sorry for the long wait
So… a week turned into a month. And a month turned into … well, more time. But her it is (finally) the promised part 2 of the Harry Potter transmedia posts.
So last time we looked at the first three principles of transmedia storytelling. These are the three things that could be important to consider if you want to tell a story using several media platforms. The first thing was spreadability vs drillability.
If your franchise is spreadable, it’s easy for fans to share with others and potentially draw in new audiences. Drillable stories are compelling and complex enough that fans can spend long hours digging into the story and piecing together information in order to get a fuller picture of the story. It can be difficult to create a story that has both elements.
The second principle, continuity vs mulitiplicity, concerns the timeline of the story. Continuity ensures one coherent story that everyone agrees about, multiplicity makes multiple storylines available and fans may even be able to contribute their own. But then what is canon?
Immersion vs extractability is the third principle and here you may want to consider to what extent your story allows the reader to immerse themselves into the story and to what extent they can draw elements from the story out and use in real life, e.g. the Harry Potter Alliance’s literacy campaigns.
Principles of transmedia storytelling, continued
4. World building
As you may have noticed around you, a loooot of franchises are all about building a world rather than just telling one story. Comic book authors already figured this out long ago – building a world allows make more stories, explore different aspects of the same space. Did you know, for example, that Spiderman and the X-men inhabit the same world? Some tv series dabble a tiny bit in world building as well; the most clear example is the prevalence of cross-over episodes.
World building is a really good idea for transmedia storytelling as it provides an excellent platform for multiple stories and because it is a world, there is room for new characters. Jenkins even argues that church murals or guided studio tours are a form of world building.
The world of Harry Potter is mapped onto the actual world. It is a parallel society and Rowling suggests that pivotal moments in world history are in some way connected to the wizarding world, e.g. Dumbledores great battle with Grindelwald in 1945 which ended the global wizarding war – incidentally another global war ended in 1945 in the Muggle world.
Making a whole world means that Rowling (or others for that matter) can extend the stories that we know, add people to this world, and explore the past and futures of the characters we encounterd in the original stories. This is exactly what we can experience with the upcoming movie and play this summer/fall.
So you have decided to do transmedia storytelling. You have your novels, films, video games, tv show, etc. And it is all fine and well but what if you want to tell a coherent story using all the platforms – can you be sure that people actually engage enough with the story to explore other media outlets than the one they originally enter the story from? If you want to do this, Jenkins suggests you think of your story like this:
“We can think of transmedia storytelling then as a hyperbolic version of the serial, where the chunks of meaningful and engaging story information have been dispersed not simply across multiple segments within the same medium, but rather across multiple media systems.” 
Written serial texts and tv series usually use our old friend the cliffhanger to get you from one episode to the next. The trouble with transmedia storytelling is that cliffhangers cannot really work the same way. Especially if you want the story to work with a game because then you would have to determine how the game ends and that in turn might turn off players a bit. There is no clear answer to the question of seriality so if you have a brilliant idea, we (and Henry Jenkins) will be happy to hear from you!
This is another thing that transmedia storytelling is excellent for. Telling your story in many different ways enables you to tell it from different the subjective point of view of lots of different characters. As Jenkins writes, Star Wars is a good example of this, as some of the Star Wars computer games let’s you play through the story as one or a group of minor character(s).
Could you imagine a computergame, where you had to play your way through Hogwarts as Peeves, for example? Or maybe a sitcom about the trouble of being the Hogwarts caretaker in Harry Potters school years?
This may just be our favorite aspect of transmedia storytelling because it makes room for us: the fans!
Fans always find a way of interacting with the story. I remember sitting with most of my class and making up our own Pokémon when I was 10 and a huge number of people create their own stories, artwork, or even play out situations relating to their fandom.
This poses a challenge for transmedia storytellers because how do you make sure that your story makes it easy for people to perform elements of the story themselves? How do you make sure that they know the boundaries?
One thing not to do, if you ask us, is to do as Rowling/Warner Bros did and sue your fans or close off Pottermore so that fans can no longer contribute content or communicate using the site.
A form of fan performane we already discussed is fan activism. Fan activists find principles and values in, or related to, their fandom and apply them to real life.