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Transmedial Storytelling and Transfictionality

Marie-Laure Ryan on Transfictionality
by

Maria Zirra

on 15 June 2013

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Transcript of Transmedial Storytelling and Transfictionality

by Marie-Laure Ryan
Transmedial Storytelling and
Transfictionality

What exactly are we talking about?
Purpose of article: Investigating the relation between the narratological concept of transfictionality and transmedial or convergent storytelling (which is prevalent in popular culture.
Transmediality cf. Jenkins = "the flow of content through multiple media platforms" + content evolves from one medium to another determined by the particular properties of each medium it passes through
+ "A narrative so large it cannot be covered in a single medium
What are we talking about? (II)
Transmediality is not new - although it is viewed as the narrative form of the future.
e.g. Dissemination of Greek myth or Biblical stories in the Middle Ages.
Multimedia treatment typically reserved for those narratives which are considered foundational for the identity of a group
In the age of globalization, the community-building function of narrative has been taken over by stories like Star Wars which transcend linguistic, national and religious boundaries
"Poles" of Transmedial Storytelling
"The Snowball Effect" = "a certain story enjoys so much popularity, or becomes culturally prominent, that it spontaneously generates a variety of prequels, sequels, fanfiction and transmedial adaptations" (2)
Central text - common reference
"The Storyworld conceived directly as a project that develops over many different media platforms" (2)
-- Often commercial franchises - need to consume as many different media as possible
Films + Games + Forums + Literature - all depend on each other; "Entry point" - "rabbit hole"
No one has a complete overview of the storyworld in this case
Mo' related problems
Storyworlds
- The primary condition for a text to be considered a narrative is the ability to create a world, "or more precisely, the ability to inspire the mental representation of a world"
- Central to the phenomenon of transmedial storytelling - holds together the various texts of the system
What is a storyworld?
world - space
story - sequence of events
"Storyworlds. . .are more than static containers for the objects mentioned in a story, they are dynamic models of evolving situations . . . :they are mental simulations of the development of the plot" (2)
1. Static Component (precedes the story)
2. Dynamic Component
(captures its unfolding)
Static Component
1. An inventory of existents: a. the kind of objects that populate the storyworld; b. the cast of individual characters who act as protagonists

2. A folklore relating to the existents (backstories, legends, rumors)

3. A space with certain geographic features

4. A set of natural laws

5. A set of social rules and values
Transfictionality
= "migration of fictional entities across different texts, but these texts might belong to the same medium, usually written narrative fiction" (5) - transmedial storytelling special case of transfictionality that operates across many different media

Dolezel - fictional world can be linked to another:
* expansion - extends the scope of the original storyworld by turning secondary characters into heroes of their own story, expanding the time covered by the original story into sequels and prequels
* modification - constructs different versions of the protoworld redesigning its structure and reinventing its story "What if?"
* transposition - preserves the design and the main story of the protoworld but locates it in a different temporal or spatial setting

+ Ryan adds: * Quotation - not integrated in the storyworld and the effect might be of dissonance and incongruity
It's not necessarily Mo'Worlds, Mo' Problems*
Tempting to say that modification and transposition (and quotation) are less "world-preserving" than expansion
But it gets complicated!

Better: "worlds of transfictional texts can relate to the original world in variable ways:
*overlap - modification, transposition
* inclusion - expansion by a diff. author e.g. The Wind in the Willows sequels
* same world - but growing bigger same author
e.g. The Silmarilion
1. One to one
Text projects a determinate storyworld, and it is the only mode of access to this world -- cannot occur literally; same sequence of events
2. One text, many worlds.
Text so indeterminate that every user constructs a different story -
e.g. digital texts, such as hypertexts where the user's choices determine one of the many possible sequences of events; paintings;
3. One world, many texts - Multiple performances of the same story or joke, by bards telling and retelling stories about the same heroes.

