BOOKS 3.0: Cross-media Adaptation and Audience Involvement (part 7 of 7) Books and the Media Industries Landscape


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This post is one of a series based on my draft writings and thoughts for a current PhD research project, part of the UNESCO Chair project ‘Crossing Media Boundaries: Adaptations and New Media Forms of the Book’. I am working with a self-published author to create a co-creative online reader community where users can share their very own content, stories, artwork, etc. to expand the story world across media. Its an experiment, and the journey is only starting… http://naturemage.com All feedback / ideas welcome!

Image: Nature Mage logo, by James Ledsham – see his profile here: http://www.naturemage.com/people-working-on-this-community

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In the last few decades, the ways in which the media and creative industries operate have been importantly changed by a vast growth in the use of digital media. This was accompanied by phenomena of media convergence (defined and redefined by Henry Jenkins, 2006; 2009, 2011),:

…convergence, which in Convergence Culture, I describe as a paradigm for thinking about the current moment of media change, one which is defined through the layering, diversification, and interconnectivity of media. Convergence contrasts with the Digital Revolution model which assumed old media would be displaced by new media.

The growth of global media conglomerates (Brookey, 2010), and an increase in strategies of horizontal and vertical consolidation (Kerr, 2006). These movements have given origin to changes in modes of media production, namely in the dynamics of cross-media and transmedia[1] production.

Creative and media industries have been producing unprecedented levels of derivative, adapted and transmedia works. Popular properties, especially for younger audiences, and no matter which media they originate from, typically end up existing in multiple forms across a range of media, platforms and devices. The number of examples is extensive, but consider some of the most substantial recent examples such as: Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters.

Today’s games are deeply enmeshed in the ‘convergence’ that characterises modern media: books are made into films which are made into games (and vice versa), which in turn generate a myriad of other texts and commodities. (Buckingham, 2006: 4)

Traditionally the ‘winds of adaptation’ have blown from books into films, later into games and commodities. Some of the examples listed above fit with this.  However, nowadays successful properties originating in virtually any media or form make their journey across the array of existing media and platforms[2]. Moshi Monsters or Angry Birds, for example, started as online games and originated books, films, toys and games for other platforms, to name but a few derivative texts and commodities. This is not to say that books are less important. They are still frequently considered, and used, as a privileged, high quality source of inspiration for other media,. Books are often seen as having a superior status than more recent media such as film and games.

The movement towards media convergence and the intersection of books with other media have had rippling effects for the book publishing industry. The relations between book publishing (particularly for children and young adults) and other media sectors have been characterised by unparalleled levels of convergence. Numerous bestsellers are based on properties originating from TV, cinema and digital games, whilst on the opposite direction publishers have created in-house divisions to manage the production of cartoons, apps, games and other media products based on their properties.

Books are increasingly part of the cross-media expansion universes of popular properties originating either from other media industries, or from within the authoring and publishing sector. In this context, books – or rather, the stories they tell and the characters they portray – are perceived as ‘brands’ with the potential to be spread across different media.

Consequences of cross-mediability selection

Raises questions around authorship, potentially giving rise to controversy surrounding notions of genuine ‘artistic’ creativity, and of balance between commercialisation of properties and quality cultural and media production.


[1] The term transmedia is often used interchangeably with the terms multi-platform and cross-media. It is hoped that this research project will attempt to clarify the use of these and other terms employed to describe forms of cultural production where the same property (the same story, the same characters) exists across different media and platforms – whether the property is created from the onset across different media, or started on one medium, and then spread out to other media and platforms, and whether each new text adds anything to the property, its story and universe. This is relevant as an attempt to clean up some of the confusion, overlap and misuse of many of these terms, both in academia and within the media industries.

[2] This movement has been facilitated by an explosion in the use of digital media, resulting in easier access to content.

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