Trans, Inter, Hybrid, or Entangled? – The multifold Concepts of Interlaced Media in History

Sigrun Lehnert, Hamburg

5 April 2018


Many concepts of media interconnections, particularly in structures of the digital world, have developed over decades in various disciplines (such as literary studies and art). In some cases, they differ only very little and have to be redefined and differentiated whenever they are used in research projects. The basis of all these approaches is the question of what changes regarding the content, structure, aesthetics or presentation forms may occur when different media and / or genres are involved. Globalization processes have an impact as well – media are reacting to each other internationally. The concepts of transnationality, intermediality and transmediality open up a vast field for researchers, e. g. in film studies.

Film has always included different code systems (with regards to the conception as well as the reception) – even silent films never worked without sound and music. Film is a complex medium which integrates sound, graphics, writing, photography. Thus, it can be called ‘multimedial’ itself. Additionally, genres, types of film (such as documentary, drama, series) [in German expression ‘Gattungen’] and aesthetic concepts are often mixed and in mixing these, film becomes ‘hybrid’. On the Internet, the multimediality and hybridity is even more diverse: The different ‘systems of characters’ do not appear solitarily on the internet. A media product (such as a video) is accompanied at least by writing and / or language – for the purposes of explanation and searchability. This means that there are different viewing angles and definitions of terms and they all deal with medial intermixes and interactions. This has led to a randomness and a confusing variety of approaches, which will subsequently be outlined.[i]

From 2013 to 2017, an international network dealt with the concept of “Entangled Media History” and used it as a ‘new concept’[ii] in various projects. The idea of “Entangled Media History” rejects the national and media-limited view, and instead looks at the connectedness and interlacing of media both transmedially and transnationally.

Entangled media histories refer not only to interrelations with respect to transborder/transnational, but also to transmedial/intermedial phenomena in media history – looking at the whole process of media communication, if possible.[iii]

In addition, since the concept deals with the vast variety of media content, phenomena such as medial continuity, convergence, intermedia references, and transmedia storytelling, could be inherent. Therefore, “Entangled Media History” (EMHIS) could be regarded as a ‘meta-concept’. But how and why do such concepts prove useful? It can be assumed, that through an extensive use of meta-concepts, the understanding of the single approaches, their genesis, and focused application will fade. Superordinate approaches could be less informative. The less specific the chosen approach is, the more specific and limited the application area obviously must be: The EMHIS research group has worked mainly on case studies. In the final analysis of the EMHIS-project, they again referred to the approach’s rich facets:

We have been identifying worthwhile topics for exploring entangled media histories in relation to the materiality of media, the hierarchies or asymmetries within media ensembles, the structures and interrelations of individual or collective media repertoires in everyday life, the ‘effect’ or ‘impact’ of media, the processes of migration, dissemination or movement, areas or agents of encounter, the ideas of identity and cohesion or exclusion versus inclusion, adoption and adaptation, counter culture and resistance as well as the convergence/divergence of media content or technology. This list may easily be continued. [iv]

Approaches used for dealing with media connections, developed in the 1980s, were widely discussed in the 1990s and spread internationally. The following list which attempts definitions is certainly not complete – additionally, depending on the nation and scientific discipline, the definitions will differ and have been differently accepted in the research communities.

Intermediality The totality of all phenomena that exceed the limits of individual media as well as their combination (for example, media changes, media combinations and intermediary references of various kinds).[v]


Transmediality Media-unspecific travelling phenomena, e.g. the occurrence of the same subject in different media, the implementation of a particular aesthetic or discourse type in different media.[vi]


Transmedia Storytelling Strategy to tell a specific content across multiple media. The narrative phenomena of media convergence (cf. Blog of Henry Jenkins).
Crossmedia A medial product, spread over different media for telling a story as a whole by using links for covering a topic.[vii]
Transnationality of Media


Characteristics of media that go beyond national boundaries.


Combinations of different media genres and / or types of media, mixing of presentation forms.


Intermedia Reference


Relationship between medial texts, reference could be represented, for example, as quotations, allusion, parody, pastiche, travesty, etc.


Convergence of Media


Fusion of different media in one medium.
Continuity in/of Media


Continuity and further development of one medium in another medium.


Multimedia Communication via several channels: content, design, and editorial channels (economic form of intermediality).


Entangled Media History Multiple (content) interweaving between single media or/and between media in different (European and non-European) regions and states.

When definitions are blurred, the uncertainty of using terms and concepts increases. Particularly young scholars may fear criticism in international communities as well as in their own scientific community. As a result, creativity is hampered in studies and interdisciplinary and international commitment might be avoided. But, since EMHIS is based on historical concepts (entangled history and histoire croisée), it could possibly be used as a bridging concept for an interdisciplinary communication with history studies. Through this conceptual diversity, international media comparisons can also be difficult, as the terms can’t be exactly translated. If, however, a meta-concept such as EMHIS is chosen, the risk of misunderstanding could be reduced – but with the consequence of low significance.

The diversity of the concepts of the different disciplines has a parallel in the ‘lack of methods’, which is often attributed to media studies. On closer inspection, however, a variety of methods are used, which are modified and combined depending on the subject matter and the research question.[viii] In order to make the selection of methods comprehensible, models can be used. Models should be clear, realistic, plausible, using graphic elements, and having a heuristic benefit. They are in a way universal, so that they can be applied broadly (for various media or research topics). Models could contribute to the further development of practice, if the relation to practical fields was already integrated in the model development.

Meta-concepts and models reduce the complexity, but they need of course to fit to the research question. Thus, a classification among different models and approaches is still necessary. The advantage of models and meta-approaches is that they might create a bridge of acceptance between disciplines – if they are accepted by the different scientific communities. The disadvantage is that they aren’t correct in general. They just highlight special things, which are (or should be) fundamental for the research. Thus, the application of meta-concepts and models needs to also be specific and the important elements still need to be highlighted to serve the reader. The discussion of concepts (meta or individual ones) and the usefulness of models is to be continued.

[i] Cf. Fraas, C. & Barczok, A. (2006). Intermedialität – Transmedialität. Weblogs im öffentlichen Diskurs. [26.09.2017].

[ii] EMHIS is called a new concept on the website of Hans Bredow-Institute in Hamburg: [26.09.2017].

[iii] Cronqvist, M. & Hilgert, C. (2017): Entangled Media Histories, Media History, 23:1, pp. 130-141, DOI: 10.1080/13688804.2016.1270745, [26.09.2017].

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Cf. Fraas, C. et al. (2006): Intermedialität-Transmedialität. Weblogs im öffentlichen Diskurs. [03.10.2017].

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Cf. Beuthner, M. et al. (Eds) (2017): Transmediales Erzählen, Münster, pp.7-9.

[viii] Cf. Lehnert, S. (2016): Results of a workshop on methods, in: Fernsehmomente, Blog of the workgroup Televisionstudies. [26.09.2017].

Dr. Sigrun Lehnert majored in Media Management (Master of Arts) in Hannover, Germany. Since 2010 Sigrun Lehnert is scientific assistant in Hamburg. Her dissertation project at the University of Hamburg was on „Wochenschau und Tagesschau in den 1950er Jahren“ (German newsreel and early television news in the 1950s), supervised by Prof. Dr. Knut Hickethier. The following book has been published in 2013 by UVK, Konstanz. Her research fields are: film history, television history, documentary film, newsreels, archives and film heritage.


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