The rise of each new medium — print, motion pictures, radio, television — introduces new forms of communication and entertainment. Often, the new medium initially replicates what came before: Many early movies were filmed stage plays, and early television programs were based on their radio antecedents. Eventually, however, each new medium evolves into its own form.
Our current multi-channel, multi-screen, “always on” world is giving rise to a new form of storytelling, dubbed “transmedia,” that unfolds a narrative across multiple media channels. A single story may present some elements through a television series or a motion picture with additional narrative threads explored in comic books, video games or a collection of websites and Twitter feeds. Depending on their level of interest, fans can engage in selection of these story elements or follow all of them to fully immerse themselves in the world of the story.
Andrea Phillips first encountered transmedia storytelling back in 2001 when a friend told her about a baffling website by the Anti-Robot Militia, a group opposed to the advance of cybernetic humans. On further investigation, she found other online clues that expanded the mystery, and she even participated in real-world events related to the story, such as an Anti-Robot Militia rally in New York. Phillips later discovered these elements were part of an elaborate marketing campaign — later known as “The Beast” — created by a team at Microsoft to promote Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming film, A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
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