This week I’m giving a presentation in class about Transmedia Storytelling, as conceptualized in Henry Jenkin’s Blog Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Core Concepts of Transmedia Storytelling. As always, Jenkins offers compelling insight into developing technology. What I find particularly interesting about this is Social Media’s role. Jenkins gives a lot of information about fan investigation and the retelling of a story through different mediums. I wonder where Social Media can play a part? Where would it fit in to Jenkin’s assessment if Marvel Comics sponsored an Iron Man twitter? I don’t mean a Twitter about the movie, and updates, but a Twitter meant to seem like it was being updated by Tony Stark himself. In light of this, I actually just did a search for a “Stark Industries” website. Considering there has to be transmedia media for Jenkin’s to talk about, I figured if Marvel and Paramount were smart enough, they’d have some sort of webosphere realm for Mr. Stark who has quickly become one of America’s favorite smartasses.
While I didn’t find Stark Industries.com (well, actually I did, but the domain belongs to a compressor distributor). I can only assume it is a buildup to part of the story for this year’s release of the greatly anticipated Iron Man 2. I’d like to use some of the 7 core concepts introduced by Jenkins to assess this piece of transmedia.
Check it out: Stark Expo 2010
Storytelling Without very much knowledge (for the unresearched fan) of the sequel, the website teases some interesting information. For example, when taken to the “Message from Tony Stark” we learn that the StarkExpo is a rebirth of a tradition that was started by Tony’s Father. We can guess that StarkExpo is going to be quite the shindig in the movie by Tony’s famous attitude.
Branding Here’s an area that the website successfully counteracts. The site promotes the fictional world where Tony Stark and Stark Industries rules. There is no mention of the comic or the movie (albeit a small MARVEL logo on the bottom of the page where the event sponsors are), not even a link or reference to Paramount. In fact, the copyright is for Stark Enterprises (which, by the way, if you search it on the internet brings you a community development company). The only brand is Stark, which is fictional, which brings me to my next point.
Drillability Fandom is a deep obsession. The drillability of a narrative is meant to encourage dedicated fans to search for and dig into the available transmedia outlets that support their favorite narrative. My action of searching the internet for Stark Enterprises and coming across the StarkExpo is a perfect example of this, though I wouldn’t put myself in fandom status for Iron Man, despite Tony Stark’s…I mean Robert Downey Jr.’s sex appeal. A look into the StarkExpo gives fans a look into the fictional world of Iron Man. It offers information about the new movie in undercover form. But, is the site worth talking about?
Spreadability At the bottom of the page, there’s a link for StarkExpo’s Facebook page. Suprisingly, the page only has 6,790 fans considering the movie is due out in less than a month.
This is where I find the role of Social Media in all of this TransMedia mania to be particularly intriguing. Why don’t more people know about the site? And what exactly does that mean? In terms of spreadability, it may mean that the site itself does not give enough or it does not spark enough interest for friends to run around to one another excitedly spreading the word about new information regarding Iron Man. However, it may mean that Marvel and Paramount are not doing a good enough job of marketing the movie. Hence my suggestion for Tony Stark’s Twitter. Now, there are multiple fake Tony Stark Twitters, but nothing that seems to be legitimate.
We all know by now that when it comes to non-profit and social media marketing, utlizing and interconnecting all aspects of Social Media- a blog, a facebook, a twitter and so forth- is extremely beneficial. It spreads the word, it allows different measurements of communication. When it comes to Fandom, however, and this concept of Transmedia it seems widely underused and underappreciated. If there’s developing interest in the way the internet is serving narratives up in trans-media’d forms, there should be more development of interest in Social Media. I suppose this is where the concern between Continuity and Multiplicity come into effect for big companies, especially the likes of Marvel and Paramount. But, I’m sticking to my case. Why stop at StarkExpo’s website? If Tony Stark had a Twitter, wouldn’t he be tweeting about the StarkExpo (or Pepper Potts more likely)? Furthermore, if Tony Stark were to be a tweeter, he would have to have a Blog. What I’m getting at is…What if Stark were one of us?
In this perspective, Social Media offers fictional narratives the chance to “get real” beyond the limits of simple fandom and “alternative reproduction”. Considering our less-than-skeptical age, it is arguable that the Spreadability of such an endeavour would be minimum because most people would be smart enough to know it isn’t real. But, the Drillability is huge. If done right, if managed and updated well, if kept as realistic as possible, the realm of fandom in combination with Social Media can be huge, believable, and make some serious profits.
The theory is very simple. There’s a lot of critical theory out there about how Disney Characters and other Cartoons are really sort of abused to sell products to children- make a beloved character a brand ambassador and you’re good to go. Who is to say that isn’t possible with the likes of Iron Man himself? Internally, movies like to joke about how their main character gets spread amongst sponsors and I’m not saying I want to start seeing Tony Stark in Old Spice commercials. I am saying, though, that a contract between Facebook, Twitter and major movie production companies can be huge and that larger-than-life fictional narratives can be brought down to the size of your computer screen. Oh yeah.
Henry Jenkins asks in his blog to imagine a world where we are always scanning across various media forms for something of interest and when we find it we can become deeply involved in it. I ask you, Mr. Jenkins, what if it went the other way around? I know that’s called Marketing…but what if Tony Stark virtually stepped off that screen and followed me on Twitter? I’d like to imagine a world where the fictional narrative seeks out fandom in the real world.
If Tony Stark could Tweet like a civilian, oh just think of it, think of all that we could share…