Henry Jenkins is the creator of our classes’ buzz word these days: transmedia. Jenkins studied the idea of fandom for decades now, and believes that five logics have been the benchmarks in transmedia and fan participation. They are: the logic of entertainment, the logic of social connection, the logic of experts, the logic of immersion, and the logic of identification. These logics are easy to understand and help guide Jenkins’ case that transmedia has really grown in recent years.
I do agree with Jenkins view on the possibilities of transmedia in today’s world. It’s not easy to see, really. You look at a movie like The Avengers and see how absolutely insane the marketing is for something like that. Fans can get all of the toys and such, but they can also pair it with communication about it through Twitter, Reddit, fansites, and, oh yeah, they can see the actual movie. It’s easy to see a huge reaching franchise just wearing different hats, these days.
An example I thought of immediately was for the movie Cloverfield. The monster film came out in 2008, but there was a considerable community behind it starting the previous year. The film’s creator, J.J. Abrams, is very secretive about his projects so he left a lot to be seen even with his trailers and promotional materials. This led to much speculation and that played right into Abrams’ hands. The filmmaker had MySpace pages made for each of his characters, had fictional websites made to “track” the movements of the monster, and even merchandise that came with fake newspapers.
The immense campaign was so fun to play along with. I remember a friend and I waiting in bated breath for every new update. Trying desperately to decipher each new clue before finally giving in and looking it up online. Now this is just viral marketing, but it led to a huge culture waiting for this film. There were hundreds of mock-ups drawn by fans of what the monster would look like. And while all of the ones I saw (which was a significant number) were wrong, it was still an incredible ride just looking though them and speculating.
And that’s really why I think transmedia is such a prevalent thing in today’s world. If you love something as big as Lost, the Harry Potter series, or The Avengers, you want it in your life in all the ways you enjoy. You don’t just want the t-shirt to wear around the house. You want the trailer on your phone and computer and to pair it with constant Twitter updates on trailers and even casting. It seems like it’s so much easier to get fully immersed in these things today than it was 30 years ago.
That isn’t to say it can be all good, either. With some of these franchises, they are diluting the market with just bad media. Most, if not all, Twitter feeds for huge movies are awful. They just repeat the tagline and ask you if you’re going. It’s providing nothing new for your experience. And not that it was the whole picture, but the amount of money a movie like Transformers made on toys and such had to influence the decision to keep making those dreadful things. Transmedia in 2014 isn’t a bad thing, but it must be handled correctly.