How To Be Alone” is a beautiful example of transmediation by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman and poet/singer/songwriter, Tanya Davis. The words in this video are compelling and poetic in their own right. Combined with artistically planned videography and overlaid with drawings as well as animations, the final work represents a combination of expressive media types which seems to fit the definition of “transmediation” well.

In her 1995 article, “More Than Words: The Generative Power of Transmediation for Learning,” Marjorie Siegel defines transmediation as “the act of translating meanings from one sign system to another.” In this moving video, Dorfman and Davis utilize multiple sign systems to convey their messages about being alone and learning to be alone.

My older daughter and I watched this video on New Year’s Eve together on my iPad, after we found it in Mashable’s article, “Our Favorite YouTube Videos This Year.” Thankfully at the time, I saved it (via email) to a Posterous site I use for miscellaneous media and article sharing – If I hadn’t, I don’t think I could have found it to provide proper “linktribution” here!

I learned about the term “transmediation” back in 2005 in a graduate literacy course I took at Texas Tech University, and subsequently presented “Podcasting As Disruptive Transmediation” as a session in Vancouver at the 2005 eLearn conference. I also presented this session as my “first ever” conference keynote address at TechSIG in 2005. (An audio podcast of that session is available.)

Podcasting as Disruptive Transmediation

The English WikiPedia article for transmediation is one of the few articles I’ve started which remains online and was not deleted by WikiPedia editors. The article presently explains the term “transmediation” as:

…the process of “responding to cultural texts in a range of sign systems — art, movement, sculpture, dance, music, and so on — as well as in words.” Transmediation can include response to traditional printed texts, as well as multimedia materials including video, animation, a website, a podcast, a game, etc.

There are probably multiple terms which could be used to describe this superb video by Dorfman and Davis. It’s an example of artistic videography. It’s also a “mixed media” production, since it combines video, drawing, animation, and music together in a single artistic product. I don’t think it could be considered as a “remix,” since it does not seem to take works created by others and package them together in a new way. This is an original media mix.

What other terms would you use to describe a media product like this one? If not “transmediation,” what term do you prefer? The creation of transmediated products like this video requires a high level of sophistication, not only working with various media types but also in creatively communicating at multiple levels. Is creating a transmediated work like this including poetry, video, music, drawings, and animations something you could challenge your own students to do?

I’m very curious to learn what others would “call” this kind of work, and what other examples of similar works would you point / link to. As a form of digital storytelling, I don’t think this fits well into any of the categories Carol Jordan and I identified in September 2010 on the “Talk with Media” wiki.

For some of the backstory about the video, “How To Be Alone,” read Simon Owens’ August 2010 post, “How Andrea Dorfman learned to be alone and earned herself a million views on YouTube.” As of this writing, the video has attracted over 2.3 million views.

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