Transmedia storytelling again.

First part here.

Second part now:

I was earlier skeptical of Jenkin’s initial reponse regarding the essentials of transmedia storytelling; now, having read the next two installments of that response, I continue to think Bordwell has the upper hand in these matters.

I must admit, however, that I am not entirely sure of my reaction, since Jenkins seems to divide his argument into portions discussing transmedia storytelling as practiced by transmedia “artists” and as practiced by those more anonymous, less artistic folk who most seem to contribute to his broader notion of “participatory culture.’  Being more of the latter than the former (I fear), I will try to concentrate on the folk portion of the argument.

Bordwell earlier promoted, in general, the sanctity of certain media story forms (most obviously regarding the film medium, of course), but he also advanced the notion that stories and storytelling are not quite so plastic and open to cultural manipulation and control as Jenkins seems to require.

Jenkins’ response to Bordwell, essentially, seems to offer a list of how vast and varied stories and storytelling might, in fact, be.  This variation might, for instance, include the sort of limitations that Bordwell describes, but this variation might also, upon occasion, soar beyond those limitations.  Or, in other words, Jenkins admits to limits to stories and storytelling only under the conditions that those limits are limited.

Well, when all is potential, all is possible, I suppose.  But, simultaneously, where all is potential, nothing really is.

So Jenkins’ notion of the limitless potential of stories and storytelling is a concern if you happen to believe some things really are (and, conversely, that some things really aren’t).

I think stories and storytelling really are.

While Jenkins sees the story as a sort of “mother ship,” I see the story more as template for building mother ships.  Lots of little strange and alien things may flow from the mother ship, but only mother ships flow from the template.  (Jenkins may want to relegate such a story function to the “plot,” btw — his position on this remains unclear to me.)

That story template – that thing in our heads that distinguishes stories from not-stories – really is, despite and regardless of any participatory culture thrashing it about.

Where do we find the reality of that story template?  Not in story potentials, I don’t think, but rather in story limitations – where reality is much more likely to intervene.

For instance:  The story template includes the goodguy-badguy scenarios that allowed, famously, 60 Minutes and now, commonly, other fact-based news shows and productions to convert many and disparate facts, issues, and perspectives into a more produce-able, predictable, and palatable form.  This story template is, as others have noted, a “folk theory of causes” (cf.  narrative psychology, linguists such as William Labov).

Jenkins may have us believe that these folk causes are interminable – with which I would agree.  Yet they are causes nevertheless.  How these causes are used to subsequently promote and persuade is an interesting topic of study – e. g., the study of politics – but the inevitability of the formal template from which these arise and wiggle is quite terminable.

For better or worse, we have the capacity to draw inferences, conclusions, stories, and causes regardless of the data and observations from whence these are drawn.  Some have, at one time or another, called this capacity our “imagination.”  I wonder if this is what Jenkins is referring to when he notes the capacity of audiences to fill gaps (sometimes), explore “freedoms of interpretation” (sometimes), and engage in the many other varied activities of “participatory culture” (at all other times?).  Could we perhaps simply collapse all these activities into “using our imagination”?

In this collapse, what would “transmedia storytelling” lose, I wonder?  And what would stories and storytelling therein regain?