On May 19 at 10.00 in the Senat's hall (main building of the University of Tartu), Maarja Ojamaa will defend her doctoral thesis in semiotics, «The Transmedial Aspect of Cultural Autocommunication». Supervisor Peeter Torop, oponents Nicola M. Dusi (Modena and Reggio Emilia University, Italy) and Eva Näripea (Estonian Academy of Arts).
The focus of the thesis lies on a phenomenon mostly associated with innovative practices of contemporary mediasphere, but hereby explained as an old and general cultural mechanism. This phenomenon is transmedia, in some contexts termed as crossmedia. Transmedia indicates a situation where a text (a story) exists simultaneously in two or more media channels. A recent local example is the fictional world of “Nullpunkt” (2014), spread across a novel, a film, TV series, a mobile app etc. At first sight, the main objective of such spreading seems to be more effective marketing of the central story. However, it is evident that transmedia also has a poetic potential and a capability of offering a more immersive experience of a fictional world. Currently, the audience of transmedia projects is mostly formed up by youngsters for whom navigating between different platforms is a self-evident skill, a certain transliteracy. It is common to be simultaneously watching TV, supporting the experience with online info, sharing one´s opinion on social media etc. In addition, this generation is accustomed to having all their favourite stories transferred to screens, stages, and toy stores, i.e. to visual and aural languages, to being cognizable by different senses. All this seems like 21st century entertainment, but actually modern communication technology only renders old cultural mechanisms more visible and better analyzable. For example, it is a universal practice to repeat memories of an important, identity-forming event in a diversity of languages, transferring them from oral heritage to cave paintings, textile patterns, architectural elements, documentary films etc. As a result, the given event is preserved in cultural memory as an amalgam of all these versions. This amalgam in turn is not organized according to some presumed objective accuracy of the sources, but in accordance with the present hierarchy of cultural languages. At the same time, transfers between the cultural languages are not only about repeating and preserving meanings, but are explained in the thesis as a key mechanism of creating new meanings and cultural functions.