Thanks everybody for the thoughtful responses on the last post and the support for the comics :)

This week we were assigned to read Digital Storytelling by Carolyn Miller and Playing Dress Up by Louisa Stein. In addition we were to watch the pilot episode of the TV show Gossip Girl, and an episode of a soap opera of our choice.

I hardly ever watch dramas. I can’t stomach them. I would much rather watch heroic, good-triumphs-over-evil type stories, and tend to avoid narratives that outline the bad side of humans along with the good.

But even as I was watching the gossip fed to me by the mysterious Gossip Girl, I also felt myself perking up my ears for “juicy” bits of information and hanging on to the details of schoolgirl controversy. Gossip Girl does an excellent job of immersing the viewer, because it literally lets the user become one of the many followers of Gossip Girl. Just as many of the in-show characters are keeping up to date with her latest posts, so is the TV audience. There really is very little difference between the real-life followers and the fictional ones, and I think this is the key thing that makes Gossip Girl’s narrative engaging.

Out of curiosity, I googled for Gossip Girl’s offical blog. Sure enough, there is one hosted on the CW website (http://gossipgirl-blog.cwtv.com/) and it is indeed written by Gossip Girl. I had never really thought about transmedia before, so this blog did an excellent job illustrating to me its power. I was looking at the real Gossip Girl’s blog. The posts are written as if these characters are real, and actual (I think!) readers post comments (mostly outbursts of “noooo how could they break up”) as they would on a real blog, commenting on these events that “happened”. The functional presence of something that is supposed to be fictional causes the fictional world to spill into the real one, and the ability of a fan to participate in the fictional thing causes the real world to spill into the fictional one — a strong, two-way, interactive connection.

So far, I feel like the examples of transmedia use that I have seen are used for properties that have some basis in the real world. The Matrix, Batman, Gossip Girl, Harry Potter… in all of these, there is a character that moves from the world we live in to the fictional one (Neo was a normal guy, Bruce Wayne lives in a fictional city that’s close enough to real ones, Gossip Girl takes place in actual New York, and Harry Potter actually lives somewhere in Britain while he’s not at Hogwarts). Is this a requirement? Is there a way to use transmedia for a property like Lord of the Rings? I feel like getting a phone call or a text message from Frodo Baggins would seem very bizarre and out of place. It seems like it is necessary for a fictional world to at least in part be similar to our real one for this transmedia technique to be effective. Miller, in Digital Storytelling, talks about the definition of transmedia: each media form relates a different part of the story or relates the story in a different manner, all the while expanding on the core material. She also says that at least one of the media forms must be interactive, so that the audience can participate. But there is no immersion if the audience can participate in a way that makes sense (commenting on Frodo’s blog posts or posting on Sam Gamgee’s Facebook wall hardly makes sense!). So, perhaps we should add that the interactive media form must allow fans to participate believably (maybe an alternate reality game set in New Zealand called “Help Frodo Take the Ring to Mordor”? Maybe not…)