There’s an interesting article in Wired UK on “Transmedia tales and the future of storytelling“. “transmedia” is my new word for the day: in the article, Henry Jenkins (former MIT professor and author of  Convergence Culture) is quoted, defining transmedia storytelling as

“a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels.”

The basic idea is to go beyond the traditional print medium (a novel) and deliver stories through a combination of print, video, TV, on-line activities, and even real-world artifacts, all working together to engage the reader consumer. The article provides a nice overview of some ways this is happening today.

This is all well and good for contemporary fiction, and it seems like an interesting approach for stories that are unfolding afresh for the first time. The fundamental difference from telling the Biblical story (aside from the fact that we don’t treat it as fiction) is that the narrative itself isn’t “new”: it’s already been “out” in the culture for thousands of years. But that doesn’t mean everybody knows it (clearly they don’t), nor does it mean the presentation can’t be new.

How might transmedia be used to communicate Biblical stories in a way that’s faithful to the text, not speculative (i’m not convinced we need more of these), but still engaging for today’s media-savvy younger generations? As an example, i could certainly imagine a transmedia re-telling of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, his subsequent murder of Uriah, and Nathan’s confrontation of him (2 Sam 11:1-12:26). This highly dramatic story could be unfolded in (compressed) real time, both to give a sense of the time scales involved, but also to bring home more clearly the tensions, uncertainty, and emotional impact of the narrative. For example, a sequence like this (with suitable delays):

  1. introduce the scene from the Biblical text (2 Sam 11:1-4a), perhaps in a Sunday sermon, and invite people to follow along
  2. twitter 2 Sam 11:5
  3. release a video retelling of Uriah’s visit to David (2 Sam 11:6-13)
  4. email 2 Sam 11:14-16, David’s letter to Joab
  5. email Joab’s news flash (and the context)

and so forth.

I’d love to hear about any examples of this kind of interactive, media-engaged Biblical storytelling.

Some related activities:

  • The Network of Biblical Storytellers (my wife is a member, and we attended the 2008 festival gathering) is one group seeking to bring the text more dramatically to life, primarily through oral re-telling that stays close to the Biblical text.
  • The American Bible Society has several initiatives to expand Bible reading and interest in the younger generation, some focused on contemporary music and personalities. This isn’t quite transmedia, though it does combine several media channels in a contemporary fashion.