Towards an ontology of transmedia worlds, part 2
In the introductory chapter of his book The Democracy of Objects Levi Bryant writes
[…] that the condition for the intelligibility of experimental activity is the existence of objects that are intransitive or independent of mind and perception. For if objects were dependent on mind, perception, or culture, then there would be nothing to discover in the closed systems produced in the experimental setting. [note]
This argument is based on philosopher of science Roy Bhaskar and his question ‘what must the world be like for science to be possible’ [Bryant, ch. 1; Roy Bhaskar, A Realist Theory of Science (New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 23].
With risk of a circular argument, I will try to use this thinking for an analysis of transmedia storyworlds. Most theorists (most prominently Christy Dena and Henry Jenkins) of transmedia storytelling mention the existence of common ‘world’ or ‘universe’ as typical for transmedia projects. In my view, Bhaskar’s question and Bryant’s analysis provide a good start for a discussion of what a transmedia world must be like in order for transmedia products to be possible. The reason for this is a hypothesis that through such an analysis we will also be able to discuss the conditions for good transmedia projects.
It may sound strange in a discussion of something made by human being as transmedia products to talk about intransitive objects, that is, things that exists independent of our minds. These intransitive objects, according to Bhaskar and Bryant, are often ‘out of phase’ with events and experiences. There are always things that we can not experience, or that we not yet have experienced, or do not know how to experience.
Bryant uses Bhaskar’s diagram to distinguish between
– ‘the domain of the empirical’ – where events are reduced to experiences and mechanisms are excluded,
– ‘the domain of the actual’ – where some event may be possible to experience, while other events are not yet experienced or impossible to experience, and
– ‘the domain of the real’ – where mechanism, events and experiences may or may not occur together. [note]
If I have understood Bryant’s analysis, in order to understand conditions for experimental science Bhaskar distinguish between closed system, where mechanism and events goes together (for example a laboratory experiment) and open systems, where events are not possible to relate to a specific mechanism (most everyday situations).
My conclusion of such an argument is that for us to answer the question of what a transmedia storyworld must be like for transmedia products to be possible, we have to develop a way to create a version of Bhaskar’s closed systems. Either as an empirical analysis of existing storyworlds and their parts, or a speculative analysis including both conceptualizations and analyses of these conceptualizations.
My first case will be Fritz Lang’s and Thea von Harbou’s ‘world’ of Dr. Mabuse.