Q: What is transmedia? For example, is Harry Potter transmedia?
HJ: Literally, transmedia means connecting across media. Transmedia can take many shapes: Storytelling, ritual, branding, spectacle, education, activism, play, etc. Nowadays, everything we do takes place across different media. [See Henry's most recent blog post defining transmedia here]
At the same time, however, transmedia is not just adaptation, e.g. novel to screen or vice versa. In transmedia, each platform must add something new to the overall storyworld, so that each platform adds to the audience’s knowledge and comprehension of that world. Transmdia is radically intertextual (linking between two different texts) and at the same time possesses multimodality, i.e. the possibility to engage with the content via several different channels.
Harry Potter used to be multimedia, not transmedia, as it was originally composed only of the novels and their film adaptations. However, with the development of Pottermore, Harry Potter has become transmedia by offering an additional platform that will add to the audience’s understanding of the overall narrative. Henry himself sees Pottermore as one of the most important transmedia projects of the year.
Other key characteristics of transmedia are a) expanding the timeline, b) expanding the storyworld itself, and c) swapping subjectivity. In one way or another, transmedia projects usually do at least two of these three things.
Q: Where does ‘official’ production end and where does participation begin?
HJ: For one, not all participation must be fan controlled, it can also be initiated by producers. What is important, however, is that participation is always a collaboration between producers and fans, and that it doesn’t alienate any fans or hurt the storyworld in question. Participation must me inclusive, so you must understand the fans you have, and care about what they care about. For example, Battlestar Galactica and Lucasfilm both invited fan participation by video contests, but they would only allow plots involving certain genres and types of action (usually a lot of combat). This alienated many female fans, who followed Battlestar and Star Wars for other content, such as relationships, and who could not express themselves within the confines of the participation controlled by the producers.
Similarly, JK Rowlings announcement of a “safe” environment in Pottermore is likely to mean that no erotica is allowed whatsoever (no fan fiction at all, as a matter of fact, as one of the audience members could report), which polices fandom in a very uncomfortable way for many fans who build their fan identities around aspects of the fandom that is now being negated by Rowling.
read Christine's full notes on her blog: