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Transmedia and Digital Storytelling

The University of Chicago_052921C
[The University of Chicago]

- Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their story. The media used may include multi-platform content creation and distribution models, using online, video, audio, mobile and social media, live events, and interactive and immersive technologies which individuals can use to tell a story or present an idea.

Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital publishing methods – where we develop narrative across multiple forms of media, in order to deliver unique pieces of related content via our chosen channels.


- Transmedia and Technology

Transmedia storytelling uses multiple media platforms tell a coordinated story across time. Have you ever read a book, seen a movie, watched a television show, or played a game that centred around different aspects of a larger story or universe? You may be familiar with popular examples of such universes like Star Wars, Marvel, and The Walking Dead (to name a few). How do the professionals develop such expansive narratives? How do they ensure that each element stays true to the original story? How do they innovatively use different technologies to share the stories, grow audiences and create an active and involved community of fans? More and more, we are also engaging with elements or franchises of larger and more complex stories across a much more diverse range of platforms like interactive web experiences, social media communities, mobile devices, theme parks, and even augmented and virtual reality. 

Transmedia storytelling takes advantage of the way the human brain processes information and constructs meaning: synthesizing, linking and exploring multiple sources.  A major challenge that current and future storytellers face is being able to engage different audiences in a story that is seamlessly told across all of these different platforms. 

Transmedia stories can be simple, across a few low-tech media platforms or break down the barriers between the story and reality by bringing the narrative out into the real world, in the form of complex and exciting alternative reality games (ARGs), where participants engage with narrative elements and characters using real world locations as part of the storyworld.


- Transmedia Storytelling

It goes by many names: transmedia storytelling, transmedia narrative, cross-media seriality, and multiplatform storytelling. Transmedia storytelling is the practice of designing, sharing, and participating in a cohesive story experience across multiple traditional and digital delivery platforms - for entertainment, advertising and marketing, or social change. 

Multiple narratives come togethr, constructing a larger storyworld.  Each media piece - whether it’s a comic, advertisement, social media post, novel, video game, mobile app, or a film - functions as a standalone story experience - complete and satisfying. Like a giant puzzle, each piece contributes to a larger narrative. These storyline threads are woven together and are in sync with each other – closely linked by the structure that was envisioned within the conceptual story-world ecosystem.

The process is cumulative and each piece adds richness and detail to the story world, such as character backstories and secondary plotlines.  This makes for a richer audience experience and multiple access points.  For entertainment, it lets creators weave together several stories over time, expanding ways for the audience to engage, immerse and enjoy a larger experience. For brands, it creates more ways for consumers to imagine themselves with the product or service, triggering emotional connection and personal investment through identity and aspiration.  

Transmedia storytelling is fully participatory. The audience is actively involved, elevated to social and creative collaborators. When people actively participate, either through content creation or following a trail across assets, they become stakeholders in the transmedia experience alongside the brand or cause. The unfolding story design creates the motivation to engage with other participants, seek out other parts of the story, and contribute to the narrative by adding content.  


 [More to come ...]

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