Matthew Freeman

A couple of thematically linked articles of mine have been published recently. Both share the theme of commodifying transmedia – that is, understanding the ways in which media content (stories, characters, fictional worlds, etc.) are constructed as cross-platform products, packaged and branded to broad audiences across multiple media forms.

As is common with my research, both of these articles take an historical approach. The first, titled ‘The Wonderful Game of Oz and Tarzan Jigsaws: Commodifying Transmedia in Early Twentieth-Century Consumer Culture,’ has been published in Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media (Issue 7 Summer 2014) as part of a special edition about the relationships between film/television and board games. My article offers two interrelated examples of how transmedia storytelling was used in the 1920s and 1930s via the production practices of board games and jigsaw puzzles. I look at the media practices developing during the early twentieth century, practices that were encouraged at this time by the increased commodification and branding of media texts and consumer products. The article’s first example, The Wonderful Game of Oz, a board game released in 1921, demonstrates how transmedia storytelling became an industrialised means of branding consumer products across media during the early 1920s. And the article’s second example, a Tarzan jigsaw puzzle released in the 1930s to promote a Tarzan radio serial, reveals how author Edgar Rice Burroughs exploited transmedia storytelling differently, expanding the King of the Jungle’s fictional storyworld whilst continuing the fictional stories of its characters – as a model of commodification. Both branding and commodification indeed accelerated practices of transmedia storytelling at this time, mostly as a means of sustaining and reinforcing the far broader commodity circulations of early twentieth-century consumer culture.

The full article can be read here.

Meanwhile, another of my articles takes a different stance on this theme of commodifying transmedia. In ‘Advertising the Yellow Brick Road: Historicizing the Industrial Emergence of Transmedia Storytelling,’ I contributed research as part of a larger edition titled Transmedia Critical for the International Journal of Communication (Vol. 8 2014).

In this article, while still tracing the industrial emergence of transmedia storytelling, I again turn to the configurations of transmedia storytelling in American consumer culture at the turn of the 20th century. But here I draw on L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz storyworld and its multiple texts and promotional tie-ins as a case study for revealing how the industrial rise of transmedia storytelling can in fact be re-contextualized as a cultural product of early-20th-century modern advertising. The article maps the ways in which Baum engineered Wizard of Oz stories as a transmedia universe according to much broader slippages between ‘content’ and ‘promotion’ across platforms.

The full article can be read here.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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