The power of transmedia storytelling starts with understanding of the power of narrative and story. There are psychological, biological, and neurological reasons why people throughout history have been telling stories using any communications means available from cave paintings and oral traditions to blockbuster movies.
Storytelling stands the test of time because they speak to human psychological fundamentals. They connect us to each other and give us insight about ourselves. They give us a common language where we can share experience, teach, reflect and create culture. As stories are retold, they reinforce cultural traditions and norms, linking our understanding of the human condition across generations.
Stories are experiential. They engage our senses because when we hear a story, we see it and we feel it in throughout our bodies.
Stories provide the structure for experience. They are a highly effective filter, giving us the context so we can make meaning out of all the stimulus from our environment—the actions, symbols, texts, images, and sounds. This provides the cognitive and neural means of organizing the chaos of information into units of meaning that allow us to understand. They reinforce existing knowledge, give context, and the timelines necessary for comprehension so that we can attend and recall information, emotions, and memories.
We create stories to explain the world to ourselves and to others, but also to explore new ideas and experiences. Through narratives, or stories, we can transport ourselves and others into new worlds or use stories to see things from other’s perspectives to increase our empathy and understanding. Stories bring us in and, within the comfort of an expected story, introduce a new idea that we might otherwise not see.
While telling stories in different ways is not new, transmedia storytelling is unique to the digital and connected age. Because of the proliferation of media, access to media and lowered barriers of entry, story is more easily dispersed and more easily participatory. Our socially-networked culture is creating a “do-it-yourself” technical world, where producing videos, music, websites, blogs, novels, and images are no longer the sole domain of the expert. The floodgates are open for mass expression and voice, creating an expectation to participate in the creating and furthering of a narrative.
This culture of participation has numerous positive effects. It is voluntary involvement with clear measures of success—visible publication and response from others. The act of creating promotes the sense of agency and empowerment and participation creates community and a sense of belonging. These psychological outcomes establish a positive association with the narrative that spills into the surrounding world. It betters the individual and increases the longevity of the narrative.