Fanhood in Transmedia Storytelling

Fan communities have existed well before the advent of the Internet, with fans connecting through shared emotive feelings towards creative works. The Internet brought about a change exhibited by a massive exodus of fans from their basements towards the computer screen.  What followed was the creation of knowledge libraries, discussion groups and new forms of expression.  Communities are great sources for support and recreation but are incomplete without competition and institutional hierarchies.  Fanhood is no longer natural but rather artificial because you can no longer be a fan unless you prove mastery over the “fan universe.”   Transmedia storytelling complicates matters, changing how fans experience content, how they can interact with one another and how they can prove their fanhood.

Transmedia storytelling is when “… each medium does what it does best – so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels and comics,” creating an experience that allows a fan to immersive themselves in a world that will never be understood in its entirety (Jenkins 96).  What is created is a consumerist culture that disguises itself as a world that is solely created for the fans.  If they don’t understand the break between the first and second movie then they can play the video games to explore the storyline between the movies and explain character and plot development.  The producers a franchise simultaneously attract and retain fans by making each new product a “point of entry into the franchise as a whole,” eliciting fans to continue exploring only if they want to and attracting new fans with the prospect of not needing former knowledge (Jenkins 96).  What this creates is various points in which fans can leave, enter or explore a franchise, but what does this mean for fans who seek to communicate with one another?  How does transmedia storytelling relate to fanhood?

FFVII Timeline

FFVII Timeline

With transmedia storytelling the point of entry is any point in the franchise where a fan becomes interested in exploring the franchise universe.   This changes how they construct their internal library of the universe and how they view certain characters or their motivations.  For example, I played FFVII when it first came out and my cousin played FVII Crisis Core, a game that takes places before FFVII but that came out after.  How we thought about the characters was very different and created some dissent during gaming conversations.  Neither of us was right nor wrong, but brings about another set of questions.  What is the protocol for digesting content when release dates of content produce storytelling that is nonlinear?  In the case of FFVII numerous medium produced content that jumped across the fictional timeline, making it harder to keep going.  Whereas our “fan community” was limited to us, online communities are larger and more expanse.  How can a fan converse with other fans if they do not have the same amount of knowledge? Will seasoned fans exclude those amateur fans or take them under their wing, offering insight and resources in expanding their knowledge?  One thing is for certain, fans are just as eager to prove themselves a fan, as they are to prove you are not a fan. Watch out.

Jenkins, Henry. “Searching for the Origami: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling.” Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2006): 93-130.

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