Harry Potter and Transmedia Narratives

The convergence of media practices has altered media industries, audience relationships and use of technologies. In contrast to previous practices, no longer is a narrative presented wholly through one medium, instead through a multiplicity of forums where convergence causes a complete narrative. These scattered pieces of the puzzle, effectively making up one multifaceted story that can be accessed through different entry points.’Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction gets dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified coordinated entertainment experience'(Henry Jenkins).

Harry Potter as an international phenomenon has allowed audiences multiple entry points to the wondrous wizarding world through novels, films, exhibitions, theme parks, fan fictions, discussion forums, appreciation societies, video and computer games, musical soundtracks, etc. The love for Harry Potter has even led to the creation of the Harry Potter society within the University of Wollongong and other universities within Australia and internationally.

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As content flows across channels changing technological dynamics are evident as no longer are stories tied to the channels of delivery to audiences. The demand for audiences being allowed to engage with narrative on their own terms is evident through transmedia, as one cannot control the content or the way people engage with them. Consider this, if not for transmedia narratives, Harry Potter would have been nothing more than a series of novels exploring the adventures of a young wizard. Audience reception and engagement arguably would or could have been minimal. However, the size and scale of Harry Potter as a cultural icon was enabled through changing technological dynamics and multiple points of engagement, allowing for a larger demographic to engage with the narrative presented.

Transmedia in Harry Potter has been perpetuated since the sad ending of the film empire. J. K Rowling has stated ‘People ask me if there are going to be stories of Harry Potter as an adult. Frankly, if I wanted to, I could keep writing stories until Harry is a senior citizen, but I don’t know how many people would actually want to read about a 65-year-old Harry still at Hogwarts playing bingo with Ron and Hermione’.  Rowling however, has since released further novels exploring the one narrative of Harry Potter, such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2001 and within 2007 The Tales of Beedle and the Bard. The development of Pottermore as a regulated forum (https://www.pottermore.com) saw the overwhelming online response of the Harry Potter phenomena, causing the site to crash momentarily. Pottermore contributes to the narrative through ‘a unique and free-to-use website which builds an exciting online experience around the reading of the Harry Potter books’. Harry Potter video and computer games on the other hand are based off the novel and film, allowing audiences to further their understanding of the text and engage with it.

‘Transmedia storytelling is the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence.’ – Henry Jenkins. If you have an audience working as a collective intelligence as a new media platform as converging media practice. Transmedia stories are about building a world, rather than simple narratives. This is a representation of how a change in the media changes the message.The Harry Potter narratives relationship with the YouTube community however is most prolific regarding transmedia narratives and the audience’s ability to add to one continuing story. This is evident through the following videos that have gained great notoriety.

(Disclaimer: language and content is suited to adult audience):

1. Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx1XIm6q4r4

2. If Harry Potter Characters Texted https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWsnK8HJa-M

3. You’re a Wizard Harry (Original) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKNhPpUR0Pg

According to Dr Pamela Rutledge, ‘the audience becomes actively involved, elevated to social and creative collaborators. They become stakeholders in the transmedia experience alongside the brand and cause. The unfolding story design creates the motivation to engage with other participants, seek out other parts of the story and contribute to the narrative by adding content.’ Harry Potter Memes have also stormed the internet, proving the medium is the message as audiences feel like they can contribute to the narrative they love.

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Although the adventures of Harry Potter and the wizarding world have sadly come to an end through J.K.Rowling’s mediated platform, the international discussion and transmedia narrative will allow for the continuation and contribution to the Harry Potter story for years to come.

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