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Design Narratives and Social Narratives for Community Empowerment


Abstract and Figures

Considering Design as a set of practices that impact on the environment in which we lead our everyday activities, we assume that enacted narratives grounded on transmedia practices (formats based on audiovisual contents about communities and keeping with their surroundings) are able to support innovations stemming from local communities, as they constitute the most basic form of social life (Czarniawska, 2004). By presenting the case study of Plug Social TV, through which we experienced audio-visual languages and products in a collaborative process, we wish to discuss participatory design practices and storytelling both as opportunities for identity building and community engagement, and tools that can lead, support and amplify active communities' initiatives. By analysing the preliminary outcomes of this project, there can be identified two critical poles: on one hand, the design issue of having a strong communicative narrative structure within a participatory process; on the other hand, the lack of patterns recognition into a total fictional world, as a social issue. Our assumption is that the interdisciplinary work of designers, filmmakers and social scientists can build a setting enabling the inclusion of different kind of ‘usable knowledges’ (Fareri, 2009), facilitating interactions, enhancing reflexivity and generating feedback loops. Starting from the same case study, the paper presents a critical perspective on practices oriented to social innovation and on the use of storytelling in the design field and the of visual and narrative approach in social research.
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A Matter of Design|Proceedings of the 5th STS Italian Conference
A Matter of Design: Making Society trough Science and Technology
Proceedings of the 5th STS Italia Conference
Edited by Claudio Coletta, Sara Colombo, Paolo Magaudda, Alvise
Mattozzi, Laura Lucia Parolin and Lucia Rampino
An Open Access Digital Publication by STS Italia Publishing
Released: December 2014
ISBN: 978-90-78146-05-6
Publishing project: Paolo Magaudda
Editing and layout: Stefano Crabu
Cover design: Sara Colombo
Contact: STS Italia, Via Carducci 32, 20123, Milano.
The 5th STS Italia Conference was supported by: Doctoral Programme in
Design - Politecnico di Milano, Fondazione Bassetti and Fastweb.
A pdf version of this publication can be downloaded at:
This publication is licensed under the
Creative Commons: Attribution,
Noncommercial, No Derivative Works - 2.5
Italian License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 IT).
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A Matter of Design|Proceedings of the 5th STS Italian Conference
Design Narratives and Social Narratives for
Community Empowerment
Valentina ANZOISE a, Francesca PIREDDA*b and Simona VENDITTI b
a Ca' Foscari University; b Politecnico di Milano
Considering Design as a set of practices that impact on the environment
in which we lead our everyday activities, we assume that enacted narratives
grounded on transmedia practices (formats based on audiovisual contents
about communities and keeping with their surroundings) are able to support
innovations stemming from local communities, as they constitute the most
basic form of social life (Czarniawska, 2004). By presenting the case study of
Plug Social TV, through which we experienced audio-visual languages and
products in a collaborative process, we wish to discuss participatory design
practices and storytelling both as opportunities for identity building and
community engagement, and tools that can lead, support and amplify active
communities' initiatives. By analysing the preliminary outcomes of this
project, there can be identified two critical poles: on one hand, the design
issue of having a strong communicative narrative structure within a
participatory process; on the other hand, the lack of patterns recognition into
a total fictional world, as a social issue. Our assumption is that the
interdisciplinary work of designers, filmmakers and social scientists can build
a setting enabling the inclusion of different kind of ‘usable knowledges’
(Fareri, 2009), facilitating interactions, enhancing reflexivity and generating
feedback loops. Starting from the same case study, the paper presents a
critical perspective on practices oriented to social innovation and on the use
of storytelling in the design field and the of visual and narrative approach in
social research.
Keywords: Narratives; social innovation; participatory practices; audiovisual
Enacted narratives are actions which are discursively constructed and
undertaken, and can be considered as practices able to support innovations
* Corresponding author: Francesca Piredda | e-mail:
stemming from local communities, since they constitute the most basic form
of social life (Czarniawska, 2004). With the notion of enacted narratives we
refer to the particular narratives ‘embodied’ and put into play by people,
which instantiate (fully or partially) the narrative structures that narrators
and listeners from the same narrative community share and can recognize as
cultural facts. Tales and myths are among the highest expressions of
narrative structures that circulate within a narrative community and that its
members begin listening as infants and continue listening, and then telling,
throughout their lives. E.g. probably most of European people know the tale
of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and have - somehow - enacted this narrative
structure in their childhood (i.e. transgressing rules given by adults, etc.)
From the design point of view, a sustainable innovation process is a
‘social process of learning’ (Manzini, 2003). Different languages and formats
can provide support to pursue this aim, e.g. in the realm of scenario
building, visualizations of possible solutions and brief narratives describing
the deepest motivations for people engagement are always needed (Carroll,
1995). Indeed, the social benefit of narratives can be then identified into the
ability to create imaginary worlds that can be considered as reflective layers
of reality, from which the narrative structure is transferred to the current
context, generating actions which are driven by individual and/or collective
narrative logics (Lane, 2005).
