In Convergence Cultures, Henry Jenkins discusses how old and new medias are interacting and finding new use within our culture. As new and old medias mix and groups find new uses for these medias, it is only natural that culture will be affected as well. Jenkins discusses examples of this in his book.
I thought that Jenkins had some good ideas about the future of transmedia story-telling using the Matrix. No I won’t babble on in this blog about the Matrix, mainly because I believe that this film and its corresponding media are not the first in new media to present a transmedia narrative. Jenkins pointed out of course that transmedia narration or storytelling is not a new concept as stories such as the Odyssey have been told and retold through print, but also stained-glass windows, tapestries, and paintings. But if we are going to give a new media credit for being the main trunk off of which the branches of transmedia have grown, I think that videogames are another example worth considering. Video games represent Jenkins’ idea of growing a world for a narrative to take place. Consider Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy VII shares roots in previous Final Fantasy games not because it uses the same protagonists and antagonists or has the same geographic world, but because it builds on previous traditions and knowledge established by games in the franchise. For example, people who play the Final Fantasy games know that the crystal or crystals (when there are multiple there are four) are sources of life, the behemoth is a strong monster, and if you have less than 1,000 hit point, you should avoid Cactaurs. But with even less subtlety, Final Fantasy VII has grown its world again and again. Final Fantasy VII has spawned three additional video games, not necessarily sequels or prequels, an anime, books, a full length CGI movie, and other forms which have built the world. I think that video games are different in comparison to films such as the Matrix or Star Wars in that the core of the franchise or world built, Final Fantasy VII, requires characters to traverse the world completely before completing the game. Before finishing the game every nook and cranny designed into the game will likely be explored, every NPC of the world will be spoken to multiple times, and every antagonist will have been given a thorough thrashing. So while a film may start with a small in-depth look at a geographic are of a world and then build to a look at the larger world, a video game may begin with a look at the larger world and then use the idea of a transmedia to grow the world into a deeper more layered place by looking at specific locations and cultures.
I really enjoy the idea of transmedia, but do offer some criticism for critics like Roger Ebert who said that persons such as “Johnny Popcorn” will not care to engage in such a fragmented experience. I say that Ebert should consider that most of the main trunks of these medias can be enjoyed without understanding all of the branches that hang off of it. A transmedia experience does give audiences who want a more in-depth experience an opportunity to explore and understand that world on their own terms. It is a choice, not a necessity.
Postmodernism seems to be at the hear of use for converging medias, at least in the ways in which consumers assign meaning to the finished product. When Jenkins was talking about spinning, I couldn’t help but think of framing. In the Bush/Kerry debate where Bush has the infamous outburst, one media was used to frame another media. Even if it was a television media framing the television produced clip, extra meaning was added with the framing. To some, Bush showed his passion for an issue and that as president he would do what he believed rather than be bullied and hindered by rules. Others believed he showed impatience and a temper by ignoring these rules. Either way, the framing added altered the depiction of what was shown. Would Jenkins consider medias to be converging or spinning taking place when he discussed Jon Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire? In reflecting on that passage, I remembered seeing that exact incident. I read carefully in anticipation in seeing how Jenkins used his agency as a published author with his own book to frame the event. He described it truthfully as I remember it, but this left me with something else. Had Jenkins framed the incident in any sort of biased way, he would have lost that agency with me, and the rest of his book (granted that would only leave the conclusion) would have been viewed under an eye of extreme scrutiny. It kind of brings to light that the use of these technologies to form communities and make a difference can be done across new medias without a great deal of agency, but if not done correctly, agency will be lost, and the audience along with it.
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