On Friday, June 16, the United Federation of Italian Writers (FUIS) hosted a presentation on Giovanni Prattichizzo’s book Serialita espanse—Storytelling, pubblici e social tv (Seriality expanded—Storytelling, audiences and social tv). The presentation was conducted by a panel of five members: Prattichizzo, the author himself; Natale Antonio Rossi, president of FUIS (who delivered the opening comments); Axel Fiacco, founder and CEO of BIC Formats; Antonella Condorelli, journalist from RaiDue – RAI (who moderated the event); and Janet De Nardis, founder and Artistic Director of the Roma Web Fest.
The discussion centered around the topics of the evolution of television products, markets and audiences, and what is causing them to change. Focuses were on the seriality of television shows and the development of a modern digital age in which these shows can be shared and viewed across countless platforms, allowing audiences around the world can engage with them like never before. Through the rise of new forms of storytelling such as cross-media storytelling (making the same show/story available over many different platforms such as on cable, on the web, on DVD, etc.) and transmedia storytelling (the telling of multiple stories within the same storyworld of a show through paratexts such as fanfiction, posters/ads, video games, etc.), even though network ratings have declined in the modern era, the boundaries of television have been expanded as fans from every corner of the world now have more opportunities than ever to experience television shows and the storyworlds presented in them. This has led to a very “social tv” world and an explosion of fan interaction through social networks, blogs, fanfiction/fanvids, and in some cases, the contribution of ideas that help write the actual shows (Prattichizzo presented the Australian series #7DaysLater as an example of this).
The Roma Web Fest’s Janet De Nardis added to the discussion her expertise on audience evolution and the role of the internet in the modern age of entertainment. She began her remarks by discussing how viewing habits have changed over the years. She noted that in the past, families and friends would gather together to watch shows on a routine schedule. However, as people no longer have the time to adhere to such schedules, there has been an explosion of platforms such as Netflix where people now watch shows by themselves whenever they find the time to do so. This has made television watching a much more intimate and one-on-one experience for viewers. In addition, De Nardis pointed out that the younger generations have found themselves having increasingly less free-time and shorter attention spans, and so they look for even shorter viewing experiences, thus giving rise to the world of brief web-native series. These webseries allow artists to debut their works and experiment with them online, creating an opportunity for anyone who wants to share their products with the world. Furthermore, she added that as webseries gain popularity, more traditional series also adapt to the newly evolved audiences through the transmedia process as they are turned into spin-off movies, cartoons, webseries, and so on.
Overall, the book tries to look at whether changes such as these will be what “saves” television moving forward. Prattichizzo notes that from “Homer to the Social Network society” people have always had the natural desire to tell stories to captivate audiences. It seems as if these changes in the modern era of entertainment are just an inevitable part of what will keep that tradition going.