Transmedia storytelling—Be Unsocial interview

Five questions about research, entertainment and human experience.

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This interview was originally published on Be Unsocial, a research centre and consultancy studio specialized in digital anthropology.
Special thanks to
Alice Avallone for this great opportunity.

What does transmedia mean? How does it differ from crossmedia? How does a content strategy change when creating a narrative that moves across multiple media? And what role does our emotional experience play in all this? We asked an expert.

Enrico Granzotto is a researcher and creative consultant specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling. Founder of Humenhoid, he studies the narrative modalities and communicative potential between literature, cinema, television, and video games. As a creative director operating in Venice, Enrico also offers integrated communication services for art by collaborating with international institutions and artists.

It was a real pleasure to talk to him, that’s what he told us about his research and his job. Enjoy the reading!

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There are many definitions, formulated in different periods to describe similar phenomena and constantly evolving communication mechanisms.
Considering a macroscopic difference, the crossmedia system adapts and declines a single story in different media usually directing the user experience in a linear communication system, keeping the original contents practically unchanged.

In the transmedia system a story is instead fragmented into further interdependent content through different media channels, generating a non-linear browsing experience, with multiple points of entry. Publishing products, cinema, TV series, video games, documentaries, sound materials: it is the narration with a transmedia system that involves the viewer in a total immersion, expanding the understanding of the fictional world of reference through a complementary “additive comprehension” (H. Jenkins ), obtained by exploring all the multi-platform narrative branches both in the analog and digital fields. In one sentence: the crossmedia adapts and repeats, the transmedia expands and diversifies.

It is a very specific method, which requires particular design frameworks, and a specific digital strategy considering the contents, the communication function and the type of audience involved. In Italy it is a rare condition, but on the rise, with very surprising case studies. I invite you to read the fundamental historical research of Henry Jenkins, Frank Rose, Jeff Gomez, Andrea Phillips and Christy Dena; among the first researchers to observe this technological and cultural phenomenon.

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As a reader-spectator-gamer I have always been attracted to “dense” stories, capable of hosting multiple narratives and expanding content by connecting characters, events, and places in a dynamic ecosystem.

I have always been fascinated by the possibility of knowing historical, anthropological, philosophical, geographical and technological aspects interdependent with the main narrative, continuing to explore the fictional world in different communication methods predisposed to expansions and serial developments.

A fundamental moment of my professional awareness of the entertainment industry was the degree in Visual Arts (2015), where with the thesis dedicated to the Prometheus transmedia campaign (R. Scott, 2012) I examined the entire process of managing the narrative information and its promotional strategy, designed to connect to the universe of Alien (R. Scott, 1979) and Blade Runner (R. Scott, 1982), also documenting the recent technological evolution, the related cultural changes, and the rise of a new generation of immersive intellectual properties.

I then decided to focus on transmedia research as a career prospect, starting to write articles and creative analyses to deepen theoretical aspects and professional skills.

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With the evolution of the market and the emergence of a particularly active, demanding and competent audience, the quality level of the immersive configurations is continuously growing. Many intellectual properties are now specially conceived (or reconceived, readjusted and restarted) to be declined in transmedia assets including editorial products in the information architecture (see the special case of “S.” by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst), films, TV series , video games, documentaries, comics, board games, sound experiences, musical performances, exhibitions and amusement parks.

The historical cases of Star Wars (1977), The Matrix (1999), The Lord of The Rings (2001), The Dark Knight (2008), Avatar (2009), and the recent Hunger Games (2012), Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011), Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014), Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015), The Martian (2015), Mad Max (2015) and Tom Clancy’s: The Division (2016) represent relevant testimonials for studying the evolution of narrative marketing and to evaluate how the diversification of narrative contents between analog and digital domain has helped to evolve the strategies of the sector towards interdisciplinary configurations, reducing the perceptual space between reality and fiction and transforming the promotion of a product into an additional entertainment experience and a narrative expansion with high commercial potential.

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As human beings, we imagine, seek and share stories to connect, tell about us, simulate alternative realities, find deep meanings and get excited. All stories are different from each other, but they are also the same on a primordial level: they unite us with abstract content through emotions, helping to generate our individual and collective identity.

In the entertainment sector there is a growing desire for immersion in all media areas: people want to be inside complex stories, feel involved, develop a sense of empathy and belonging, imitate languages, aesthetic dimensions and behaviours, interact directly with a narrative world and its characters: digital expands the methods of communication and interaction by amplifying the immersive potential of storytelling, returning a long-term, personalized and participatory entertainment experience, with intense cognitive, physical, and emotional involvement.

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There are numerous inter-sectoral experiments: from the film industry, to sports, from education, to fashion, to the armed forces. In 2017, I was part of a research group of the UIBI Foundation, set up by the Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca Foundation, dedicated to creating immersive learning experiences by combining narrative, pedagogy, historical-scientific content, and game design to improve educational processes and professional training. Our organization of the Digital Education Festival in 2018, together with important companies, institutions and international guests (Indire, Institute of Play, Google, Acer, Microsoft, Samsung), has demonstrated the great inter-sectoral interest and the surprising potential based on the enhancement specific individual skills through immersive and playful modalities, both in the educational field and for company training and recruitment processes.

Looking at sectors distinct from the entertainment industry, the recent cases applied to fashion and the luxury market (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermès, Kenzo, Fendi), demonstrate a tendency to integrate game mechanics into corporate promotional strategies, with the ability to condition the sales processes and stimulate an intergenerational affiliation of users.

Finally, in addition to an interesting return of analogue content in many promotional initiatives with meta-communication properties (especially as immersive publishing initiatives in paper form), the emergence of high-performance virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and mixed (XR) reality , will contribute to a radical phase of technological experimentation where storytelling, game mechanics and immersive communication will stimulate new areas of research and interaction by exploring the relationships between entertainment and skills, work and play, individual behaviour and participatory culture, imposing a continuous redefinition of management models of companies, executive processes, promotional strategies, and the related roles of professionals and users.

Legal notice
The iconographic material, the trademarks (registered or unregistered) and all the information reported as being in any case protected belong to the respective owners. The internal use of protected material responds exclusively to a scientific and cultural intent.

Humenhoid is a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling, with focus on cinema, tv series, and video games.

For information, communications or proposals for collaboration write to
Enrico Granzotto | | | Instagram

Follow Humenhoid on Instagram

Humenhoid’s projects include:

  • Project Prometheus
    A comprehensive case study on information management and narrative design in the Alien (R. Scott, 1979) and Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012) interconnected franchises; (120 pp, available upon request).

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I’m a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling with focus on cinema, tv series, and videogames |

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