When my brother used to read weird Star Wars kids’ books when he was younger, I thought it was the silliest thing ever. There were lots of different ones… but I remember this one series about a bounty hunter called Bobba Fett or something (does that mean anything to anyone???). It was weird because it was all a Star Wars thing, but the stories were completely irrelevant to the action that takes place in the movies, as far as I am aware.
(I suppose it was a similar thing with me and The Saddle Club…. I mean what?! No I didn’t say that! Pssht!! That’d be embarrassing!)
Little did we know, as kids, that we were experiencing “transmedia” – a delightful new concept to consider.
I have to agree that transmedia was around long before the Internet. As kids we read these odd fan-fiction type books that corresponded to the movies and television shows we liked. We bought the PC games. We went on websites and played the little games on offer there (dress up your horse, or something like that). We “immersed” ourselves in the story world.
Frank Rose’s book The Art of Immersion (that has a nifty little website that goes along with it!) discusses how “we approach television shows, movies, even advertising as invitations to participate—as experiences to immerse ourselves in at will.” He takes this stance quite strongly, indicating that the direction media is moving towards is ‘deep media’: a form that takes you deeper than the length of film or a half hour television show can.
Relative to the Internet, and particularly ‘webisodes’, I personally haven’t had much experience with this ‘deep media’. I watch the television shows I like, and kind of just leave it at that! No need to pursue them any further than my television screen. The only exception is when I happen to forget to tape an episode of Once Upon A Time, and must then watch it online. This brought me to the disappointing discovery that after a certain number of days (28????) the website must take the episode down by law.
I am quite a fan of the US version of The Office, and didn’t know until last Friday’s lecture that they had made webisodes for it. I can see, however, that ‘The Accountants’ webisodes would have provided a lovely segue between the first and second seasons. In Season 1 (which was only 6 episodes) Michael Scott was the only character that seemed to have any personality, while the rest of the characters were minor and acted more like ‘regular’ people than actors. In the second season the dynamic had completely changed and all characters were further developed. The Accountants series really set this up to happen, showing that the minor characters did have personalities.
My further research into The Office webisodes reveals that transmedia has become even more apparent to the series since ‘The Accountants’. There are several more webisodes series, behind the scenes clips, full episodes available online, games, screensavers and other interactive functions. All can be found here. It is quite amazing the little ‘The Office’ world that has been created online to complement the series.
In talking to my boyfriend on the whole transmedia scenario, I discovered his engagement with online media was a lot more advanced than my own. He considered ‘webisodes’ to extend to short videos created for YouTube channels. I suppose this would fit under the definition of “a text viewed on online which has some relationship directly or indirectly to the television medium”. My boyfriend subscribes to heaps of channels and watches the short clips as they come out each week, month etc. Furthermore (what a great guy, being my example), he pointed out that he even preferred these short online clips to actual TV. ‘It is more interactive,” he said, showing me how people comment on the videos and can even get direct feedback from the people who make the videos. One comedian he showed me replies directly to people who comment on his posts. It is pretty funny:
Basically, I guess this is where the future generation is headed. They want interactive transmedia forms, that allows them to not only immerse themselves in specific narratives, but in television, webisodes and the Internet as a whole. They want to be a part of the process, not just spectators.
Max Dawson suggests that television networks are conning onto this:
Not content to watch this “generational” shift from the sidelines, television networks and studios have adapted their programs for viewing on digital platforms. To bring television programs to PCs and mobile devices, networks and studios clip, condense, and distil thirty- and sixty-minute long episodes until they fit into containers of between one and five minutes in duration. These digital shorts comprise a significant portion of the content available on networks’ and studios’ websites, on video aggregation websites like YouTube.com, and on portable devices such as iPods and mobile phones.
Dawson, M. Television’s Aesthetic of Efficiency: Convergence Television and the Digital Short in James Bennett and Niki Strange (eds.) Television As Digital Media(Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming).
Rose, F. The Art of Immersion. W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition ( 2011)
The NBC Website: accessed 08/08/12