Academic journal article Narrative Culture

Medium and Narrative Change: The Effects of Multiple Media on the "Glasgow Girls" Story and Their Real-Life Campaign

Academic journal article Narrative Culture

Medium and Narrative Change: The Effects of Multiple Media on the "Glasgow Girls" Story and Their Real-Life Campaign

Article excerpt

Transmediality, introduced by Jenkins, is a relatively recent concept in narrative and media studies. It focuses on narratives and the impact of multiple media on their telling. Jenkins (Jenkins, "Searching for the Origami Unicorn") observes this as a (post)modern trend within the fictional world narratives, which were once confined to a single medium-text or image or sound or motion picture; the novel, the artwork, the theater, the film-now, increasingly use multiple media across their telling. For example, Jenkins cites the Marvel Comics franchise, which has transformed Marvel superhero comic books into film, television, and online contexts (Jenkins, "Searching for the Origami Unicorn" 110-11), with each new medium adding to and expanding the Marvel mythology.

This essay is not concerned with further analysis of Marvel's fictional superhero stories. Rather, its concern is with the nonfictional, and with the story of real-life activists based in Glasgow, Scotland's largest city. The Glasgow Girls' campaign was created in 2005 by a group of secondary-school pupils from both refugee and Glaswegian backgrounds, to protest against the detention of one of their classmates and her family by UK immigration authorities. The campaign later expanded to challenge the practice of dawn raids and child detention by the Home Office, and it achieved a number of successes in Scotland. Its story has been told multiple times by the news media, and it has also been the subject of two BBC documentaries (Hill, The Children Who Disappear and The Glasgow Girls), an acclaimed musical (Bissett and Greig), and a BBC (musical) drama (Barr)-which have all added different details and dimensions to the original story of the campaign. The story of the Glasgow Girls can therefore be said to be strongly transmedial, and it is in this context that we wish to analyze its development and impact.

To do this, this essay departs somewhat from current scholarship on transmedial narrative, which, so far, has been focused on the impact of transmedial storytelling on fictional worlds and draws its theoretical framework from the field of media studies (Ryan). As the transmediality of the Glasgow Girls' story draws on a real-world campaign and its real-world impact in Glasgow and in Scotland, we look to anthropological scholarship such as that of Abu-Lughod, Jackson, and Nic Craith, which considers how the act of story-making, storytelling, and the creation of narrative is rooted in sociality, and is consequently socially meaningful-as Jackson notes, "storytelling is, in the final analysis, a social act. Stories are composed and recounted, their meanings negotiated and renegotiated, within circles of kinsmen and friends" (112). Although the theoretical bases of these two forms of narrative scholarship (media studies and anthropology) may seem epistemologically quite far apart, we would argue there is sufficient room for compatibility. While theorizing transmediality, Jenkins draws on the work of Pierre Lévy to note that a transmedial narrative can be seen as a "'cultural attractor,' drawing together and creating common ground across diverse communities" (Jenkins, "Searching for the Origami Unicorn" 95). However, he develops Lévy's work to argue that transmedial narrative can also be seen as a "'cultural activator,' setting in motion [the communities'] decipherment, speculation, and elaboration" (95). Meanwhile, in commenting on the social lives of narratives, Jackson argues that the "performance of a story reinforces [a] relativity of perspectives, for in requiring the participation of both audience and storyteller in an interactive relationship of call and response, the storytelling event itself realizes both socially and dialogically an ideal of tolerant solidarity in difference" (Jackson 146), and that "it is not the impramatur of individual identity that gives a story value, but the imprimatur of a community" (77).

There are common themes in both these arguments, which recognize that storytelling is a continually contested act between different communities (whether media communities or social communities), and that the final result is indicative of the collective rather than the individual. …

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