April 12, 2010 Jill

What is transmedia and is it different than crossplatform?

Good question. The terms are new and lots of people are using them in different ways. I can only tell you what they mean to me.

When I use crossplatform and multiplatform I’m talking about projects and content that make use of several different platforms or media. The world of Harry Potter appears in books, movies, video games, clothing lines and much much more. It’s a multiplatform — maybe even omniplatform. Any TV show or movie with a web site qualifies as multiplatform as does a song that’s available as live performance, CD, iTunes download and a video.

transmedia-storytelling.jpgTransmedia is a subset of crossplatform. All transmedia is crossplatform, but not all crossplatform is transmedia. Most of the properties which I incorporate into my internal definition of transmedia come from Jeff Gomez‘s principles of transmedia which I blogged last year.

When I use transmedia two conditions have to be met:

The story world must be expressed on at least three platforms. It can be more, many more, but three is the minimum. Three is probably a fairly arbitrary number here, but Jeff said it should be so and I am happy to take it as a rule of thumb. (Interesting but totally unrelated is the fact that three is the minimum number of killings required in order for a murderer to be called a serial killer. I also like to include at least three items in a list. But I digress.)

The expression of the story world on each platform must be unique, not the same content repurposed on a different platform. So Harry Potter, in which the movies, video games and other elements are all retellings of the books that JK Rowling wrote? Not transmedia. Julia Child’s autobiography, My Life in France, Julie Powell’s blog The Julie/Julia Project and Nora Efron’s movie, Julie and Julia? Transmedia. (I have a post elaborating on this thought on the blog TransmediaTracker.)

There are plenty of other examples of transmedia out there. The Matrix unfolds over features, animated shorts, comic books and video games. Heroes is a tv series, web series, graphic novels, books and online games.

For both the fan and the creator part of me, transmedia is very exciting. It offers a depth and richness of story that I love.

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