Transmedia HistoryTelling: rethinking methods and communicative practices in the field of legal history
Transmedia HistoryTelling is a project that reflects on methods and communicative practices in the field of history with the ultimate aim of creating new approaches to the history of law. The project creatively appropriates the concept of ‘transmedia storytelling’ (H Jenkins, Transmedia storytelling, 2003), traditionally used to analyse the articulation of different narratives in the entertainment industry, and adapts it for academic inquiry. Applying the principles of transmedia communication at different stages of our historical research is part of a broader process of discussion that seeks to create spaces for transdisciplinary exchange with other fields of historical research as well as within the humanities and with other social sciences.
We want to pursue this aim by combining three interconnected approaches: first, by exploring different channels to communicate research results in order to create new historical narratives; second, by reflecting on the dependencies between media and research practices; and third, by exploring better modes of interaction between academia and society.
Regarding the first approach, we seek to promote a multimodal transmission of historical knowledge in order to communicate our research results to a wide range of different audiences. This step focuses on the exploration of different formats for knowledge dissemination. We have started a video project that is divided in two parts. The first is a video series called Transmedia Legal HistoryTelling, in which PhD students and researchers of the Department talk about their projects and research findings in an informal, accessible way. These videos are available on different social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and are also sometimes part of the reflections on our Department’s blog Legal History Insights. The videos’ aesthetics and structure are the product of collective reflection about storytelling, media and contemporary communication needs in academia.
The second approach aims to go beyond the mere dissemination of knowledge and focuses more on two-way communication and interaction. This aspect constitutes the core of the project. Here, we want to achieve three things: first, to increase the dialogue with colleagues from other disciplines who are experienced in science communication using different media; second, to produce new storylines addressing a more general audience based on our previous research findings; and third, to promote more frequent and creative interaction between researchers from different disciplines and diverse audiences. To do that, we have created a second series of videos, which bears the project’s name: Transmedia HistoryTelling. In contrast to Transmedia Legal HistoryTelling, which explores new ways of disseminating research, this video series uses the reflection about media and communicative practices as the basis for thinking about the methodologies of legal history. Thus, whereas our project’s first angle of approach focuses on legal history and legal historians, the second goes beyond the discipline’s topical and methodological boundaries: it immerses itself in discussions with other disciplines and establishes dialogues with other audiences, but with the purpose of later returning to the history of law in a renewed form, with new questions and methods, and ready to produce novel knowledge that generates more complex ways of understanding legal knowledge from the past. In sum, we seek to produce more pluralistic and diverse legal historical knowledge by using more participatory research techniques – such as the participatory action research approach – and by reflecting seriously on the societal role researchers have in contemporary contexts.
Both these approaches seek to establish a more fruitful connection between scientific research and contemporary social concerns. They thus are strongly connected, and indeed prerequisite, to the project’s third main area of activity: the improvement of communication between academia and the rest of society. Our outputs strive to establish conversations between past and present in a way that puts historical knowledge at the service of society. This is why we are continually exploring our dissemination and communication channels: while in the early stages of the project, we have been focusing on exploring video making in different formats, we hope to be able to extend these channels in new directions in the future by starting the production of podcasts and a graphic novel, among others.