However, if one is willing to consider older technologies, transmedia has been around for a while. Consider an early 1970s Star Trek fan on a land-line phone, discussing the merits of “The Trouble with Tribbles” with a fellow trekkie while both watch the episode’s nth rerun on their 26-inch “big screen” color TVs.
I believe transmedia falls under the wider category of interactive media, of which the most widely practiced contemporary form, videogames, enables a player to watch a preprogrammed story unfold while simultaneously impacting the course of the story.
Whatever you call it and however you define it, the blending of passive and active media experiences will continue to morph into new incarnations as technology continues its relentless advance. Perhaps a century from now, our cerebral implants will enable unprecedented multisensory adventures. Imagine streaking through an alien jungle on your anti-grav sled, feeling the wind on your face and smelling the rich scents of surrounding flora and fauna, all the while in the throes of an epinephrine rush of pure panic from being chased by a hungry schlock monster unleashed by the 23rd Galactic Republic.
You’d better fly fast (active) before the programmed schlock (passive) makes a meal of you.
Still, I believe passive entertainment (viewing/reading) and active entertainment (playing/interacting), no matter what technological advances propel them toward singularity, likely will remain viable as distinct pleasures. Here’s why:
Oliver, my 19-month old great-nephew, sits on my lap as I read him an illustrated children’s book. The experience is pleasant enough for Oliver to demand multiple rereadings.
His big sister, 4-year-old Avery, retrieves a game board from the closet, and we commence several mildly competitive excursions through the sweet labyrinth known as Candyland.
Tell me a story.
Let’s play a game.
I’m no neurologist, but I suspect there are subtle differences in the brain’s processing of those two modes of learning. The first can be considered essentially passive, the second active. Both are experienced by humans at a young age, which I believe programs us to enjoy each mode as a separate pleasure, only later enriching our delight through a myriad of combinations.
Then again, maybe technology will someday transform us to the point where Tell me a story and Let’s play a game are so intertwined – passive and active learning so fully melded – that children will no longer recognize them as separate entities.
What do you think?