My name is Jay Johnson. I am a full time faculty member at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, WI, where I teach in the Communication Department. I have developed a Games & Culture course, am developing a Digital Writing course, and teach FYC (English Composition 1 & 2), technical communication, and Writing for Digital Media, an interdisciplinary course. You can read my teaching statement for more details on my work in the classroom. Besides lots of teaching each semester, I continue to do research on transmedia, ARGs, placement testing for my college–all of which I present on at various conferences. Previously, I’ve taught English 101: Introduction to College Writing at UWM and first-year composition courses at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside.
My dissertation argues for a definition of transmedia narratives and games that clarifies a landscape cluttered with transnational entertainment industry buzzwords. To do so, I develop a typology of transmedia, similar to the framework built by Aarseth and Ryan and expanded upon by Eskelinen. My typology includes several similar categories, but is expanded to include Bolter & Grusin’s work of immediacy and hypermediacy. Industry definitions of transmedia often align with franchising, revealing a focus on the industrial logic of an experience spread over multiple media and platforms, especially those of the new media variety.
My definition-building separates the phenomenon from the related practice of franchising. One view of transmedia and transmedia production, as espoused by Michel Reilhac, focuses on a content-specific approach, as opposed to a broadcasting strategy applicable to any intellectual property. This content-specific approach is what I call a “metastatic” approach to transmedia: a form in which a narrative or game grows from one medium to others. In order to more closely argue for a metastatic approach to transmedia, I analyze a specific genre of transmedia, the ARG. By examining ARGs, I argue that they occupy an unique space between narrative and game, offering a potential for an immersive interactive experience. Like transmedia, ARGs are subject to definitional uncertainty in the discourse of the industry. I move toward a specific definition of the ARG, incorporating elements of games, narratives, and performance. In recognizing that ARGs exist in multiple forms, I examine three interdisciplinary contexts through which we can understand ARGs: the industrial, cultural, and educational logics of ARGs.
In examining the industrial logic of ARGs, I argue for an understanding of the phenomenon through the extension of intellectual properties to multiple media and platforms, an imperfect contemporary example of Debord’s spectacle that encourages constant attention, participation, and consumption from highly specific audiences.
I argue for a cultural logic of ARGs by tracing the immersive and hypermediated properties of “new” media as a foundation of the transmedia properties of ARGs. The contemporary ubiquity of digital networked technology leads to multiple versions of mediated realities, a phenomenon that incorporates Virilio’s field effect and Baudrillard’s hypperreal. Furthermore, by arguing for an understanding of ARGs as a type of simulation, the heterotopic geography created by alternate realities overlapping with embodied spaces can be understood as a metareflexive means of producing knowledge and meaning through collective intelligence communities.
Finally, I argue that ARGs can serve as constructivist learning environments that facilitate the formation of transmedia literacy and multimodal composition skills in players. By understanding ARGs as a form of simulation, I argue that ARGs are systems for situated cognition ideal for facilitating the acquisition of not only knowledge but skills in players. In looking at example of educational ARGs, I argue for the future potential use of persuasive ARGs as particularly appropriate tools for social and civic activism.
I was Editor-in-Chief of cream city review for several years (2007-2011) and you can read my fiction at GUERNICA. I used to write more fiction, which tends to be long, convoluted, filled with clues, and unfixed in meaning. I have also dabbled in poetry, working on a wiki-based collection of Yo Gabba Gabba! poems (sonnets and prose poems, mostly) that have a phenomenological lens.
In addition to creative writing, I am interested in transmedia, ARGS, games and simulattions, interactive fiction, new media narratives, and multimodal composition. Current projects include: developing an Alternate Reality Game to teach student critical writing. Past include: exploring transmedia paratexts as a tool for building a reflexively immersive puzzle-solving literacy in engaged viewers of Lost, which can be read through the structures and aesthetics of Desmond-centric episodes; developing a “first-person writer” game based on Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire using Google Earth. You can view Pale Tour and read about some of my other projects on this site.