will be exciting to see how this new format can trigger a new pedagogy. Today, digital media are very present in education but still play only accessory roles (course complement, "appetizer"...) requiring the teacher as a guide and motivator. The immersive nature of the transmedia concept could make "out of school"-learning more engaging and so facilitate and catalyze a blended learning approach.

Mathy Vanbuel

Hi Yannick, I think there are already some nice examples of transmedia for learning: amongst the MEDEA entries this year for example there were a few great examples (IMHO of course) like DON GIOVANNI DANS TOUS SES ÉCRANS or Pèlerinage de Dom Loupvent en 1531.

Yannick Mahé

To continue our exchange on what transmedia really is, it might indeed be helpful to analyse a concrete example. While I was searching for a suitable example (not necessarily educational, but performant in its transmedia approach), I stumpled upon « Dexter » which is a TV drama series. The plot of the series is about Dexter Morgan with a double identity, on day time he is blood spatter pattern analyst to help find serial killers, and during night he turns out to be a serial killer himself (whose victims however are always killers themself).
How did the producers conceive their transmedia marketing strategy ?
Well, there is of course a web site http://www.sho.com/sho/dexter/home giving access to :
- videos on demand or via iTunes
- background information about the making-of, the actors...
- merchandising DVDs, soundtrack, Mugs, Tshirts...
- Apps
- social media spaces such as twitter and facebook http://www.facebook.com/dexter (with almost 13000000 fans and where a post can get 60000 likes and 3000 comments !!!)
- a youtube channel named « Early cuts » with animated illustrations that explain Dexter’s past http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD22249F2ED1659D4 (especially created to launch season 4)
- a youtube channel with interactive videos (alternate reality game) and through which the audience can help Dexter to track a serial killer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9IObJBjhlg (especially created to launch season 5)
By the way, this makes me think that I should mention that I am far away to know "Dexter". Actually I might have seen it once on TV but didn’t get addicted. And this is probably also one particular caracteristic of transmedia which is to be "persuasive"… once the audience turned off the TV, "Dexter" will follow them (or vice versa: they will follow Dexter) on the internet and their mobile devices... the audience has no chance to escape and will get addicted.
Wouldn’t it be great we could manage to do the same in education and get the learners addicted to knowledge ? Does anybody know about an educational project that has such an outreach ? Examples welcome !

Mathy Vanbuel

Hi Yannick, it strikes me that you are referring to marketing techniques more than to pedagogical techniques. I agree so far as that pedagogy can learn from that area but they seem to me as such not so different from techniques that are used in storytelling (scenario buidling) in fiction production (books, videos or films, games and plays). Is the main difference now that new technologies allow all of us (and not only Hollywood directors) to combine and recombine without creative boundaries?

Yannick Mahé

Hi Mathy, indeed some educational projects are excellent and not so different to the commercial productions. In the two examples you cite above there are however essential transmedia caracteristics missing:
1. the overall story should be told through different platforms/media (Don Giovanni is a web site that gives access to videos and texts through an appealing interface, there is no interactivity...)
2. the project should allow an active participation by the audience (both examples lack completely the participation of a community)
I really found it difficult to identify good representative "transmedia" examples for educational purposes. Most of the projects drive the educational "multimedia" a little more to the "transmedia" side, but in my opinion are not yet at the point to be classified as transmedia.
And so I think it can help to take marketing examples as we should get inspiration from there to apply some of these concepts on educational projects.

tomlia50

Hi Yannick -- good to 'speak'. Hopefully, I can suggest a contender. At BBC Learning, we've been experimenting with delivering factual content on several platforms simultaneously, offering a unique experience on each, but with the same 'narrative' (if there's such a thing in factual content-making). The science show Bang Goes the Theory http://www.bbc.co.uk/bang was commissioned simultaneously as a TV show, a face-to-face science event, a theatre show and an online experience. For the duration of the TV series, the presenters toured the UK with a theatre show, expanding on some of the themes of the tv programme, but with more detailed science experiments. The audience could also visit a touring interactive science zone, where experts in all the main sciences got them involved in hands-on experiments. Also during the tv series' run, online films were created by one of show's presenters, giving them a 'deeper dive' into one of the scientific principles featured on tv. When we were delivering it, it felt a step further than just multi-platform -- but was it a transmedia project? I'd value your thoughts.

Yannick Mahé

Hi Andrew, the project you refer to is very interesting and I think it puts the light on an aspect we should also discuss which is the "non-digital experience" in transmedia through the face-to-face interaction with the audience (theatre, hands-on experiences...). Indeed in the introductory resume of our discussion space, the term "digital storytelling" risks to be to narrow especially when we talk about learning where "life" experience plays an extremely important role that we should not underestimate.
Unfortunately I couldn't view the videos on the "Bang goes the theory" web site ... is it a matter of copyrights and so only UK-situated IP connections are allowed to view the videos? Anyway, intellectual property rights (IPR) issues should also be part of our discussion, as with the patchwork-nature of "transmedia" the IPR questions get also more complex.

Eleonora Pantò

Hi, I complete agree with Yannick and her definition of transmedia.

