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Narrative, story, intersubjectivity: Formulating a continuum for examining transmedia storytelling

Merlo, Seth (2014) Narrative, story, intersubjectivity: Formulating a continuum for examining transmedia storytelling. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis begins with the premise that by challenging preconceptions about narrative and story as concepts that are in some way already determined, it becomes possible to open a space in which alternative understandings of them can be proposed. Such a space is considered necessary in order to account for the ways in which contemporary creative practices such as transmedia storytelling, in which the storytelling experience is distributed across multiple mediums and environments, may be said to require such alternatives in order to explain how they operate as fiction. Fiction, in this thesis, is considered a particular condition a work attempts to establish in which its own reality and organisation takes precedent over, or reduces, the “ultimate” reality of the real world.

It is proposed that creative practices such as transmedia storytelling are consistent with the conditions of the current historical moment, identified in this thesis as a convergence culture, or a culture which emerges at the nexus of various social, cultural, technological, political and economic forces without being reducible to any one of these. The chief characteristic of such a culture is the flow of content across its various instantiations; specifically, it is a culture in which the interlocutor, as someone engaged with the work, relates to mediums and the intentional objects held within them according to a contingent logic, which is conceptualised in this thesis as precariousness. This concept forms the basis for a model of relational aesthetics that could be located within the paradigm of convergence culture to explain how practices such as transmedia storytelling rely on the subjectivities of those engaged in them to resolve the precariousness inherent in their formation. Within this space, narrative and story are reconceptualised respectively as the formational and aesthetic planes of a fictional work, which are mediated by a process of intersubjective exchange. The aim of this thesis is therefore the formulation of a continuum of these three core concepts within the broad category of fiction which may be used to examine transmedia storytelling specifically, and fictional works in general. It is this continuum which forms the heart of the thesis, an examination of the fundamental concepts of narrative, story and intersubjectivity and their interdependence as a way to reconsider how we think about the possible richness and diversity the storytelling experience may bring.

The thesis takes up each of these concepts in turn before turning to an examination of transmedia storytelling directly. In applying the continuum to this creative practice, the model of a narrative arcology, or superstructure of possible linkages between mediums and nodes in transmedia work, is developed. Following this is a presentation of a substantial creative project which attempts to apply the theoretical concepts developed to a practical environment. The project takes the form of a conceptual document for a transmedia adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and is discussed from the perspective of a creator or project manager.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Tampalini, Serge and Moody, David
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