From King Arthur to Avengers
The once simplistic experience of sitting down, watching a film, and leaving the cinema with a solid grasp on the particular plot is now becoming a thing of the past. The expectations of the average consumer have been heightened, and audience members crave a definite sense of engagement, executed through the concept of Transmedia.
Transmedia is the process whereby ‘integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels’ (Jenkins, 2007). Elizabeth Evans, a lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of Nottingham, uses King Arthur as an illustration of the historical legacy of transmedia. Prior to the rapid technological advances of the past 20 years, the narrative of King Arthur has been told for generations through oral story-telling, paintings, books, plays, television, film and even places (eg. Tintagel, Cornwall, which is said to be the birthplace of King Arthur). Point being, transmedia is not necessarily a new notion, but is one that has simply become a more concrete narrative idea in more recent times (most likely because of the ease of collaboration, all thanks to Mr Technology!).
Transmedia means many things for its audience, but to sum it all up, we’ll use the word engagement. Implementing numerous formats to portray different segments of a narrative means that there are multiple points of entry. Unlike a movie, there is no finite end, and similarly, no definite beginning; there is instead openness. Stories are not tied to the channels delivering them to the audience (Mitew, 2013).
Let us look at Marvel, perhaps one of the most lucrative players in the transmedia game. TV Professor, Michael Niederman, concludes, “Marvel did a fabulous job. DC not so much” when referring to both organisation’s utilisation of transmedia. Marvel can be deemed successors as they established an entire outlet for collaboration of multiple media forms – they created a Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a film franchise that encompasses not only a number of interwoven films, but exploits itself in comic books, short films and a television series. It has constructed the entire Marvel narrative that will only ever be complete when each piece is connected, as illustrated above. Niederman continues to elaborate: “It’s the fact that they said, ‘We’re going to create this universe, then we’re going to populate it with these pieces, that we’re clearly building toward this moment where we’re going to bring these pieces together.’”
It’s no wonder everybody fell madly in love with The Avengers – the ultimate compositional moment. The Avengers was a long-awaited project that integrated all those previously mentioned components into one, but why was it that transmedia made for a positive consumer experience? Engagement. The more points of entry available to the audience, the broader the demographic will be, which will in turn widen their market. More imperatively, the more points of entry, the more engagement the consumer can have with the content. Not only do the companies’ bank accounts scream ‘hooray!’ but so do we. Transmedia allows the audience to interact with content at their own pace – media is expositional, and is therefore, in a sense, untouchable, but transmedia is experiential. It places some of the power back into the audience’s hands – now that’s why everybody loves it so much!
For further reference, please see below:
- New Book Reveals Why Marvel Is Trumping DC
- Transmedia Storytelling 101
- Evans, E 2011 Transmedia Television: Audiences, New Media, and Daily Life, Routledge, London