Narratives and communities
Narratives – primarily because of their sense-making function and as
privileged ‘access’ to understand how individuals structure the unknown and
social change occurs – constitute powerful resources for ‘designed’ or
intentional action. Moreover, they help to explain the relationships between
events in a process and encode all kinds of data that are relevant for a wide
range of phenomena as they are among the ‘most widely used forms of
organizing human experience’ (Bruner, 1991, p. 9).
Therefore, narrative accounts are constructs that serve to ‘enable and
constrain further action and further accounting, regardless of who produces
them’ (Pentland, 1999, p. 721). They are especially relevant because people
do not simply tell stories, but they also enact them: being not just a form of
representing but also of constituting reality (Bruner, 1991). Moreover,
stories provide legitimacy and accountability for people’s actions as they
respond to a narrative logic that allows individuals to make sense out of
what is happening around them and to proactively plan and act even upon
Design Narratives and Social Narratives for Community Empowerment
arising challenges and uncertainties. Nonetheless, although narratives do
not just reflect process but also shape them, they have not equal
possibilities to drive changes: dominant discourses are inscribed in societal
institutions, in text and discourses, behaviours and material culture, giving
them enormous material advantages, whereby alternative discourses tend
to remain marginalized (Witkin, 2010). Indeed, each group’s narrative
privileges some voices and silences others: they are exercises of power.
Selective silencing is an unavoidable feature of narrative: finding the
silent voices and revealing the sources of power in a narrative constitute one
purpose of deconstruction. Moreover, the loose link between intentional
states and subsequent action is the reason why narrative accounts cannot
provide causal explanations, although we can come to know the reasons and
the interpretations given by individuals for things happening.
The elements sketched above lead us to the importance of detecting
(and supporting) narratives (either dominant or emerging) as they are the
basis of the construction and reproduction of communities and collective
imaginaries, i.e. a narrative community consists of – a group of people – no
matter if they have ever physically met each other, whose communion is
based on the sharing and understanding of a set of narratives (and narrative
structures). Just a limited number is at hands to produce the stories its
members share, but they are the focal pivots upon which the identities of
the group are constructed, actions are fostered and events are interpreted.
Therefore, the role of communication design in building and fostering
capabilities that support the understanding and construction of narrative
communities, is crucial.
Audiovisual storytelling and design for social
Quoting Carl DiSalvo (2009) we might say that communication design has
a crucial role in the construction of publics: because of rhetorical strategies
for opening up meanings and adapting them, the communication designer
can find the proper forms for re-shaping the artefacts and events produced
by users and communities, both tracing the conditions and the
consequences of an issue.
As designers and scholars with specific expertise in audio-visual
storytelling and transmedia strategies, we are experimenting the
contribution of communication within co-design process together with an
approach aimed at enabling social dialogue and the build up of shared
visions using the transformative power of stories.
We have been exploring envisioning and storytelling as design acts
towards a community-centred communication (Piredda, 2008; Galbiati,
Piredda, Mattana and Bertolotti, 2010). Referring to the term empowerment
as the process of enabling local communities to increase their active
participation in social life, developing projects for the community itself and
building a more liveable neighbourhood, we can describe audiovisual
storytelling as a tool for people empowerment.
The idea that storytelling can play a role in the realm of design for social
innovation is the main topic under discussion within the scientific
community of design at the international level being promoted by IMAGIS
research team - Politecnico di Milano, Design Academy Eindhoven and MAD
Faculty/LUCA within the DESIS Philosophy Talks’ series on Storytelling and
Design for Social Innovation ( in Dublin
(November 2013), in Eindhoven (February and October 2014), in Milan (May
2014). In these contexts we have been discussing the topic of storytelling,
what we can learn from taking a philosophical perspective, focusing on the
role of storytelling in the practice of design for social innovation as enabling
the opening up of underexplored ranges of meanings in contemporary
society. Looking at the manifold ways design is using storytelling techniques
within its practices, the analysis of some examples coming from designers
themselves highlights the variety of styles and forms emerging both from
the professional and research realms, having stories at every single stage of
the design process for collecting testimonials, creating empathy or
experiencing user’s points of view embedding, performing or enacting their
stories, providing people with further tools for telling stories, envisioning
possible solutions or speculating about the future (forecasting).
For example, in the realm of scenario building, visualizations of possible
solutions and brief narratives describing the deepest motivations for people
engagement are always needed (Carroll, 1995). Quoting Nik Baerten’s video-
statement for the DESIS Philosophy Talk Storytelling #3, ‘On the one hand
[stories] can be considered tools to establish a common ground for
discussion; secondly, they’re tools in order to gain insight into people’s
perspectives; and last but not least, they’re tools to engage or move people.
