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, the astonishing heterogeneity of forms that can be observed with regard to transmedial phenomena is usually not quite as present in the discourses of media studies. It is this heterogeneity of forms that will be further examined by the present special issue of IMAGE, which is the second installment of a three-part series.
A substantial part of the essays collected in the present as well as in both the previously published and the still forthcoming special issue 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).
In this article, I examine the Scott Pilgrim franchise from an adaptation as well as a transmedia franchising angle, setting these approaches off from Henry Jenkins’ conceptualization of transmedia storytelling. By focusing mainly on Edgar Wright’s film adaptation, I examine how remediation is used in the film as a strategy to link the adaptation to the comic books as well as the simultaneously released video game. I argue that the film both integrates itself into the larger franchise by drawing on the other products, particularly through its visual aesthetics, and opens the door to a larger transmedial world by ›simulating‹ its existence through references to other products that seem to, but do not in fact, exist in our world.
The Resident Evil and the Silent Hill series both were among the most famous and successful franchises of videogame culture until the film adaptations appeared, which initiated a slow but unstoppable decline. The films remained artistically inde-pendent, but the game experience of the following parts of the game series increasingly converged with the movies. The Resident Evil series put the focus on more action instead of horror and puzzles and the Silent Hill series adapted itself to the narrative design and dramaturgy of the cinematic franchise. This resulted in both game worlds no longer being able to replicate their earlier artistic and eco-nomic successes—the most recent parts, Resident Evil 6 (2012) and Silent Hill. Downpour (2012), were considered the low points of the series. In this article, reasons for this loss are discussed by describing the processes in both transmedial franchises with the related concepts of intermediality and intertextuality. A starting point of this article is the assumption that each storyworld includes a specific set of general rules (characters, settings, conflicts, etc.), which can be varied to a certain degree in a transmedial adaptation. Nevertheless, video games seem to include media-specific rules whose violation within the same medium is perceived as a break in the structural coherence of the storyworld. A closer look at the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series indicates that, in these cases, new releases are considered to stand in an intermedial or intertextual, but no longer in a transmedial relationship to the original texts.
Second screen strategies are quite common in today’s television industry. Television viewers are used to hashtag suggestions appearing on their screens while watching their shows; networks commonly use second screen options and apps to enhance the audience’s engagement with programming. NBC’s Heroes (2006–2010) was »arguably, the largest and most complex transmedia network […] conceived« (RUPPEL 2012: 224) at the time; the series tested many strategies of media convergence in distributing elements of its fictional world through multiple media platforms.
This article focuses on the show’s strategies enticing viewers to engage with its websites, print media extensions, accompanying games, and tie-over webisodes. There have been studies focusing on the series’ branding (cf. GIANNINI 2014) or on the links connecting Heroes’ different elements (cf. RUPPEL 2012: 61), yet there is a tangible lack of attention to what Jason Mittell has termed »forensic fandom« (MITTELL 2015: n.pag.).
This article examines the narrative gaps and story arc stops created by the fantasy series. The following discusses how these gaps allowed some viewers to evolve from their assumed passiveness in the general audience to instead become part of the fast growing fan base. Depending on varying levels of involvement, this fandom generated a number of Heroes ›experts‹, creating a tiered hierarchy. Those experts sought to answer questions about mystified symbols, underdeveloped characters, open-ended storylines and potential references provided by the series. This article argues that the NBC strategy ensured the growth of a willing fandom and growing expert base without relying on overt prompts.
Transmedial phenomena are omnipresent in what is often dubbed ›quality television‹. Shows like Breaking Bad (2008–2013) or Game of Thrones (2011– ) do not only rely on storytelling within the show itself but also offer their viewers a variety of possibilities to delve into the universe of the franchise. Mobile apps, minisodes, or interactive websites guarantee a deeper involvement of fans and personalize the viewing experience. These shows also add narrative complexity on a horizontal level, which many see as a recent criterion for ›quality television‹. Whereas ›good‹ television seems to be exclusively located in the US, where premium cable operators like HBO, Showtime, and AMC use new media to transgress the borders of the television screen, the developments in Germany are often criticized for a lack of innovative strategies. There is at least one German show to challenge this perspective: Zeit der Helden (2013). Regardless of the involved media, the show features a complex narrative and ambivalent protagonists. Zeit der Helden, shown in real-time, presents itself as a grown-up coming of age film in financially unstable times. Even though the setting promises a suburban everyday-life melodrama, the show explores the cracks that offer a look beneath the surface. All the protagonists are at a breaking point in their careers, relationships, or social roles. Their problems stem from intricate conglomerates of decisions, to which the serial only alludes. The website www.zeitderhelden.de offers a scavenger hunt into the protagonists’ past. In order to grasp the depth of the characters fully and to understand the complexity of the story arc, the viewer has to actively interact with the franchise and to enter a digital universe that in itself is just as dazzling as the shows’ characters.
Customarily, mockumentary tends to be discussed merely as a filmic and televisual form. Yet, on closer inspection, it proves to be a narrative style that not only can easily be employed in a variety of different medial contexts but is also suitable for delivering a single story across various platforms. In particular, the article seeks to demonstrate that it is not infrequent for the storyworld of a filmic or televisual mockumentary to be extended on one or more media through paratexts that are in themselves self-contained mockumentaries, thus giving life to out-and-out expanded mockuworlds.
This article explores transmedia storytelling in the context of web-aware journalism, drawing on the documentary Hollow (2012– ) to discuss what it means to fruitfully combine different types of media in a journalistic context. The following analysis is thus informed by journalism as well as by literary and cultural studies, particularly focusing on (trans-)media studies, narratology, and digital communication. It starts from two premises: First, the article recognizes the problem of knowledge transfer, which has become a serious challenge in the digital age. Since the Internet has become the superior way to create and distribute news, the status of newspapers has taken a beating. Second, the article points to a research gap in the analysis of transmediality in nonfiction stories—in this case, in interactive journalistic documentaries or reportages. It proposes, therefore, that the use of transmediality in digital documentary journalism not only affects the way stories are narrated today but, as print journalism declines in popularity, also leads to changes and processes of rethinking in the journalistic field—on the sides of both producers and recipients. Based on this, the objective of this article is to show that the application of Henry Jenkins’ concept of transmediality to web-aware journalism can encourage knowledge transfer as well as usher in a new future of long-form journalism in an age of digital overload.