Transmedia happens when different platforms (tv, web, mobile) are integrated and used at their best for the narrative aim: it's also something different than crossmedia, that is an adaptation of the same contents on different media, i.e. a videogame that becomes a movie.. Do you agree with this distinction? Could we consider transmedia a subset of crossmedia or are totally different?

Following to Yannick, I could only see Dexter in TV and I don't need to follow the web components for getting the message.

I would like to point you to two different projects of transmedia developed by a local producer Zenit here in Torino:
- "Transiti" it's a project about raising awareness about transgender http://www.transiti.eu/home
the stories of the 5 players were broadcasted on RAI TV and people could vote on the web, the ends of the story, they used web, radio, tv.

- Cultural Shock http://www.culturalshock.org/ it's a contest for migrant people living in Italy that have to propose a project to be realized in an another country.. they can win a travel with an italian native companion, people have to vote the best project on the web and a tv doc will be produced.

Other questions come to my minds: for transmedia, is the use of TV essential? Is it a transmedia project also if different media comes in further steps or transmedia are projects designed for moving audience to one media to another since the beginning?

Yannick Mahé

Hi Eleonora, good question about TV being essential or not for transmedia production. I think it's not essential, but it tremendously helps to implement a transmedia project. Especially because producing for TV offers financial support through established funding opportunities. Producing for the internet still is a much more acrobatic financial challenge as you have to find non-conventional solutions. These include for example crowd-funding through platforms such as "kickstarter" (the concept is to reach a lot of interested people and each of them invests a little amount of money in the project) or crowd-sourcing (where the internet users are content creators). A mixture of these different models (TV production and user-generated content) is the case in the project “Britaininaday” that Andrew is presenting in the post here below.
Personally I think that having a financially viable project allows to make high-quality content, which is not always the case in UGC. Keep in mind that the audience is also sensible to good stories & the quality of images, sound and design. And in this sense it is probably also an advantage to have the transmedia project designed since the beginning... which does not exclude that it can continuously evolve and extend on further media/platforms.

tomlia50

Hi...
When we're working out how to use transmedia to deliver learning, I think it helps if we use a definition of the term 'transmedia' which acknowledges that it can be about providing different experiences on the various platforms, as well as different narratives. The word 'narrative' restricts us to using the term transmedia in the context of fictional content -- and therefore limits the potential for learning outcomes.
If we agree that we can talk about experiences as well as narratives, a project like Bang Goes The Theory is truly transmedia in the sense that the content on each platform (theatre, interactive space , tv, the web) is different. Engaging with each platform gives the consumer a unique experience with regard to a particular aspect of science.
In my experience, Learning can come from creating transmedia content as well as experiencing it. As one of the executive producers of Britain in a Day http://www.bbc.co.uk/britaininaday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3PSMbpHjo8 my team used the production process of this crowd-sourced UGC project to provide learning to potential contributors. To help us get the best possible self-shot material, we ran film-making workshops with hard-to-reach groups across the UK and set up a website populated with 'how-to' guides and films we had produced. In the end 12,000 films were uploaded to YouTube to provide the source material for a 90-minute BBC film and an interactive archive which launches this week. I see it as transmedia in the sense that you can choose to experience BIAD as a film or you can explore the stories that interest you and 'build' your own BIAD online at http://www.youtube.com/britaininaday.
Do you agree that BIAD is a transmedia project?

Deborah Arnold

Hi all,
This discussion has really taken off - thank you so much for your insights and examples! I think I have an example of true transmedia storytelling for learning, but I'll save it for next week... suspense!
Just one thought - what do you think of using the term 'experiencers' rather than 'audience' when we're talking about transmedia? To me it helps convey more of the notion of engagement and participation, so important for learning... but you might not agree!

Deborah Arnold

A big thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion yesterday, panellists and audience included. We're still some way from understanding how we can truly harness transmedia for learning, but to help take things forward here are some very practical tips on how QR codes can be easily integrated to enhance the transmedia experience. Wish I'd seen this before yesterday's session! http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/11/13/transmedia-qr-codes/

Yannick Mahé

Hi Deborah, good example about the QR code which makes a very fluid transition to link from the media "paper" to the internet (web page, video... ) by just using a mobile device. Nice tool to explore...

Deborah Arnold

Still musing on the discussions... What do you think of this as a possible definition? "Transmedia teaching is a term that describes teaching and pedagogical techniques that work to create an immersive learning environment which extends beyond the limits of the classroom through the use of multiple, typically digital, media." Maybe not perfect, but a possible start (?)
From http://mediterraneanworld.typepad.com/the_archaeology_of_the_me/2009/12/...

Yannick Mahé

Still wondering what is transmedia?... then view this video where one of the most influential persons in the field, Henry Jenkins is giving a talk about transmedia.
http://epresence.univ-paris3.fr/1/watch/183.aspx (his part starts at 16:00 minutes). Again most of the cited examples are marketing strategies, but he also mentions a couple of other transmedia projects for activism or educational purposes.


14 - 15 November 2011 Flemish Ministry of Education Headquarters, Brussels
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