Task 1: The Avengers

Amy Bryans (s3331007)
Simon Toppin (3327537)
Tash Zafari (s3349725)

 

INDEPENDENT READING SUMMARIES: 

AMY BRYANS:  

Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide

Dr Henry Jenkins

 

Jenkins’ award-winning book explores and analyses the rapidly expanding media landscape that has been transformed by the Internet, digital technology and new media. This transformation has influenced the relationships between audiences and media producers dramatically. With audiences able to share and create more than ever; industries are feeling the pressure to deliver sophisticated and ‘interactive’ media products, yet producers are also enjoying a newfound power to franchise across many media platforms. This relationship between audiences and producers forms a large part of the book, and is studied through the “phenomenon of reality television”, by examining the television shows Survivor and American Idol.

Jenkins explores the concept that a piece of media can be transformed into a whole world of interlinking books, movies, websites and images. Jenkins is considered an expert in “transmedia”, and states, “transmedia storytelling is the art of world making.” This “world making” has created enormous opportunities for marketing and audience expansion, while potentially giving audiences a new and empowering role in consumption – now that the media experience all depends on enticing the audience to delve into the world and explore. Jenkins explores transmedia through the case study of The Matrix franchise, one of the original examples of fully-fledged transmedia.

(Jenkins, Henry: Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, 2006.)

TASH ZAFARI: 

Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Productions

Carols Alberto Scolari

 

Transmedia storytelling is described through the reading as, “stories told across multiple media. At present time, the most significant stories tend to flow across multiple platforms.” Scolari goes further and discusses transmedia storytelling through a different type of narrative structure, which expands through different languages (verbal, ironic, etc.) and media (cinema, comics, television, video games, etc.). Scolari cites Dinehart about the importance of semiotics and cognitive psychological abilities. This idea describes that the viewer/user/player transforms the story through his or her own natural cognitive psychological abilities, therefore enabling the creations to surpass medium. It is during transmedial play that the ultimate story agency, and decentralized authorship is realized. This then makes the viewer/user/player the true producer of the creation.

Media as stated above has many platforms, Scolari points out that the story told through one type of media like comics is not the same story that is told on television or in cinema. The combination of the different media and languages, participate and contribute to the construction of the transmedia narrative world.

Scolari also addresses the branding and text to subject’s categories. He outlines that transmedia storytelling is apart of the ever growing and expanding consumption process. Researches and producers see new business opportunities for the media market, where they have realized that consumers are becoming the ‘hunters’ of information from multiple sources. Producers have the capacity to go that one step further with branding, using their brand to exploit the transmedia storytelling, utilizing their intellectual properties across multiple different channels.

Scolari, C A 2009, ‘Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Productions,’ Journal of Communication, vol 3, viewed 18/3/2014. <ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/download/477/336‎>

SIMON TOPPIN: 

Character, Audience, Agency and Transmedia Drama

Elizabeth Jane Evans

 

Evans looks at several different transmedia sources, using the Marvel Comics universe and BBC drama ‘Spooks’, to illustrate points about transmedia. Evans speaks of “the need for a new model of understanding audience engagement with audio-visual, fictional entertainment”, (Evans, EJ. 2008, p197) and sees transmedia as “the way that technologies have been used to extend dramas onto multiple media outlets… that are capable of providing different kinds of entertainment in their own right”. (Evans, EJ. 2008, p198) One interesting point that Evans makes concerns what she calls, ‘the myth of interactivity’. This is the idea that no audience member can truly alter the course of a project due to the fact that the options become restricted, naturally, upon the project’s completion. Instead, she refers through Barthes and a later academic named Lewis, to make the case that audience power comes from an audience’s interpretation of a text, instead of from the notion that the audience has any real outlets to influence what happens in the plot, or in the inner world of the characters.

Evans then goes on to describe some familiar territory in regards to transmedia – for audiences, most importantly, above any notion of agency, interactivity or even plot, is having relatable characters that drive the story. It seems to me, despite the modern fetishisation of non-linear narratives and fragmented, multi-media storytelling, ‘the basics’ are still the most important part of any story.

(Evans, Elizabeth Jane. 2008. ‘Character, Audience Agency and Transmedia Drama’. In ‘Media Culture Study’. Sage.)

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SYNTHESIS OF RELEVANT INSIGHTS/LEARNING:

Synthesis

Simon Toppin Tash Zirafi Amy Bryans

  • Transmedia, is “the way that technologies have been used to extend dramas onto multiple media outlet… that are capable of providing different kinds of entertainment in their own right”. (Evans, EJ. 2008, p198)
  • Cognitive psychological ability plays a part in transmedia storytelling! A great example is a child’s film, however adults can also enjoy it with hidden media language.

 

  • Producers can be very profit driven and abuse the transmedia platforms through their intellectual property and branding. Sometimes it can become about the money more than the audiences’ enjoyment of the narrative world.

