In the new «Present Shock» we are given the opportunity to contact an infinite number of people and engage in countless activities, at any time, while also being immobilised as a result of there being no distance between things. Stories, or rather Narrative, follow our constant physical and mental movements, catching up with us along the roads of our hyperconnected existence.
The term «Present Shock» was borrowed from the writer Douglas Rushkoff because it so well represents the huge aquarium in which we find ourselves immersed, in which distances established by time and space, as are currently known, become invalidated: everything happens in the here and now.
Transmedia practice seeks to narrate a story by eliminating – or rather, by playing with – the time-space continuum, bypassing linear narrative; a story told on various digital platforms and using different mediums of communication can therefore be defined as transmedia. Narrative, advertising, scientific and artistic projects are included in the term “story”, expanding into other types of projects. Development requires the organisation of different kinds of actions, time management of public appearance and presentation and the management of movement in space, whether virtual or real.
Storytelling involves unpredictable turns and changes, for example, from a cinematographic film to a website with infinite cross-references along the way. What transmedia producers and artists should do is to question the concept currently known as transmedia, something that is inherently linked to marketing. I would like to put forward a hypothesis about the potential of transmedia to legitimately enter the art scene and benefit from its freedom. Actually, this exercise of mine is literary, a rhetorical stretch of the imagination. The text presents itself as an open space in which I can expand the idea of transmedia through a series of heterogeneous connections.
According to advertising and marketing, the concept of a story told across multiple media/platforms capitalises on “fan culture” because, through alternate reality games, fans of a specific saga or character are activated with the aim of discovering the backstory of their heroes’ new adventure.
On a deeper level, it can be said that transmedia develops a narrative structure based on participation on a par with the detective/thriller genre, and is often connected to cinema and videogames were these are united. It must be said, however, that the union of cinema and videogames is difficult and represents a question that is not easily solved. Both mediums respond to man’s primal and primordial needs, but cinema relies on man’s desire to hear stories in a completely passive way, merging religious mysticism with the chance to become children once again, thereby removing the weight of all adult responsibilities.
Videogames, on the other hand, address the need for human beings to live different lives from those laboriously constructed in the every day world. A feeling of evasion takes over but, unlike cinema, it is a completely active medium because men become players, equipped with a keyboard, mouse or joystick and create a single, or rather a thousand alternative lives, which may be violent or filled with lust and greed – or at least they are given an illusion of it.
The technology of moving images, recorded and retransmitted, replaces the figure of the priest telling the story, or rather teaching us about the actions of god-heroes. Here we can see the current hero with our own eyes – to be honest, we are overwhelmed by heroes and heroines – directly witnessing their appearance and the strength they employ in fighting Evil. And we are purified through this narrative and visual sacrifice.
The parallel between religion’s psychological and mythical mechanisms and those present in the art of cinema are nothing new, as scholars of mythology and religions such as Campbell and psychoanalysts such as Jung repeatedly tell us. Archetypes, their representations and the human psyche form an important triad for contemporary men and women who probably are ready to take a step forward in their search for knowledge precisely because of the awareness they have achieved.
Moving within and around stories, or fragments of stories, may constitute a modern form of catharsis.
Spectators appear ready, through stories, to take their search for catharsis beyond the cinema-temple into the streets, whether virtual or real.
If traditional spectators seated themselves and, aided by the darkness of the theatre, identified with the film’s main character, today, like Russian dolls, spectators would also become players and go hunting for clues to discover their heroes’ identity or who killed them and what they have to do. The game, however, is so immersive that the player becomes the hero and moves across the world to discover their own Promised Land or perhaps find out that their own father wears a black mask and uses laser blades…
Through the use of technology, following the fragmented poetry of our times, transmedia stories attempt to put us back onto the righteous path, whether this exists or not. Or alternatively, where even stories have a disjointed core of meaning, we are called on to recover the pieces…
… to be continued…
Transmedia: Homeless Stories by Alberto Gulminetti originally appeared on the online magazine and platform Roma Italia Lab (original title: Transmeda: storie senza fissa dimora)
images and video: (cover 1) Han Hoogerbrugge,drawing for «FLX», multiplayer racing game for Xbox, a collaboration between Submarine Channel and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, drawing (2) «Collapsus. Energy Risk Conspiracy», 2011, interactive documentary, game,produced by Submarine Channel, video trailer, you tube (3) Han Hoogerbrugge in collaboration with game designer Sander van der Vegte, «FLX», multiplayer racing game for Xbox produced by submarine channel (4) «Refugee Republic», 2012, trailer, interactive documentary, produced by Submarine Channel.