yourlibrarian: Buffy on the phone (BUF-WorkingGirl: eyesthatslay)
[personal profile] yourlibrarian posting in [community profile] sim_studies
A first post is always a little daunting, especially when the focus of a community is a bit amorphous. But I thought I'd start out by explaining why I formed it, and what I hope can happen with it.

I am on the final leg of my dissertation in Library and Information Science, hoping to deposit in October. I am also not planning at this time to pursue a tenure-track position, although I am hoping to teach again in the near future. And it occurred to me that there may be others out there like me, either in their final stages of education, or job hunting, or just independent scholars who are looking for some conversation and discussion of their areas of interest. And there are also likely people who are in none of those positions but simply find it interesting to read about or discuss topics in the overlapping areas of entertainment, fan studies, and technology because those issues are relevant to their life. My own work so far covers these three areas and intermixes a bit of literary history, social informatics and media studies -- so SIM studies.

I realize I may end up being the only person posting and talking here, but hopefully not!

I thought I'd kick things off with a recent interview on Henry Jenkins blog about transmedia entertainment. I realized in trying to figure out a tag for this post that I was trying to decide what interested me about the topic.

Specifically, I was interested in this part of the discussion:

"First, we're interested in what we call "narrative extent," which we think of as works that exceed the normal narrative patterns for works of a particular sort. So, for example, The Wire doesn't have that many episodes as police procedurals go (CSI has many more), but it attains unusual narrative extent by making the season--or arguably the entire run of five seasons--rather than the episode, the meaningful boundary.

Second, vast narrative is interesting to us in the many projects that confront issues of world and character continuity. Often this connects to practices of collaborative authorship--including those in which the authors work in a manner separated in time and space, and in many cases with unequal power (e.g., licensor and licensee).

Third, and connected to the previous, we're interested in large cross-media narrative projects, especially those in which one media form is not privileged over the others. So, for example, the universe of Doctor Who is canonically expanded by television, of course, but also by novels and audio plays. On the other end of the spectrum, Richard Grossman's Breeze Avenue project includes a 3-million-word, 4,000 volume novel, as well as forms as different as a website and a performance with an instrument constructed from 13 automobiles--all conceived as one project."

The authors also clarified a bit their distinction between "vast" while still using a single platform.

"Given all of this, it's probably fair to say that our interests are a superset of some of the other concepts you mention. For example, your writing on transmedia storytelling certainly informs our thinking about vast narrative--but something like a tabletop RPG campaign is "vast" for us without being "transmedia" for you."

The distinction appears to be in the scope of the story, and the collaborative nature of its creation. At the same time I'm not sure something like a soap-opera would qualify because they also seem to focus on the issue of world building. While soap operas are vast in quantity and include many collaborators, it seems to me they're much more focused on character building and relationship dynamics than their settings, which, as I recall, tend to stay rather vague.

On the other hand, the discussion of a season as a narrative boundary seems to me particularly pertinent in the way U.S. networks are shifting to the 13 episode season as a new standard, in effect if not in fact. The way that seasons, even full 22 episode ones, are distributed during the year leans towards two-part seasons rather than a single one.

I'm also thinking, regarding their second point, about the new Trek film and how it had to confront these issues of universe and character continuity when separated considerably from the original creators and collaborators, and when thinking of entertainment designed for a different medium and audience.

The last point makes me wonder if it's possible not to privilege different distribution media. I think if something is conceived as a single short-term project as in their second example, by a single creator, it may be. However, in thinking of two examples, even there I'm not sure it's true. For example, some fan authors are including music, vids and artwork as part of a single work. In another example, we have various creators simultaneously creating webisodes, comics, and books which incorporate or extend portions of a television series. Yet it seems to me that the audiences for these corollary works can be distinctly different, both in terms of their historical composition, and the way in which they engage with these texts. Given that money is the ultimate driver of entertainment and commercial storytelling, doesn't the lucrative power of certain media automatically determine which will be the privileged format? And going back to the point about new seasonal formats and property reboots, how does money also not determine those effects?
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Social Informatics and Media Studies

April 2010

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