This has taken me a while…but it has taken me this long to recover from the energy I expelled on the WORD, Transmedia that day to even talk about it without making myself vomit. I could care less what anyone thinks or does with the word Transmedia. I’m doing “my thang” regardless. So here’s my one and final take on the debate about Transmedia for 2014, a post I wrote a couple of months ago but couldn’t even look at it to post it. So it’s really my final thoughts of 2013.
THE RECAP OF THE THINK TANK IN NOVEMBER 2013: On November 6th, 2013, I participated in Createasphere’s Transmedia Coalition Think Tank and Work Session, which was an exploratory examination of the word Transmedia. There were about ten of us in the room, physically joined by a few folks from various parts of the US and the world at large, connected through a Google chat. All in all it was filled with very experienced minds from across the globe on the subject of multi-platform storytelling, also known as Transmedia.
STOP! Do you see what I just did?
I actually had to define the word because I’m assuming YOU reading it, don’t know what it means.
Now that either makes me a presumptuous ass, or it makes you uninformed right? Or is it a defensive mechanism used by someone clinging to a word that has a tinge of failure and the unknown attached to it?
No. It’s somewhere in between none of the above and all of the above.
I would like to think I’m pretty humble so I just try not to presume anything out of the fear of sounding arrogant or ignorant. However, kidding aside, to me it just sums up why a bunch of us got together to try and explore what this word means, why people use it, why it’s either needed or not and why so many people have trouble understanding it or just plain hate it.
Transmedia, what the hell does it mean?
MY TAKE ON THE THINK TANK: The Think Tank was actually a very resourceful and eye opening event. It pushed me to a breaking point that I was at but maybe afraid to commit to. I must admit that I am truly tired and I am over the debate of the word Transmedia. I’ve listened to all sides of the argument–the good and the bad, the haters and the worshipers. I’ve heard the marketing people bitch about it, “Oh Transmedia was so five years ago.” I’ve listened to the evangelists, “everything is Transmedia.” Blah, blah, blah. In all honesty, I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of the opinions of others who are mostly self serving. I’m tired of having to destroy the word or to defend the word depending on which mood or group I’m with. I’m tired of biting my tongue in many ways.
The Think Tank put all of these emotions and thoughts into crystal clear perspective upon reflection after the event. The discussion was funny in many ways because essentially what we all did was debate what our OWN personal ideas where and nobody could really agree on much. Some did. Some didn’t.
At the end of the 5 hours of exploration there was a severe form of communication breakdown between those online and those in the room. It was basically formed by that word I mentioned above. ASSUMPTION. The assumptions from both parties led to about ten minutes of confusion and “F bombs” flying from my mouth. It became an “US” versus “THEM” thing between the people in the room and the people online. I still have no idea what others were thinking, that some of us in the room were thinking and how things got so heated. What I can say is that the day was a bittersweet pill of strangeness and emotion that left me drained.
Why should I care? Why should you care? Why should anybody care about Transmedia? What the hell does it mean? Well the big problem with it, is the meaning and the ASSUMPTIONS that are exerted by anyone who hears it, says it or doesn’t say it. It seems we have a word here with a fairly clear meaning for a linguist but filled with gray areas for studio executives, marketing mavens and creative geniuses.
Well what it means to you and what it means to me are two different things I learned by participating in the Think Tank. It meant something different to everyone in participation. Some were more adamant than others about their definition but all in all I thought the debate had good intentions. If I was explaining what the word Transmedia means to a dyslexic, albino chimpanzee I might say to him that Transmedia is simply this; telling a story on/with more that one form of media. Period.
That seems pretty simple, right? To me it is. This became ever clearer to me as my life progressed further from that fateful day on November 6th, 2013.
So here are a list of my takeaways from the ThinkTank:
1) ASSUMPTIONS ARE BAD: If you are creating a story, work of art or piece of technology that carries out these stories and in explaining it there is a gray area, then you have no chance to succeed in searching for money, support or balance from others. You should be able to explain what you’re doing without people having to make assumptions. If not, you will fail. This cannot be blamed on a word but on YOU.
2) COMMUNITY OPINION IS IMPORTANT, IF AN ONLY IF…Community is important to me… but not if it’s only self serving for others and in particular serves no purpose for me. I don’t need a Guild, a Society or some other bureaucratic “Animal Farm” to join to feel like “I belong” or my ideas need to belong. Community is built organically not forced. Artistic movements are organic not corporate sponsored like Kim Kardashian’s ass.
3) THE TRANSMEDIA TRIBE IS STRONG: Transmedia has brought so many wonderful people in my life. The friends I have made because of the word Transmedia and the world of Transemdia are so dear to me that I will never hate this word for that reason. The tribe is filled with knowledge, success and failure so instead of debate, togetherness and collaboration is what we need. I really could care less about the word itself and I will use it when I need to and not use it, most of the time.
