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Across the rainbow: L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz as the historical origins of transmedia storytelling

Freeman, M (2013) Across the rainbow: L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz as the historical origins of transmedia storytelling. In: Returning to Oz: The Afterlife of Dorothy, 7 February 2013, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, UK.

Abstract

Most explicitly theorised by Henry Jenkins, transmedia storytelling involves the telling of ‘stories that unfold across multiple platforms, with each medium making distinctive contributions to our understanding of the storyworld.’ For Jenkins, transmedia storytelling is the art of world-building, defined as the ‘the process of designing a fictional universe that is sufficiently detailed to enable different stories to emerge but coherent enough so that each story feels like it fits with the others.’ However, while the concepts of transmediality and world-building are readily discussed in a twenty-first century context of the contemporary media conglomerate and technological convergence, this paper serves to examine an historical occurrence of transmedia storytelling, drawing on The Land of Oz intellectual property as it appeared across a multitude of media throughout the early 1900s and 1910s. As author L. Frank Baum dispersed his stories across multiple novels, comic strips, theatre productions, and silent films – this paper traces the origins of transmedia storytelling to the turn of the twentieth century, studying this particular case study in the context of the period’s production practices, identifying a number of the industrial transmedia practices now exploited by the contemporary media conglomerate. By identifying The Land of Oz as one of the earliest occurrences of transmedia storytelling in U.S. media history, this paper also draws parallels between the practice of transmedia world-building and a child’s infinite imagination, suggesting that the expansion of the Oz storyworld across a multitude of media – a practice common in contemporary media – was once initiated by a child’s motivation to quench their own infinite imagination.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2015 13:25
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 13:28
URI: http://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/6306
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