Looks like you are a new visitor to this site. Hello!

Welcome to Hope For Film! Come participate in the discussion, and I encourage you to enter your email address in the sidebar and subscribe. It's free! And easy! If you have any suggestions on how to improve this website or suggestions for topics please don't hesitate to write in to any of the blogs.

You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

(If you keep getting this message, you probably have cookies turned off.)

February 19 at 8:15am

Nobody Knows Anything #5: Rethinking Transmedia and Crossmedia

By Charles Peirce

By Charles Peirce  

Nobody5-300As I alluded to in a previous post, Transmedia is in the midst of a debate about its definition and who has the authority to determine that definition. It is one of those discussions I think best observed from the sidelines, but then I have no financial or artistic stake in that debate. However, I do think they’re important terms to understand.

The PGA offers up one definition of Transmedia, though a restrictive and unclear one. Its requirements are a counterpoint to a more populist (or maybe recklessly inclusive) definition that would allow Transmedia to absorb the entire world of new media forms: ARGs, Immersive Theatre, Experience Design, Interactive Storytelling, Social Media Games, etc. Perhaps on one side Transmedia is seen as the potential of play and a freedom from normative constraints on media and its uses. [1] And perhaps on the other a Big Business mentality that sees it useful in forming dynastic monopolies of content across all media forms.

Although I find the first idea more interesting, I think the second of more practical use. I see Transmedia and Crossmedia (whose definition, if the wiki is any indication, has becomes likewise confused and debated) as tactical responses to a world of fractured and decentralized media. Given the abundance of platforms, there needs to be an appropriate response to managing content via them. Crossmedia involves sending the same message across multiple platforms, regardless of their form (say linking to your blog articles on Facebook and Twitter). Transmedia, in turn, is sending a message across multiple platforms but tailoring that message specifically for each platform (so Facebook or Twitter is used to convey other aspects of your movie’s narrative). [2] Both are necessary, essential tools for anybody dealing with today’s media landscape. Crossmedia represents a least effort, best practice for everybody, while Transmedia represents an ideal dissemination of content given the proper resources.

Of course, that there is a debate about these terms might be more telling than that these terms have emerged. There tend to be obvious beliefs about contemporay media and its evolution: either it has progressed over time and how we communicate now is new to our civilization, or the forms have changed but very little else — media still fulfills the same basic human needs and functions we’ve had for millenia. Given the imposing depth of the subject matter, there are few incisive studies of media over time, though Harold Innis made a particularly important contribution to the field with his work.

Harold Innis’ Empire and Communications

Harold Innis was a Canadian researcher and academic and a sortof grandfather figure to contemporary communications studies. A precursor to Marshall McLuhan, Innis wrote Empire and Communications, a book which traces the history of the forms we use to communicate and what that means. This is a materialist-based, economic reading of the methods of communications through history which offers surprising insights into contemporary and historical trends — from the role of law in society to the purposeful manufacturing of religion [3] to issues of copyright, ownership via licensing, and monopolies.

Principally, Innis divides our history into two alternating cycles of rulership, both of which seek power through consolidation and monopoly, but one via Space and the other via Time:

“Monopolies of knowledge had developed and declined partly in relation to the medium of communication on which they were built and tended to alternate as they emphasized religion, decentralization, and time, and force, centralization, and space” (Empire and Communications, 192).

A society that communicated via stone tablets (a form that lasts, unchanging, for decades if not centuries) was one that had little use for time and concentrated its power around space, military force, monarchy, and politics. A society that used oral tradition or writing and perishables like paper was time-based and used control of information, scholarship, and a priestly class to rule.

Innis died in 1952, and his work ends with a discussion of radio — a form Innis saw as representing the concentration of power via time. If Innis is right, then it seems television wouldn’t be the continuation of radio as a form — it would be the usurpation of it, the transformation of the consolidation of power from the vantage of time and back to that of space. Since Innis’ work ends before that, you have to look to other places to find the continuation of a critique along those lines. The Frankfurt School and Theodor Adorno in particular is at least one possibility there, along with the work of Guy Debord. For them, power is accumulation via “Spectacle” and “The Culture Industry”, accomplishing, among other things, the abolishment of time and the alienation of the individual from a personal relationship to history. That critique isn’t limited to the extreme Left of theory either. [4] 

While the internet may have initially seemed to be concentrating power through space, allowing as it does theoretical egalitarian access to everything by anyone, it is clearly starting to be about a concentration of power through time — and could thus be part of the dissolution of power via space. There are a lot of contemporary trends, big and small, that suggest as much.

