Children’s experiences with a transmedia narrative: Insights for promoting critical multimodal literacy in the digital age

Emilia Djonov, Chiao-I Tseng, Victor Fei Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children’s engagement with transmedia narratives, where the same story is presented through different media such as book, film and interactive app, can reveal their knowledge about different modes, media and software for multimedia authoring. Such insights provide a suitable starting point for developing effective approaches to critical multimodal literacy education in the digital age. Specifically, they can inform decisions about which concepts and frameworks for the critical multimodal analysis of texts and digital technologies to adapt for use with young learners in the classroom. We advance this argument through a case study comprising: ● the transmedia narrative The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore in its film (Joyce & Oldenburg, 2011), interactive app (Moonbot Studios, 2011), and traditional picture book (Joyce, 2012) formats; ● observations of mothers and their 4-5-year-old children’s interaction with the book and the app; ● a comic strip and a LEGO animation created respectively by a 7-year-old (Oskar) and a 10-year-old (Leon), which represent a scene from that narrative; and ● an interview with Leon about his experience of making the animation with the software tools Stop Motion Studio and GarageBand ‘08. The case study’s findings reveal: · preschool-aged children’s awareness of media affordances and semantic patterns in narrative · the older children’s understanding of narrative conventions and capacity to construe broad social themes by selecting the most apt semiotic resources available in their chosen media · the ways both familiarity with different digital semiotic technologies and non-digital resources (e.g. LEGO) and a software’s design can shape a child’s multimedia authoring. Drawing on these findings, we present a method for comparative multimodal analysis that educators can adapt for use with young children. We also propose strategies for encouraging young learners to adopt a critical multimodal perspective towards software as a semiotic technology, which necessarily involves examining continuity and change across old and new technologies and semiotic practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDiscourse, Context and Media
Publication statusSubmitted - 28 Aug 2020

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