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Converging Universes and Media Niches in Serial Narratives: An Approach Through Information Architecture

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Abstract

Our paper deals with models of convergence pertaining to audiovisual media production, with specific reference to serial narratives. The peculiar features of this kind of audiovisual products, such as expansion and persistence over space and time, allow for a privileged point of view on convergence phenomena. The paper adopts an interdisciplinary approach, using conceptual tools from several disciplinary fields, namely film and media studies, as well as media economics and information architecture. Our ultimate purpose is to offer a cross-disciplinary perspective that can profit from the combination of all these fields together. In order to do so, we apply information architecture and cross-channel user experience principles to the media field, adopting an overall ecosystemic perspective, and focusing on the bias between local experience (the single product) and global design (the whole ecosystem) and vice-versa. Furthermore, we focus on three different production strategies—which we have named respectively derivation, cross-media and ecosystem—mainly concentrating on the latter, since contemporary TV series often show an ecosystemic narrative and productive structure. Our purpose is to highlight the misalignments between project and practice, as well as possible forms of conflict and adverse reactions to planning. We account for divergence models that lead to the building of “media niches”, which often remain external or peripheral to the circulation and delivery of media contents—for instance, the case of fans using and re-appropriating of media content linked to specific gender practices and identities.

Keywords

  • Narrative Structure
  • Comic Book
  • Information Architecture
  • Star Trek
  • Convergence Phenomenon

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See for instance such productions as Cold Case (2003–2010) or Law & Order (1990–2010).

  2. 2.

    Alternate Reality Games (ARG) are games that combine the Internet and the real world. They are developed with the help of several Web tools (blogs, email etc.) and confront the player with a mysterious story, full of clues that point to the real world. See Montola, Stenros, and Waern (2009).

  3. 3.

    The Matrix, 1999; Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, 2003, all directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski.

  4. 4.

    Remediation is defined as the representation of a medium in another medium, or the use of some typical features of a medium inside another. Relocation, as described by Francesco Casetti, “is the movement that allows the media to work in new environments and new platforms by bringing back to life the experience it was connected with” (Casetti, 2011).

  5. 5.

    “In serial fiction, to reboot means to discard all established continuity in a series and start over from the beginning” (Wikipedia Contributors, 2013).

  6. 6.

    In biology and ecology, “resilience” is the ability of an ecosystem to maintain or restore the equilibrium condition during or after a perturbative event. For a deeper exploration of this notion see Zolli and Healy (2013).

  7. 7.

    These are events resulting answers from the narrative universe; for example, with the insertion of new ad hoc characters, designed to recapture the attention of a lost audience sector. This was the case of the sudden introduction of the character of Dawn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically created to recapture the teenage audience, which was moving away from the series as a result of the aging of its stars.

  8. 8.

    The classic example comes from the world of soap operas, where the same character is played by different actors, without this leading to major problems for viewers. Take, for example, the character of Thorne in The Bold and the Beautiful, who has been played by three different actors since 1987.

  9. 9.

    Rosen (1999) offers an interesting, relational view on complexity. A system is “simple if all its models are simulable. A system that is not simple, and that accordingly must have a nonsimulable model, is complex”. In other words, Rosen links his notion of complexity to modeling: a simple system can be simulated and predicted; a complex system cannot. “When a single dynamical description is capable of successfully modeling a system, then the behaviors of that system will, by definition, always be correctly predicted. Hence, such a system will not have any ‘complexity’ in the sense above, in that there will exist no unexpected or unanticipated behavior”.

  10. 10.

    As Donald Norman (2009) claims “[a] product is actually a service. Although the designer, manufacturer, distributor, and seller may think it is a product, to the buyer, it offers a valuable service. […] Amazon’s Kindle is [an] example of superb systems thinking. This is Amazon.com’s ePaper-based book reader. Now, there are competing products on the market which offer superior features. Amazon wins, however, because of its systems thinking. No computer is necessary for most transactions. When the Kindle arrives, it is preloaded with the books that were ordered. Moreover, it can work instantly. Even more important, Amazon thought through the entire system, from discovering a book to loading it onto the Kindle. […] No product is an island. A product is more than the product. It is a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. Think through all of the stages of a product or service—from initial intentions through final reflections, from first usage to help, service, and maintenance. Make them all work together seamlessly. That’s systems thinking”. In the information science field, both Marcia Bates (2002) and Gary Marchionini (2012) advocate the need for a shift of perspective, from pure disciplines to connective ones, what they call meta- or cross-boundary disciplines. They have the ability to grow up through synthesis and coordination, and to work across our physical and digital lives.

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Innocenti, V., Pescatore, G., Rosati, L. (2016). Converging Universes and Media Niches in Serial Narratives: An Approach Through Information Architecture. In: Lugmayr, A., Dal Zotto, C. (eds) Media Convergence Handbook - Vol. 2. Media Business and Innovation. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-54487-3_8

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