· Trans media storytelling signifies a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story. So, for example, in The Matrix franchise, key bits of information are conveyed through three live action films, a series of animated shorts, two collections of comic book stories, and several video games. There is no one single source or ur-text where one can turn to gain all of the information needed to comprehend the Matrix universe.
· Trans media storytelling redirects the economics of media consolidation or what industry observers call “synergy.” Modern media companies are horizontally integrated – that is, they hold interests across a range of what were once distinct media industries. A media conglomerate which has an incentive to spread its brand or expand its franchises across as many different media platforms as possible. The current configuration of the entertainment industry makes trans media expansion an economic imperative, yet the most gifted trans media artists also surf these marketplace pressures to create a more expansive and immersive story than would have been possible otherwise.
· Most often, trans media stories are based not on individual characters or specific plots but rather complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories. This process of world-building encourages an encyclopedic impulse in both readers and writers. We are drawn to master what can be known about a world which always expands beyond our grasp. This is a very different pleasure than we associate with the closure found in most classically constructed narratives, where we expect to leave the theatre knowing everything that is required to make sense of a particular story.
· Extensions may serve a variety of different functions. The extension may provide insight into the characters and their motivations, the extension may add a greater sense of realism to the fiction as a whole.
· Trans media storytelling practices may expand the potential market for a property by creating different points of entry for different audience segments. Trans media may work to draw viewers who are comfortable in a particular medium to experiment with alternative media platforms (as in the development of a Desperate Housewives game designed to attract older female consumers into gaming).
· Ideally, each individual episode must be accessible on its own terms even as it makes a unique contribution to the narrative system as a whole. Trans media producers have found it difficult to achieve the delicate balance between creating stories which make sense to first time viewers and building in elements which enhance the experience of people reading across multiple media.
· Since trans media storytelling requires a high degree of coordination across the different media sectors, it has so far worked best either in independent projects where the same artist shapes the story across all of the media involved or in projects where strong collaboration (or co-creation) is encouraged across the different divisions of the same company. Most media franchises, however, are governed not by co-creation (which involves conceiving the property in transmedia terms from the outset) but rather licensing (where the story originates in one media and subsequent media remain subordinate to the original master text.)
· Transmedia storytelling is the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence. Pierre Levy coined the term, collective intelligence, to refer to new social structures that enable the production and circulation of knowledge within a networked society. Participants pool information and tap each others expertise as they work together to solve problems. Levy argues that art in an age of collective intelligence functions as a cultural attractor, drawing together like-minded individuals to form new knowledge communities. Transmedia narratives also function as textual activators – setting into motion the production, assessment, and archiving information. Transmedia storytelling expands what can be known about a particular fictional world while dispersing that information, insuring that no one consumer knows everything and insure that they must talk about the series with others (see, for example, the hundreds of different species featured in Doremon,Pokemon or Yu-Gi-O). Consumers become hunters and gatherers moving back across the various narratives trying to stitch together a coherent picture from the dispersed information.
· A transmedia text does not simply disperse information: it provides a set of roles and goals which readers can assume as they enact aspects of the story through their everyday life. We might see this performative dimension at play with the release of action figures which encourage children to construct their own stories about the fictional characters or costumes and role playing games which invite us to immerse ourselves in the world of the fiction.
· The encyclopedic motivations of trans media texts often results in what might be seen as gaps or excesses in the unfolding of the story: that is, they introduce potential plots which can not be fully told or extra details which hint at more than can be revealed. Readers, thus, have a strong incentive to continue to elaborate on these story elements, working them over through their speculations, until they take on a life of their own. Fan fictions can be seen as an unauthorized expansion of these media franchises into new directions which reflect the reader’s desire to “fill in the gaps” they have discovered in the commercially produced material to reach out to the audiences.