Smart Post: Transmedia Legitimation: Dark Score Stories and the A&E Brand | Excerpt from Cultural Learnings

Excerpt from Original post by Myles McNutt. November 21, 2011

When I wrote about the “authenticity” of the Game of Thrones scent box Campfire created for that HBO series, I explicitly linked that to the HBO brand, something that is common throughout the marketing for any show on that channel. Dark Score Stories, while aiming for something a little bit more contemporary than that “artifact” from Westeros, is nonetheless tied up in discourses of authenticity, although in this case it has less to do with “historical” accuracy and more to do with legitimating the A&E brand.

Melanie Kohnen, who is currently teaching a course in Transmedia Storytelling at Georgia Tech, remarked on Twitter that her first impression upon receiving a copy of the coffee table book tied to the campaign – which she has since shared with her students, who are in the process of evaluating the campaign – was that “Someone’s really trying to reach for the Quality TV label here.” Quality TV is one of a number of legitimating discourses found within television branding, and the idea of how television is being legitimated has become the subject of an exciting new book (that I sadly haven’t had time to read) from Elana Levine and Michael Z. Newman.

In this instance, I think Melanie is right, and the book (which is very well made, and which features a selection of the black and white images collected on the Dark Score Stories site) and the campaign writ large are definitely aiming to legitimate what could be perceived as a “TV Movie” (which has taken on a low culture connotation when viewed in the context of basic cable) so that it might be more readily considered a “Four-hour epic miniseries” as the press materials suggest. This is not to say that the campaign isn’t also intended to make more people aware of the miniseries’ upcoming premiere, but the nature of the campaign seems designed to make a statement about its quality rather than to sell it more broadly.

On this level, I’m wondering if we might consider transmedia campaigns like this one as an example of channels looking for a way to translate the potential for “spreadability” (or, if you prefer, “virality”) within an online space into a more mediated, and more controlled, context that we might better associate with discourses of quality. Dark Score Stories is still able to be spread by people on Twitter, including a tweet over the weekend from prolific Tweeter Alyssa Milano, but visitors to the site will find something different from the traditional “viral” product, something that’s comprehensive and detailed rather than something designed to capture a moment in the zeitgeist.

That content, by the way, comes in the form of a series of photo essays, accompanied by audio commentary and featuring a number of subtly animated images in addition to traditional photographs (some of which hold hidden secrets)….”

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