The internet is changing our relationship to time in fundamental ways. Bruce Sterling noted how we have access to the past more thoroughly than the people who actually lived in it. New social media platforms have become increasingly diffuse and time-based, from Google’s time-based search to Twitter’s streaming feed (emulated by Facebook) to the success of Snapchat — a time-based application that emphasizes privacy and the ephemeral. [5] Our most recent political campaigns have allowed the public to fact-check politician’s statements via resources like Youtube, and there is the continuing struggle between Wikipedia and Academia (or the News and Anonymous and Wikileaks) as to who has the authority and control over information. Even the shift from the gold standard to fiat currency to the recent arrival of something like Bitcoin fits within Innis’ pattern.

For Innis, dominant power always consolidates in one form and then is dissolved or defeated by the opposite form. He believed that any truly successful empire had to manage and balance these two forces. From that perspective, Transmedia and Crossmedia are part of the strategic mindset that seeks consolidation via a monopoly on space. They’re necessary tools, but it raises the question — what does a contemporary strategy that seeks consolidation via time look like?



1. Perhaps connecting to a tradition of avant garde forms that have had only small, limited appeal over the years, but which remain a ripe ground for creativity and exploration.

2. This means there needs to be some unifying core to the message that can be translated across platforms, thus for instance, the idea of “storyworlds”.

3. See Akhenaten and the creation of Aten for purposeful state control and creation of religion.

4. Grant McCracken: “Modernist cultures are concerned less with order, memory, and tradition (and the agencies that see to their reproduction) and more with the creation of forgetting, variety, discontinuity, and innovation (and the agencies that make these possible). It is as if the presiding genius of a culture, once best represented by the government bureaucrat, was now a reckless, relentless, irrepressible entrepreneur” (Culture and Consumption II, 75).

5. I think Snapchat is an important aspect to understand in the changing media landscape. Facebook, surely a concentration of power via space, tried to acquire Snapchat and, failing that, emulate it with no practical success.


Previously: Rethinking Franchises and Sequels

Next Week: Principles of Strategy


Nobody Knows Anything is a speculative journey through the more esoteric theories of popular culture: what that means, what comes next, and what can be done about it.

Charles Peirce is a screenwriter and musician, with an active interest in marketing, behavorial psychology and  strategy. He finds it odd to talk about himself in the third person. He can be reached at ctcpeirce@gmail.com or via twitter @ctcpeirce.

  • Digg
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print


leave a comment
  1. Hank Blumenthal / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    There are some good points here about the definition of transmedia and the consolidation and monopolistic practices of the distribution and creation system. 6 corporations now own 90% of the media space and that’s consolidated from 50 in 1983.

    However let me try to add some points of clarification. I think the mixing of business and marketing, critical practice, and creative authorship are getting muddled in away that make it hard to think about what goals are being pursued.

    1. Transmedia storytelling is narrowly defined by the PGA and also Henry Jenkins but also constitutes a clear creative form. Modeled on the Matrix franchise whose complex story was told across movies, games, animation, and more and extended to Lost and other examples there is clear story form here. For convenience I have named in my academic work (and practice) these groupings a “storyscape” to refer to this new medium of media and allow creators and critics to define this new storytelling form.

    2. We seem to mix in marketing, finance, and an obsession with formal elements (bigger story world!) equally with the creative process. These are all central issues but when I make a movie or tell a storyscape the focus is on story. For me that means the mythology, character, canon, and genre not hiring marketing execs and creative digital media teams to create branding exercises. These are different modes and should be considered separately. Certainly a creative process driven by marketing and technical splashiness is what we revile in Hollywood and leads to perverse spectacle that Debord talks about. I may choke the next person who asserts a good storyworld is one that has many connections designed in as I would a person who asserted good film is one that has many shots designed into it.

