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Multiple narratives

A book on transmediality leads the reader to the boundaries of narrative (for businesses, too)

 Total narration. For everyone and everything. This is the new way of telling a story, using multiple means of communication to recount the same thing, the effect of which is greater than the sum of its individual parts. In insider jargon, this is referred to as transmedia storytelling, or, translated into layperson’s terms, a story that goes beyond the boundaries of the individual narrative tools that can be used to tell it. Here, we are looking not only at the written word, but also images and therefore colour, and perhaps even sound, and movement, touch and so on. Transmedia storytelling takes us to the current (and perhaps final) frontiers of narrative. It pays to understand this technique in full, before any attempt is made to use it.

Reading “Transmedia experience. Dallo storytelling alla narrazione totale” (Transmedia experience. From storytelling to total narration) written by Francesco Gavatorta and Riccardo Milanesi (both teachers and experts in innovative communication techniques) is an experience in itself, even more so because of the subject it addresses. Right from the beginning of the book, we are aware of being led along new paths, when the authors use total football and Star Wars in order to improve our understanding of the content of the text. This is an excellent approach that enables us, in just a few pages, to gain a snapshot of a narrative technique that is far from easy to grasp, let alone to use. The explanation and application of the theory must in any case be based on precise techniques, and for this reason, the authors provide the following explanation in the first pages of the text: “Transmedia is a very precise adjective that encompasses a series of mechanics and links, and one which can simultaneously accommodate applications that go beyond the simple rendering of a story”. That is to say, nothing is left to chance in the use of these new forms of narration, bearing in mind that, as the two authors write, “in transmedia storytelling (…) each medium makes a unique contribution to the development of a single narrative universe”.

The book thus begins by addressing the theme of “building worlds”, before moving on to that of “designing narratives” and then to the function (including within companies) of the transmedia narrative organisation, which is a technique that must succeed in conveying sensations as well as information. Everything ends with a question: is there a transmedia future?

Gavatorta and Milanesi’s writing is highly enjoyable and comprehensible (despite the fact that they use an impressive amount of technical vocabulary), and the content of their book should be read and considered carefully, although the reader is of course not obliged to always agree with the authors.

The reference to Italo Calvino’s “Lezioni Americane“ (the English title of which is Six Memos for the Next Millennium ) is very apt, and indeed, right back in 1985, Calvino was already talking about “multiplicity”, which, after all, is essentially what transmediality is today. And indeed, Gavatorta and Milanesi honestly and dutifully pay homage to his great foresight, writing: “Transmedia storytelling translates into a multiplicity of perspectives”.

Transmedia experience. Dallo storytelling alla narrazione totale (Transmedia experience. From storytelling to total narration)

Francesco Gavatorta, Riccardo Milanesi

Franco Angeli, 2020