By Haley Moore, March 19th, 2011

There has been a lot of murmur around Felicia Day rolling her eyes as she said the word “transmedia” in her SXSW keynote speech on Monday, and what that frustration coming from a highly respected online creator might mean for those of us who do transmedia as a passion, or for a living.

In a panel later that day with Craig Engler from, Riese: Kingdom Falling creator Ryan Copple, and Mercury Men creator Chris Preksta, she laid out some of her reasons for disliking the word. You can hear it for yourself here.

Honestly, after listening to her talk, I think Day outed herself as a transmedia person by expressing distaste for the term – and for the traditional marketing people who have mistakenly taken “transmedia” to mean franchising or merchandising.  She gave a very long explanation of her views (too long to write down) and they basically line up with the discussions we’ve been having in the Transmedia Artists Guild for over a year.

What does it mean for people who create things like Perplex City if all a producer sees there is a trading card game?  For Cathy’s Book if a publisher only sees another novelty book-plus?  For Pandemic 1.0 if marketers only see a really neat trade show booth?

The question is whether we should try to snatch the word “transmedia” from the jaws of buzzword-happy opportunists, or let it get torn to shreds and come up with other terms for a medium-spanning experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Tim O’Reilly did an informal keynote at SXSW on Friday, in which he talked about the switch from the term “free software” to the term “open source.”  The shift occurred as O’Reilly talked with people about the mythology of their community and gradually altered how they identified their projects and themselves.

Likewise with the term “maker” – which manages to include crafters, coders, roboticists, chemists, and tinkerers while leaving out people who don’t invent or produce, and making creation a source of pride.  The transmedia world still doesn’t have anything nearly so specific or evocative that includes puppetmasters, distributed literature authors, and immersive game designers, but excludes people who release a tv series with its own breakfast cereal.

I’ve been trying to think about what makes the things we do special.  Ok, let’s take a basic idea.  We’re not working in one medium, we’re working in multiple media.  So multimedia.

Ok, that’s…good but it’s really 1990.  But the media part is good.  Let’s keep that.  What about…cross media?

Ok, cross media is pretty good, but some people treat that as system of content delivery, or a strategy for choosing marketing hooks.  What we’re talking about are cohesive projects that exist over all their parts in different media.   We need something that says “big, overarching, pervasive” something that transports you from one medium to another…transcends…transforms…trans…



Anybody got any better ideas?  Let’s hear em in the comments.

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Haley Moore is a newspaper reporter, artist, and playwright based in north Texas. She has worked on several indie, fan and commercial Alternate Reality Games.

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  • James

    'Immersive storytelling' doesn't work because a feature film, a book, a magazine article, a conversation can all surely be immersive.

    Transmedia is a word hated by people that don't understand what it is. It is storytelling from multiple entry points that transcends media platforms. I am not sure there is a word more apt then transmedia.

  • Nedra Weinreich

    I like the term "immersive storytelling.” It’s less about the media that we use and more about the effect of having pieces of the story show up as part of people’s real lives – in their social media accounts, using augmented reality to reveal pieces of the story in their own environment, on their mobile phones, etc…

  • Felicia Day is cool, but she doesn't have the pull to kill a word just like that. Like it or loathe it, the name's here to stay.

  • Tina

    Ideas for TransMedia

    TransferMe (Transfer Media)
    Cooperative Trans Media (CTM)

    Social Media uses SoMe. I'm thinking along these lines for TransMedia....
    SoMeInc (SoMe inclusive of additional mediums)

    Back to...TransMe

    Good luck with this.

  • It seems to me the important distinction is that breakfast cereals don't further the story, so it's all about - Metanarratives?

    Transtories? Panstories? Mediaverses? Metamedia Stories? Mediatales?

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