4) DEFINITIONS ARE FOR DICTIONARIES: LET IT GO. Transmedia as word is as dead or alive as you want it to be in your own mind. Most of the world at large doesn’t know and doesn’t care what it means. As long as you know what you’re doing and story is driving whatever you are doing organically you don’t need to use the word Transmedia ever again. You should be able to explain what you do without using the word.
5) THIS DEBATE OVER THE WORD IS FUTILE: The biggest reason why the debate over what the word Transemdia means is futile, is because in 5 years almost ALL stories will be told across multiple medias and it will simply revert back to what it really is, “storytelling.” Video games are leading the pack, so either participate or just sit back and relax.
In summary, my simplest takeaway from this event is that none of this debate matters.
Anyone who has ever had to pitch to a studio executive, investor or other person of power who we’ve needed money from, knows that each meeting is uniquely different depending on WHO you are speaking to. If you can read people, you’ll know if you need to use the word Transmedia or not use it. So use it or don’t, nobody cares. I’m certainly in no position to judge anyone who does or does not use the word.
COMMUNITY IS POWERFUL: To follow up a little on this, I wanted to just reiterate how powerful the “tribe” is that has formed around the word. I have learned so much from these folks and still do each day BUT this fun little community of Transmedia folks will argue WHAT IS TRANSMEDIA and WHAT IS NOT TRANSMEDIA until they are blue in the face.
Some people make their living out of talking about this debate of IS or ISN’T. Some people make Powerpoint presentations about it. Some people make “Transmedia bibles” and others enforce their own definition for personal and professional gain. Each debate and or “new take” on the word seems to be more divisive. Each time you chose a side to fall on you often will flip flop at a later date. It’s a mind-farting conundrum of useless banter that frankly makes us all look like jackasses. However, I wish many of those that were invited to take part in this event, actually did. I didn’t have an agenda going into this, I just wanted to explore and learn.
Following the “in crowd” is not my thing. I was not a guy who joined a fraternity. I don’t like cliques. I’m not a fan of gossip or people that feel that they are better, smarter or of a higher standard of consciousness because they make more money than others. I run from them. For this very reason, I really don’t want to create a guild or society. I just want to tell really engaging stories that people care about. That’s it. I run Transmedia LA, Los Angeles’ largest group of Transemdia professionals, enthusiasts and then some. In running this group, my goal is very clear, I want to educate people (myself included) on exploratory storytelling practices and strategies. I want to learn about new ways to tell my stories by exhausting all technological and creative avenues that apply. That’s it. I don’t really care what you think about the word Transmedia. As the Dude says, “well, that’s just like your opinion, man.” The Dude is right and I abide. So as soon as we unite as storytellers, creators and innovators rather than arguing over the semantic blockage imposed by the word Transmedia, we can push forward. The tribe needs to unite not divide. So just do what you do and don’t worry about labels or any other political bullshit in terms of naming what you do. If you can’t describe what you do than what do you really have?
I’m of the mindset that a new wave of storytelling is at hand due to the innovative creative minds in our world today who are pushing the limits of technology to tell their narratives. To me this feels like a unique art form that I am hesitant to label or assume. As an artist, I am trying to think of the boundless ways I can tell my story creatively and uniquely yet still make sense. When it comes to using multiple medias, I’m just working within my creative toolkit and learning and failing along the way. In many ways Transmedia as a word is already dead in a creative sense because it has been bastardized by everyone from Getty Images, to educational systems.
While some in the community I speak of, have distanced themselves from the word, Transmedia I have not really made a conscious effort to do so. I honestly just don’t care enough either way. My Dad was an English teacher so I get linguistics and I understand what it means. If Trans is a Latin noun or prefix, meaning “across”, “beyond” or “on the opposite side”, we’re talking about “beyond media ” which does certainly sound a hell of a lot cooler than Transmedia. Either way, I’m a rule breaker so I could care less if it’s a noun, an adjective or a fart in outer space for that matter because none of it matters. What really matter is what YOU do with it. If you can’t walk into a studio, agent, investor or comic book store and talk about what you’re creating, that’s on you isn’t it? Like I said before, I am confident I can walk into any room with anyone and describe what I do without ever using the word Transmedia. Like everything I’ve done in life I just adapt according to who I’m talking to, try and be detailed without being nebulous and never, ever assume anything. In any case, if there ever is a funeral pyre for the word Transmedia, please invite me so I can dress up as Tim Curry from the Rocky Horror Picture Show as a sweet Transvestite from Transmedia, Transylvania.