 

When discussing transmedia and convergence culture it is impossible to discuss audience, the consumers, without discussing the producers, the creators.

“Media companies are learning how to accelerate the flow of media content across delivery channels to expand revenue opportunities, broaden markets, and reinforce viewer commitments”.(Jenkins, 2006)  Increasingly, media industries are being forced to create worlds and transmedia opportunities for their franchises and audiences are expecting that media franchises span many platforms. The “singular” experience is a dying thing, we no longer just read a book – we see the movie based on the book, buy the backpack, visit the site to see which character we are most like via a quiz and talk about it on the Facebook page. The Avengers is an enormous example of media producers, like Marvel, harnessing transmedia to enormous advantage. Henry Jenkins, an expert in transmedia, has even said that Marvel, “(has) brought the concept of a shared universe to the mainstream in a way that no other film company has”. I will be discussing The Avengers and the role of the Marvel producers in the enormous success of the franchise thanks to transmedia in the framework of Henry Jenkins’ statement:

“Industry insiders use the term “extension” to refer to their efforts to expand the potential markets by moving content across different delivery systems, “synergy” to refer the economic opportunities represented by their ability to own and control all of those manifestations, and “franchise” to refer to their coordinated effort to brand and market fictional content under these new conditions. Extensions, synergy and franchising are pushing media industries to embrace convergence”. (Jenkins, 2006) 

When Jenkins uses the word “extension”, what he is really discussing is media across various platforms. The key to extension in The Avengers, is the audience it has created has never before existed. Before the reboot of ‘The Avengers’ franchise, the Marvel universe existed almost exclusively for the comic book nerds. Now Marvel’s ‘Avengers’ commands a diverse and international audience.

The market now caters for all kinds of fans. The comics still exist for the die-hard “purist” fans, both old and new, the television show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” exists for fans who enjoyed the movies and want to watch more, internet content exists for the lighter fan and the movies are for everyone in all of these categories PLUS the rest of the non-Avenger fan world. If “transmedia storytelling is the art of world making”, (Jenkins, 2006) then Marvel truly succeeded in that respect.

“To fully experience any fictional world, consumers must assume the role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of the story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups, and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a satisfying entertainment experience”. (Jenkins, 2006) 

Academic Elizabeth Evans is sceptical about the word ‘interactivity’ and quotes Kerr to the end that interactivity, “must be regarded as a political, rather than a descriptive term, as it is used by many new media advocates to emphasise the user’s control over the medium while de-emphasising the medium’s control over the user”. (Kerr et al in Evans, EJ. 2008, p 200) In other words, ‘interactive’ is really just marketing propaganda as all the potential outcomes have already been decided in advance. Certainly true of the Avengers “interactive” website and game, that involves clicking on highlighted parts of an extended trailer for the film.

However, Roland Barthes said that it is the audience, not the author who create meaning, Evans suggests that given the ‘myth of interactivity’, the audiences’ power comes from interpreting the text, instead of being able to physically tamper with the plot or the characters.

Large scale, West Coast transmedia projects, like the Avengers and the wider Marvel Franchise, have extremely vocal and demanding fan bases. These fan bases must, through sheer force of will and expectation, have an impact on the final iterations of transmedia storytelling. In other words, the creators, in fear of potential audience reaction, must work within the diegetic world of the characters and not stray too far from established conventions and expectations.

In support of this point, Justin Lewis says, “the power to produce meaning lies nor within the TV message or within the viewer, but in the interaction between the two”. (Lewis, in Evans. 1991, p58)

Jonah Weiland, executive producer at ComicBookResources.com, said of Kevin Feige, producer of Thor, X-Men and The Avengers, “Kevin actually knows what we want. Other studios that make superhero movies often ignore the essence of the character”.

Paying attention to the ‘essence of the character’ can be especially important when “one critical blog post can create an online brush fire”. (New York Times)

Evans says that “characters are a central, if not the central point of engagement for an audience” (Evans. 2008, p203) and quotes someone from a focus group, ‘I can forgive a lot of problems with the plot if I like certain characters and enjoy them’.

 REFERENCES: 

Ben Moore 2013, 5 Avengers Comic Book Stories to Read Before Seeing ‘The Avengers’ Movie, Screen Rant, 18/3/14 <http://screenrant.com/avengers-comic-book-stories-movie-benm-166878/>

Black, JB 2012, ‘Avengers Assemble! The five movies that lead to The Avengers,’ The Washington Times, 3rd, May, 18/3/14, <http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/movies-toto/2012/may/3/getting-caught-avengers-video/>

Scolari, C A 2009, ‘Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Productions,’ Journal of Communication, vol 3, viewed 18/3/2014. <ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/download/477/336‎>

Scott Harris, 2012, ‘The Avengers:’ 8 Things You May Have Missed the First Time Around, discusses moments during film that the audience may not have picked up on, 25th of September, 18/3/14 <http://www.nextmovie.com/blog/avengers-movie-easter-eggs/>

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