Is it really the "same" world that the various incarnations of The Matrix, or Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings present, or a "similar" world?
Maria Zirra
BCS 2nd Year

Examples?
Game of Thrones - Snowball effect? Multimedial Storyworld?
Other examples? -- especially of the latter
TV series 2010
Boardgame (2003)
Books
1996-2012
+ cardgame (2002)
+comics (2010)
+RPG setting (2007)
+graphic novels (2013)
Dynamic Component
6. Physical events that bring changes to the existents

7. Mental events that give significance to the physical events, affect the relations between characters and occasionally alter the social order
*Courtesy of Notorious B.I.G.
Single-world transmedial story system
Snowball project - overlapping worlds
vs.
Project conceived from the very beginning as transmedial and convergent can be diagrammed as the expansion of the same world through multiple documents

e.g. Alpha 07 - The Enemy Within, Sudwest Rundfunk "Not a series, a universe"
- television storytelling - links to the websites to investigate what really happened
- web sites - Apollo blog, Protecta website, TV spot, Johanna's blog
- radio plays

Different from snowball projects because - these documents have a different status than the intersecting worlds of snowball systems --
"media objects represent action, rather than media objects: they do not say 'I am a film, I am a novel, I am a game", but rather 'this and that happened' " (10)
+ real world Google searches and research integrated into the fictional storyworld because media objects such as websites can be decontextualized and transported across fictional borders
ARGs II
Pitching
Pitching a story - creating a narrative whose main point of interest is the plot, minimizes the representation of "how it feels" to experience certain events --- do not inspire transfictionality so often - transposition, modification

Pitching a character - fictional individual who seems to possess a life of its own, who tempts the user to imagine how this individual would have behaved under different circumstances --mostly superhero types - expansion

Pitching a world - invariant features need; recognized as the common frame of reference of diverse documents - identity depends on certain characters + diversity - encyclopedic capacity
Alternate Reality Games (ARGs)
When an ARG is part of a transmedial project, it functions as a platform where the storyworld is realized + they are transmedial narratives themselves

ARGs are not simply forms of storytelling - primarily games - focused on problem-solving much more than the intrinsic interest in the narrative content - more active role to the user than the snowball projects and transmedial storyworlds mentioned here
- rabbit hole
-TINAG - by denying its own fictionality but trying to pass as true; ARGs tells stories through web sites which look as if they contained real world information
- need to form communities to solve them
- chaotic storytelling
- hard to research because ephemeral
- used for advertising purposes

++ Transmedial adaptation

Since different media have different expressive power, it is virtually impossible for two media to project the same worlds
Appearance medium-bound
Modification of plot (or not)

Solaris: interstitial stories, parallel stories, peripheral stories

Modification less common than expansion in transmedial stories - threatens the integrity of the original storyworld; Common in fanfiction "apocryphal texts"

Transposition is not compatible with today's transmedial franchises. Why? Any counter-examples?

Quotation to be found in parodies - even more threatening than modification "to the spirit of transmedial storytelling" - calls into question the unity and autonomy of the storyworld and creates and ironic distance that prevents immersion
Really? How so? Discuss
Typical snowball project (slide 13) has three types of elements:
1. A core of canonical documents - which expand the same world
2. Transmedial adaptations - games, online worlds - licensed; cross-medial adaptations
3. Apocryphal documents
Linked to products, TV shows, films etc

ARG precedes release of the other media object to create buzz
ARG and other media run concurrently - supplementarity
ARG follows media object to tie loose ends

Problem of ARGs and their link to TV series: "the individual documents must reach reasonable closure to satisfy the user who sticks to their medium, yet must be sufficiently open to generate additional content - relation of competition + relation of cooperation (avoid redundacy)
- typical solution - "battle in ongoing war" strategy
Conclusion
Why are transmedial projects so popular?


1. Marketing tricks - top-down imposition

2. Pleasure of experimentation

3. Need for community-building stories

4. Customizable time frame

5. Downloadable media

6. Return of cognitive investment
Storyworlds & Text Relations
Full transcript