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Transmedia learning

Recently I’ve been reading about Transmedia storytelling as popularized by Henry Jenkins (MIT) and coined by Marsha Kinder (see Wikipedia article). Since storytelling is so integral to the work that I do both in learning and organizational change, the recent resurgence of this concept intrigues me, especially in light of social media and interactive storytelling.

First, a few definitions of transmedia storytelling:

  • “Telling a story that extends across multiple media platforms” (Lisa Hsia of Bravo Digital Media writing for Mashable)
  • Where “elements of a story are dispersed systematically across multiple media platforms, each making their own unique contribution to the whole.” (Henry Jenkins debunking transmedia myths in Fast Company)

Lisa Hsia’s point is that interactive social TV is changing the way audiences engage with television. Henry Jenkins takes it further and adds that shows such as Glee “model new transmedia strategies to attract and sustain audience engagement.” You watch the show, you engage with the characters on Facebook, you read the Twitter stream, and maybe even add to the story.

Henry Jenkins makes a key point (you really should read his article) “Transmedia storytelling is still about the stories and if the stories do not capture the imagination, no amount of transmedia extension can repair the damage.”

And now to learning….

So why the heck does this excite me? Well, can you just imagine the possibilities for learning/organizational change?

  • Say you’re trying to get a group of people to behave differently or think differently about a particular topic. Well, write an engaging storyline for them. Start with a set of characters that personify their lives.
  • The audience watches the stories of the characters’ attempts to learn on a particular topic, then in the classroom the audience/participants engage in deconstructing the story and saying how they would have done it differently, what resources they should have used, what they should do next.
  • At the close, they then pitch that idea to the “producers”, who then decide on the next story segment. And so it goes on for each class.
  • The learning experience starts with each new cohort (defined as a group coming into the organization in a similar time frame.)
  • Add in a fan page, a twitter stream, a game element, t-shirts, etc., all of which tell one aspect of the story or allow the audience to engage.

Back to Henry Jenkins: “Transmedia represents a strategy for telling stories where there is a particularly diverse set of characters, where the world is richly realized, and where there is a strong back-story or mythology that can extend beyond the specific episodes being depicted in the film or television series.”

I just have to keep reminding myself, start small, grow it over time. Time to make the ideas I’ve been exploring on creating the eLearning graphic novel into a franchise. Next episode coming soon….



Posted in business, games, instructional design, social media.

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