In the last few decades, technical innovations, the increasing mediatization of our everyday life, and the economic interests of global media conglomerates have led to a highly interconnected media landscape where intellectual property is often spread across a variety of media platforms. One of the effects of this technological, economic, and cultural media convergence appears to be the increasing visibility and presence of transmedial entertainment franchises which represent – usually, but not necessarily: fictional – stories, characters, and worlds across the borders of conventionally distinct media.
In light of the socio-cultural relevance and the commercial success of transmedial entertainment franchises in contemporary media culture, it will come as no surprise that media studies have started to focus on transmedial phenomena, as well, with terms such as ›transmedia(l) storytelling‹ or ›transmedial worlds‹ enjoying ever broader popularity. However, what is usually not quite as present in the discourses of media studies is the astonishing heterogeneity of forms that can be observed with regard to transmedial phenomena. It is this heterogeneity of forms that will be further examined by the present special issue of IMAGE, which in turn is the first installment of a three-part series.
A substantial part of the essays collected in the present as well as the two forthcoming special issues of IMAGE is based on papers presented during the Winter School »Transmedial Worlds in Convergent Media Culture«, which took place from February 24 to February 28, 2014 at the Graduate Academy of the University of Tübingen and was supported by the Institutional Strategy of the University of Tübingen (German Research Foundation, ZUK 63).
The production, distribution and reception of storyworlds across media developed as an emergent trend among media scholars since quite some time. A promising approach to cope with these phenomena on a theoretical basis seems to be the distinction between transmedia storytelling in a narrow sense as described in Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture and the concentration on the implications of constructing a coherent mental image of a storyworld across media, so called transmedia world building. To differentiate between those two transmedial approaches, the text outlines a dialogue between Jenkins and his former teacher, David Bordwell. The insights gained from that discussion will then be transferred to a recent case study – the transmedia franchise of The Walking Dead.
The article examines the Star Wars-galaxy as a prototype of transmedia worldbuilding strategy. In contrast to closed authored transmedia worlds such as The Lord of the Rings or The Matrix the Star Wars universe created new kernels that distanced themselves from the segments authorized by self-proclaimed auteur and producer George Lucas. One of the most significant examples of the so-called Expanded Universe provides the role-playing video game The Old Republic. This branch of the pop-cultural mythological patchwork is discussed in relation to the analytic model of transmedia world established by Susana Tosca and Lisbeth Klastrup, extended by Michael Bachtin’s chronotopos of adventure time in order to enable a more differentiated terminology for temporary aspects of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games.
Harry Potter is a phenomenon of immense cultural and economic impact. It is defined by a texture of various media representations and adaptations: the novels, three spin-off books, a movie series of eight instalments, board and computer games, audio books, toys, other merchandise products, etc. However, these manifestations have not been strictly transmedia in the way Henry Jenkins uses the term. He defines the transmedia concept as a combination of radical intertextuality (interweaving of texts through exchange of story-related information) and multimodality (mixing media and their affordances in the process of unfolding the story). Further, Jenkins highlights the relevance of the consumer in transmedia narrations as an active participant, as hunter, gatherer, and world-builder. With the launch of the online platform Pottermore in April 2012, the Harry Potter franchise performed the transition towards transmediality in order to keep the product adjusted to the expectations of the participatory culture. Pottermore simultaneously provides an interactive literary, audio-visual, gaming, and social experience that both submerges the users in a narration they already know and constantly expands their knowledge of Harry’s magical world. This sounds fantastic; there is only one problem: Pottermore does not deliver what it promises. The aim of this paper is the brief presentation of the mechanics of the Pottermore digital environment and their critical discussion in terms of realization of the transmedia concept, focussing on the regulating and moderating mechanisms of Pottermore in particular that rather alienate than engage long-time fans and new audiences alike – resulting in strong feelings of frustration and betrayal on the part of the fan-base and in Harry Potter’s decreasing impact to the next generation of potential readers.
This article investigates the phenomenon of fictional media tourism, people who travel to places associated with books, films, television series or other media texts. Although these touristic engagements with media texts have become a recent topic within the academic discourse, still very little is known about the fan tourists’ experience and perception when visiting those places. Drawing on ethnographic and empirical data, it will be argued that fictional media tourism can be considered as a specific form of media appropriation by which transmedial storyworlds are re-staged and re-experienced in a spatial and material way, involving the body and the senses.
The paper aims to outline the narrative universe of the New Testament as a transmedial storyworld in a diachronical perspective to ask in a second step how exactly this universe is actualized and adapted in contemporary culture. For this purpose it focuses on Jesus action figures, a category of artifacts related to the New Testament that has not been studied yet. The paper suggests that these action figures should be seen as interactive media, which must be understood as satellites in the overall structure of the corresponding storyworld.
The concept of ›transmedial worlds‹ has mainly been discussed in the context of imaginary worlds. This raises the question of whether it is possible to transfer the concept to non-fictional, journalistic content? In this paper it is shown that an adaptation is possible and that transmedial worlds can give new impetus to journalism for an in-depth reporting style. In the second part of the paper a case study about the project The Secret Wars illustrates how a non-fictitious world can be delineratred, explored and used for transmedia reporting. For the project a team of journalists from North German Broadcasting Corporation and Süddeutsche Zeitung worked together over a period of about 1.5 years and revealed how the ›war on terror‹ is controlled from German territory.