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Transmedia Stories: Narrative Methods for Public Health and Social Justice


Every book project is collaborative as it passes through stages of composition, revision, editing, and production. Even so, Transmedia Stories has arguably depended on an even larger coalition of collaborators. Though the book itself was composed, in both text and multimedia features, by a small group, the projects that make up the primary cases came from years of work among both a core and rotating group of researchers, designers, teachers, curriculum specialists, students, parents, grant writers, and organizers. While this book attempts to be more than a summary or transcription of these efforts, there would be nothing to write about without the projects that an imaginative and committed community brought into existence. Project leads and designers are listed at the end of each chapter, but the list of people who made this work possible is much longer. We cannot possibly acknowledge everyone who has been part of, or in the orbit of, the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) at the University of Chicago where most of the work depicted in this book was performed between 2011 (even before Ci3 officially launched) and 2022 (when we put the finishing touches on this book). Even so, we hope to name many of the folks who were responsible, both directly and indirectly, for the shared work that this book seeks to share.

Most of all, none of this work would have been possible without Melissa Gilliam who founded and directed Ci3 and co-founded its labs. Melissa has been a leader and visionary in senses that include the intellectual, artistic, and infrastructural. She oversaw this work first as a medical clinician, then as a professor, then the dean of diversity and inclusion for the Biological Sciences Division and vice provost at the University of Chicago, and most recently at Ohio State University, where she became provost and executive vice president in 2021.

The executive directors of Ci3 who have offered day-to-day leadership have included Lee Hasselbacher, Angela Heimburger, Brandon Hill, and Crystal Tyler.

The directors of the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab have been Ashlyn Sparrow and Mason Arrington. The directors of the Transmedia Story Lab have been Márquez Rhyne, Elizabeth Futrell, and Suchi Bansal. The director of the Design Lab has been Amanda Geppert.

The communications leads included Valerie Reynolds, Erin Garcia, Melissa Sherwin, and Lauren Whalen.

Designers, writers, and workshop leaders included Mason Arrington, Ireashia Bennett, Robin Berman, Leslie Quinlan Burrell, Robin Cogdell, Amanda Dittami, Philip Ehrenberg, Kinsey Erickson, Seed Lynn, Bea Malsky, Emily Moss, Ailea Stites, Ainsley Sutherland, James Taylor, and Keith S. Wilson. Many of their projects are not depicted in this book but were part of the process that helped us make some of the collected discoveries about design, learning, and other topics.

Researchers and Ci3 staff have included Motolani Akinola, Brie Anderson, Trevor Bak, Shannon Bowers, Adriana (Adge) Brodyn, Brandon Dull, Camille Fabiyi, Charlie Fuller, Luciana Hebert, Timothy Hoffelder, Erin Jaworski, Ian Jones, Jessica Law, Myles Lawter, Soo Young Lee, Phoebe Lyman, Vanya Manthena, Ellen McCammon, Amy Moore, Darnell Motley, Sara Newton, Mallory Nolen, Sarah Orzalli, Laura Paradis, Jessica Preleski, Madeline Quasebarth, Sierra Ribero, Anthony Rodriguez-Ortiz, Kris Rosentel, Jennifer Rowley, Tina Schuh, Heather Sipsma, Alicia VandeVusse, Catherine Wieczorek, Claire Wilson, Shirley Yan, and Danielle Young.

We’re so grateful to this remarkable, hardworking, disciplinarily wide-ranging, and wonderfully weird constellation of people for thinking and making, together, including within periods of generative dissensus in which the right path forward was unknown to any of us. In these cases, we sat in the discomfort together until we found or created a way forward. Beyond their assigned roles, the members of Ci3 played many parts in the midst of projects that exceeded any existing blueprints.

Patrick Jagoda: I would like to thank my family, especially Irus, Ziggy, David, and Mark, as well as Ashlyn, Alicia, Kristen, and The Team for keeping me company in moments of excitement and exhaustion alike. At the University of Chicago, I extend by gratitude to my colleagues in the Cinema & Media Studies, English, and Obstetrics and Gynecology departments, as well as the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and the Media Arts, Data, and Design Center, who encouraged me to pursue this transdisciplinary work over the years. For the year of fellowship that made writing this book possible, I would like to acknowledge the generosity of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Ireashia Bennett: I would like to thank my grandma, Gwendolyn G. Bennett, for nurturing my curiosity and creativity as a child and throughout my adolescence. I extend gratitude to Márquez Rhyne, a dear friend and creative colleague, who has taught me so much about intergenerational connections and what it means to be free and courageous.

Ashlyn Sparrow: I would like to thank my mom Michelle, my dad Tony, and my sister Alicia Sparrow, and my dog Maximillian Pegasus (Max). 

For her careful attention, throughout the review and editorial process, and for encouraging this experiment in publication, many thanks to Friederike Sundaram of Stanford University Press. For precise editorial support, including with the Scalar platform, we are grateful to Jasmine Mulliken. For reviewing the art log and permissions, we appreciate the work of Kristen Spina Harrison. Special thanks to Lauren Berliner, Kari Kraus, and Jentery Sayers for their generous advice and expertise, which was critical to the revision process.


Certain portions of this book have appeared, in different forms, in online journals. Parts of Chapter 3 draw from “Transmedia Collage,” co-authored by Ireashia Bennett, Jennifer Brier, Patrick Jagoda, Marquez Rhyne, Gary Kafer, and Chelsea Ridley, and published in Thresholds. Issue 3, June 2018, http://openthresholds.org/3/transmediacollage. A previous though less detailed version of Chapter 5 appeared as “S.E.E.D.: Creating and Implementing an Alternate Reality,” with text by Patrick Jagoda and video work by Philip Ehrenberg with contributions from Melissa Gilliam, in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. Issue 22.2, Spring 2018, http://technorhetoric.net/22.2/praxis/ehrenberg-et-al/index.html.

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images come from the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3), including the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab and Transmedia Story Lab, at the University of Chicago.