As I wrote in my last post "Transmedia Storytelling: The Reemergence of Fundamentals", Transmedia storytelling is very exciting, but it isn't new. It is the ultimate mashup of ancient traditions and new communications models. There have been stories and messages delivered across different media every since the Cro-Magnon man figured out that mineral pigments like iron oxide and black manganese could be applied to the sides of rocks and caves. Whether chronicling life, communicating with others, or creating an inspirational image, there were stories being told. Media technologies have come a long way since cave painting and have so many new capabilities, that the orchestration of a story across multiple media platforms can be a complex creative endeavor. This is was a significant enough shift in application that in April 2010, the Producers Guild of America added a transmedia producer designation so the producers who expand a storyline onto three or more platforms can get credit.
Even with technology's increasingly sophisticated and jaw-dropping capabilities, the tools are becoming simultaneously more accessible and user-friendly. So much so, that the boundaries are blurring not just across technologies but also across the people who are creating, using, producing, augmenting, distributing, hacking, mashing, and every other ‘-ing' imaginable.
In spite of all the excitement, however, the human brain has been on a slower evolutionary trajectory than the technology. Our brains still respond to content by looking for the story to make sense out of the experience. No matter what the technology, the meaning starts in the brain. The transmedia producer may get the credit line, but the success of the transmedia effort rests on the resonance, authenticity, and richness created by the storyteller.
Stories are authentic human experiences. Stories leap frog the technology and bring us to the core of experience, as any good storyteller (transmedia or otherwise) knows. There are several psychological reasons why stories are so powerful.
Social media technologies have created a demand for fundamentals: authenticity, participation, and engagement. Special effects and funny Super Bowl ads are fine, but they are expensive one-offs if they do not touch the core of experience. I don't care how you calculate, that's not going to get you a very good ROI. When organizations, causes, brands or individuals identify and develop a core story, they create and display authentic meaning and purpose that others can believe, participate with, and share. This is the basis for cultural and social change. This is a skill worth learning.