Task 1: Firefly

Brendan Peterson (s3386052)
Tiffany Wong (s3383017)

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Vimeo.

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Inviting Audiences In by Derek Johnson – literature review

In the article Inviting Audiences In, Derek Johnson describes and debates the various relationships that fans have to a television show and its respective creators, along with the numerous ways those shows are now creating and spreading out content across multiple media platforms (known as ‘multiplatforming’) in order to further fan engagement with the show. Johnson sees fans as serving “a productive, industrial function”; with the “intersection of television and new media via multiplatforming”, the television industry was able to “begin participating in this new economy of free labor”. Such multiplatforming allowed for the reorganization of “the spatial relationships between audiences, textual worlds and industry”, and invites “the audience to symbolically enter the spaces of hyperdiegesis and cultural production”.

And although multiplatforming “emerged to attract and manage intense audience interest in specific television properties”, it also brings up the “possibility of audience power in the textual and productive realms; therefore, the industry now also has to contend with the issue of “antagonistic audiences”, and manage “conflicts of interest between production and consumption” to “ensure they remain utile to corporate interest”; Johnson describes such fans as “unruly house guests” who won’t hesitate to voice their displeasure at the network and the show’s producers, and “(let) the industry know when they dislike the décor and (demand) the industry’s hospitality”. He recognises that although such fans are “invested in content they help to sustain”, the management of this balance of power is of “paramount importance”; they are “invited in, but pressured to play by house rules” and are “markedly reminded that they do not set production agendas”.

 

Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Production by Carlos Scolari – literature review

In Carlos Scolari’s article ‘Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Production‘, Scolari emphasizes the importance of semiotics in relation to the analysis of transmedia. He also explores how different mediums shape the narratives they are expressing, and finally discusses the topic of branding in transmedia series.
Scolari argues that transmedia is an extension of multimodality. Just as the combination of sound and vision have different semiotic responses from audiences, different mediums have similar variance. Considering the unique natures of each medium is a vital part of studying transmedia works as a whole.
Scolari’s semiotic focus reveals possibilities for broadening the audience of a transmedic work through multilayered narratives which are accessible on different levels to different readers based on individual cognitive and semiotic experiences. In this way, a piece of transmedia can appeal to more experienced fans while still functioning as an entry level text for new readers.
Scolarli also states that in transmedia, a brand is developed. However uniquely the fiction that makes up the series, (ie. characters, themes, aesthetics) are also what makes up the brand. In this way the line between fan content and official content is blurred and any work that incorporates the attributes of the series can add depth to the narrative and universe.

Synthesis

  • Incorporating real world artifacts (i.e. “fictional non-fiction”, e.g. companion books that refuse to “exist outside hyperdiegetic space” [Johnson, 2007, pg. 72]) along with digital components into a multiplatformed text blurs the lines between virtual space and everyday life, furthering audience engagement with it.
  • Transmedia artifacts should not just serve a purely promotional/marketing/merchandising purpose for the main text, but rather complement and enhance it by seamlessly integrating storytelling in those other media platforms with the diegetic universe of the text. Audiences are often able to see through a marketing gimmick and a genuine expansion of the world of the text through other media platforms.
  • Depending on your audience and how invested they are in the text, giving them real-world scavenger hunt-style clues, riddles and puzzles to solve may or may not work. Not everyone can be bothered/will be interested in scanning QR codes randomly pasted on walls in order to solve mysteries/unlock prizes.
  • Transmedia texts should really have an ‘anchor’, or primary, form, whether that be film, television, an online webseries, etc. A heavily-integrated transmedia product that is simultaneously launched on multiple media platforms may confuse potential new audiences as to its aims (i.e. “It’s not just a TV show? I have to go online to find out what happens next, then play the video game to solve the mystery? I can’t be bothered, I give up.”) and drive them away. Once the success of the ‘anchor’ form has been realised, can the text then expand beyond it.
  • Each medium brings with it a specific set of semiotic allowances and restrictions. Therefore, a semiotic approach can be very valuable when analysing transmedia as well as selecting a medium to make use of.
  • Transmedia can be an effective tool for promoting multiliteracy by motivating and rewarding users for exploring other mediums. However choosing mediums that are too far out of the audience’s comfort zones can alienate and anger the fanbase. Appropriate media should be selected with the existing fans considered.
  • Ideally, transmedia can create multiple points of entry into series by spreading itself across multiple mediums. This is heavily dependent on each piece of work functioning as an effective starting point for a consumer. I.e. a comic must not require prior knowledge from watching the television series.
  • A transmedic work can appeal to multiple implicit consumers by containing ‘sedimentary multilayers’. Some levels are accessible by any reader while other levels require extra knowledge for comprehension. New readers can appreciate the surface story. Prior fans can appreciate the ‘hidden details’ that only they can detect. Telling a story from multiple perspectives is one technique applicable to transmedia storytelling. The story is engaging on the surface level, while also providing a new perspective for existing fans. The medium itself is also capable of providing unique types of content which work together to provide a fresh perspective for existing fans.
  • In transmedia, ‘the fiction is the brand.’ The brand consists of the characters, topics, and aesthetics of the series. In this way, even work by fans can play a part in the expansion of the fictional universe if it applies these characteristics effectively to create new scenarios.

 

References

  • “angelam” 2013, ‘How Transmedia Brought Firefly Back to Life’, blog, 24 November, ENGL 359: Transmedia Fiction, viewed 7 March 2014, <http://transmedia.umwblogs.org/2013/11/24/how-transmedia-brought-firefly-back-to-life/>.
  • Scolari, C A 2013, ‘Lostology: Transmedia storytelling and expansion/compression strategies’, Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, Issue 195, pp. 45-68.
  • Scolari, C A 2009, ‘Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Production’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 3, pp. 586-606.
  • Johnson, D 2007, ‘Inviting Audiences In’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 61-80.
  • Whedon, J 2005, Serenity: Relighting the Firefly, DVD extra, Universal Pictures, USA
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