    3. Transmedia, or cross-media, or art installations, marketing extensions, or interactive narratives constitute a great mass of storytelling and marketing experimentation across academic, artistic, and media communities. I don’t think this explosion will easily conform to definitions or should but we shouldn’t hesitate to pull out in isolation new creative modes of storytelling or marketing extensions without trying to puzzle out this tangled mass.

    4. For me what is interesting is that stories are changing fundamentally. Aristotle’s beginning, middle, and end were rearranged in Godard’s famous quote and deconstructed in the storyscape. Storyscapes work like open texts (as Eco talked about) that may have no ending and reflect on ideas but showing us different angles of experience. Now that is an awesome change in how we use stories to situate ourselves in the world.

    Thanks for your thought provoking ideas.

  2. great page / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I simply want to say I am just beginner to blogging and truly savored you’re web page. Probably I’m planning to bookmark your blog . You absolutely come with excellent articles and reviews. Many thanks for sharing your blog site.

  3. browse article / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I simply want to say I’m newbie to blogging and site-building and seriously enjoyed you’re web blog. Likely I’m going to bookmark your site . You definitely have incredible articles and reviews. Many thanks for sharing your web page.

  4. good link / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I just want to mention I am just newbie to blogging and certainly savored your web page. Probably I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You definitely come with very good article content. Kudos for revealing your website.

  5. read content / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I simply want to say I am new to blogs and certainly loved this web blog. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog post . You really have superb writings. Cheers for sharing your web page.

  6. banfield pet insurance / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Helpful information. Lucky me I discovered your web site by accident, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate didn’t took place in advance! I bookmarked it.

  7. biżuteria artystyczna / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I dugg some of you post as I cerebrated they were invaluable invaluable

  8. decor / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    you are in point of fact a good webmaster. The web site loading velocity is incredible. It sort of feels that you’re doing any unique trick. Also, The contents are masterpiece. you’ve performed a magnificent activity in this subject!

  9. interior design ideas / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I cling on to listening to the rumor speak about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the most excellent site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i get some?

  10. slip and fall attorneys / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts. In any case I will be subscribing in your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!|

  11. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Great blog you have got here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  12. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    After checking out a number of the articles on your web page, I truly like your technique of blogging. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website as well and let me know your opinion.

  13. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  14. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    You are so interesting! I do not believe I have read a single thing like this before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!

  15. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

  16. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    There is definately a great deal to know about this subject. I like all the points you’ve made.

  17. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this site. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own site now ;)

  18. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    This website truly has all the info I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  19. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Appreciate it!

  20. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having problems with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can’t subscribe to it. Is there anybody else having identical RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

  21. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    This is a really good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate info… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!

  22. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    It’s difficult to find experienced people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  23. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get anything done.

  24. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Your style is so unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.

  25. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never seem to get anything done.

  26. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do think that you should write more about this subject, it might not be a taboo matter but typically folks don’t discuss these subjects. To the next! Kind regards!!

  27. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I blog frequently and I truly thank you for your information. The article has really peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your website and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your Feed too.

  28. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the most useful sites online. I will highly recommend this website!

  29. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    This is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate information… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!

  30. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    After looking at a handful of the blog posts on your web page, I seriously appreciate your technique of blogging. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my web site as well and tell me what you think.

  31. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Right here is the perfect web site for anybody who really wants to understand this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject that’s been discussed for years. Great stuff, just wonderful!

  32. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    After looking into a number of the articles on your site, I really appreciate your technique of blogging. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my website too and tell me what you think.

  33. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    I’m excited to uncover this site. I wanted to thank you for your time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to see new stuff in your web site.

  34. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Having read this I thought it was really informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  35. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to generate a great article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and don’t seem to get anything done.

  36. Suggested Studying / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Amazing! Its truly amazing article, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.|

  37. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    There is certainly a great deal to learn about this issue. I like all of the points you’ve made.

  38. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not fail me just as much as this particular one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, but I genuinely thought you’d have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

  39. www / Feb 19 at 8:15am

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your web page.

Leave a Comment

This site could not have been built without the help and insight of Michael Morgenstern. My thanks go out to him.

Help save indie film and give this guy a job in web design or film!