Transmedia Futures – Bath Spa University

Pushing forward transmedia studies

Pushing forward transmedia studies beyond its initial theoretical conception as a product of contemporary entertainment industries.

The project

Over the past few years, Dr Matthew Freeman has sought to push forward transmedia studies beyond its initial theoretical conception as a product of contemporary entertainment industries (see Jenkins, 2003; 2006). ‘Transmediality’ describes ‘the increasingly popular industrial practice of using multiple media technologies to present information [...] through a range of textual forms’ (Evans, 2011: 1), such as the way that Hollywood franchises are spun-off into video games and comic books. However, Matthew’s research has pushed this concept towards cultural history contexts. In 2016, he was the first to publish a full-scale theorisation of the industrial history of transmedia storytelling, rethinking this seemingly contemporary phenomenon as a way of understanding relationships between media production, consumer culture and political regulation in the twentieth century.

You can read more about his ideas on the history of transmedia storytelling in a series of interviews published on Henry Jenkins’ Confessions on an Aca-Fan blog titled 'Yes, Transmedia HAS a History!: An Interview with Matthew Freeman':

Since then, he aimed to develop an understanding of the national workings of transmediality, exploring how different cultures around the world are applying transmedia practices to cultural, political and heritage projects. This work manifests as Global Convergence Cultures: Transmedia Earth, a book he co-edited with Dr William Proctor, and which established a cultural specificity approach to studying transmedia projects. It analyses how national media agendas, structures and policies inform cultural models and practices of transmedia storytelling, spanning contexts of Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Matthew’s thinking about a new field theory for transmediality, one based on examining the different configurations that this cross-platform practice might take in the service of different goals, culminates with The Routledge Companion to Transmedia Studies, a 50+ chapter book he co-edited by Renira Rampazzo Gambarato. The companion aims to be the definitive volume for scholars and students interested in comprehending all the various aspects of transmediality, exploring the industries, arts, practices, cultures, and methodologies of studying convergent media across multiple platforms.

So, where can transmedia studies go next?

Matthew has been busy carving our two separate tracts for thinking about future directions for the field of transmedia studies. The first is the idea of ‘transmedia for transitional justice’, an approach based on the idea that transmedia is innately reflexive and can thus support reconciliation. This is an idea that he is currently co-developing with Camilo Tamayo Gomez, and which he has previously explored in terms of Colombian cultural memory and educational practice in an article for the International Journal of Creative Media Research.

The second tract that Matthew is now exploring is the value of transmediality as a concept to understand the self and personal identity in today’s multiplatform culture. A new edited collection is now underway, co-edited with James Dalby, that examines this central question: how have today’s transmedia trends and movements shaped how people (re)create themselves across media? This book is titled Transmedia Selves: Identity and Persona Creation in the Age of Multiplatform and Mobile Media. It will examine this mediated shift in the contemporary human condition, focusing on the ways in which we synthesise with media content in daily life, essentially ‘transmediating’ ourselves into new forms. Across a truly global roster of essays, this book will aim to establish a transdisciplinary theory for the ‘transmedia self’, exploring how the likes of celebrity culture, fandom, play, politics, virtual and augmented reality technologies inform the creation of transmedia identities in the twenty-first century. Specifically, the book promises to reposition transmediality as key to understanding the formation of identity in a postdigital media culture, where our lives are interlaced, intermingled and narrativised across a range of media platforms and interfaces.

Collaborating with others

Beyond his own work, Matthew is genuinely keen to hear from other researchers and practitioners seeking to push forward our understanding of transmediality. As such, he set up a book series with Routledge, titled Routledge Advances in Transmedia Studies. The series publishes monographs and edited collections that sit at the cutting-edge of today’s interdisciplinary cross-platform media landscape. Topics should consider emerging transmedia applications in and across industries, cultures, arts, practices, or research methodologies. The series is especially interested in research exploring the future possibilities of an interconnected media landscape that looks beyond the field of media studies, notably broadening to include socio-political contexts, education, experience design, mixed-reality, journalism, the proliferation of screens, as well as art- and writing-based dimensions to do with the role of digital platforms like VR, apps and iDocs to tell new stories and express new ideas across multiple platforms in ways that join up with the social world.

If you're interested in pitching a book for the series, please feel free to email to discuss ideas and projects further.

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