Transmediation and historicity [Accepted | Rescheduled]

Ernesto Peña, Kedrick James and Yuya Takeda

Paper accepted to The International Network for Theory of History (INTH) conference, in coauthorship with Dr. Kedrick James and Yuya Takeda. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the event itself has been rescheduled to 2021. The abstract of this paper is presented here:

Does the representation and materialization of history depend on the relative stasis of signs? With this presentation, we attempt to tackle a seemingly fundamental question of the conference: “What happens to historical insights or ideas when they are ‘translated’ from one medium to another?” Transmediation refers to the process of translating an artifact from one mode of representation to another. In educational contexts, this term has been employed to refer to the reinterpretation of content between media while employing some or all of the same sensory modes, for instance, when a theatre play is made into a TV show or movie (e.g., Serafini, 2010). However, the way we employ transmediation refers to the translation of the same artifact from one sensory mode to a different one (for instance, the sonification of an image or the visualization of sound) while maintaining the original artifact as unaltered as possible. This version of transmediation has been afforded by digitization and the omnifunctional nature of raw data, which allows it to be interpreted by different media editors. 

Understandably, the possibility of changing data from one sensory mode brings with it ontological questions about such data, questions that have barely been discussed because there are no existing frameworks to enable such discussions. For instance, in previous works, we have addressed the permeability of the current copyright regulations as they are dependent not only on the original work but its original format and medium (Takeda, Peña & DLC, 2019). In this presentation, we will open an avenue to discuss the potential implications that transmediation has specifically for historicization. Parting from Trüper’s critique to the “flatness” of the concept and his semiotic approach to historicity: “what marks the work of historicization is rather the production of sign relations, in a broad sense. Things historical acquire the property of being historical on account of their relations to other historical things” (2019, p.27), we ask: how do we account for signs that can take different sensory representations? What is the nature of the sign (and therefore the sign relation) from the point of view of historicization?  


Serafini, F. (2010). Reading Multimodal Texts: Perceptual, Structural and Ideological Perspectives. Children’s Literature in Education, 41(2), 85–104.

Takeda, Y., & Peña, E., Digital Literacy Centre (2019, June 5). Transmediation: Hiding in Plain Sight: Material Tools, Digital Processes, and Missing Pedagogy. Presented at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Trüper, H. (2019). The Flatness of Historicity. History and Theory, 58(1), 23–49.