[...] Stories could play a role bridging the existing situation, the world as
it is and the world that could be, allowing people and designers as well to
render tangible how they experience one and how they would like to
experience the other, with hopes and fears, establishing a sense of distance.
Design Narratives and Social Narratives for Community Empowerment
[...] Stories enable us to establish kaleidoscopic views on how the
situation could be in the future, establishing pathways of change and
engaging people to use their imagination’.
Furthermore, the DESIS in the Mirror project (Bertolotti, Mendoza e
Piredda, 2013) by IMAGIS - Politecnico di Milano and DESIS Network, focuses
on audiovisual storytelling in particular, discussing why video is such a
powerful communication tool, how social innovation projects are
communicated through video and what could be improved encouraging the
cross-fertilization of filmmaking and design practices. ‘Documentation and
audiovisual contents are a privileged way to capture transformations’, says
Andres Burbano Valdez (DESIS Colombia); ‘It is a very powerful way of
communicating complex ideas to people’, as Mugendi K. M’Rithaa (CPUT
DESIS Lab, Cape Town) underlines. Then, according to François Jégou (DESIS
Network - STS) audiovisual storytelling is able ‘to inspire all social innovators,
designers, architects, urban planners, politicians in changing the way they
invent new solutions or new policies’.
Participatory video is a social interaction process, which uses audiovisual
tools to enable dialogue within a community. By directly giving people the
management and the control of the expressive tool, they can discuss themes
and methods on how to face issues affecting the community itself.
In this field, different experiences share the use of documentaries in a
social-anthropological context, but they differ from a methodological point
of view since they use different and multidisciplinary techniques and
approaches, often merging them together.
Participatory video is a process born to support fieldwork (Collizzolli,
2010). Nevertheless, three main elements are common and peculiar: it is a
scriptless video process (audiovisual language is a key element of
expression, without any definition of the subject beforehand); it is directed
by a group of grassroots people; it moves forward in iterative cycles of
shooting-reviewing, activating mechanisms of internal dialogue and self-
awareness. Moreover, participatory video process generates both horizontal
feedbacks with communities sharing similar problems all over the world and
vertical feedbacks linking decision makers and the community itself.
Self-documentation and self-narration, within participatory video
processes, represent a way for people to express themselves and make them
able to spread their experiences as small but meaningful stories (Collizzolli,
2010). ‘As a mediation tool, the power of video was used to help resolve
conflicts, achieve consensus and find a common ground for collective action.
Video [...] demonstrates how powerful images can be used in documenting
realities, [...] using those realities to bring about significant changes’ (White,
2003). Participatory video could enter the early stages of the design process
developing an audio-visual text that claims to fit into a mainstream. Story
making and video-making as participatory processes need a strategy to
become scalable. They have then a cathartic role for the community itself,
facilitating interaction and enabling self-expression, but, in order to pursue
and widespread beyond the effective surroundings, narrative worlds have to
be unfold in transmedia storytelling. It is all about opening up and expanding
a storyworld across media platforms and engaging the audience within the
transmedia practices as open systems of participation (Gambarato, 2013).
Since video per se is not enough, we are experimenting Social TV as a
platform to foster feedback process between stakeholders, helping people
to become free not only to arrange their daily life with innovative
sustainable solutions, but also to nurture their projects step by step. Our
hypothesis is that such a platform could then give them voice, make them
able to share values and promote the evolution of ongoing initiatives.
Case study: Plug Social TV
Plug Social TV is an ongoing project whose aim is to experience audio-
visual languages and products in a collaborative process, using participatory
design practices and social media. The Social TV includes different formats,
such as web-series, short documentaries and talk shows, whose plots and
characters are based on real people and stories of a specific community
located in a suburban area of Milan, Italy.
The word ‘Social’, related to this project, has a double meaning: on one
hand it refers to Social Media as tools for supporting community building
and co-operation, since Plug is based on digital channels and Social Media,
using Facebook as the main platform. On the other hand, ‘Social TV’ is
intended as a Community Television since it refers to a specific community
showing contents of local interest.
The context in which the project takes place is that of a former industrial
area which has been redeveloped thanks to some urban renewals, and that
hosts a branch of Politecnico di Milano.
In recent years, a heterogeneous mix of inhabitants has populated this
area: former workers of local factories, first and second generations of
foreign citizens and the new community of out-of-town students. This
cultural mixture has amplified the gap between the former industrial
Design Narratives and Social Narratives for Community Empowerment
character focusing on the past and the new international and academic
identity looking into the future.
Furthermore, the introduction of such a huge educational structure into
a neighbourhood portrayed by industrial ruins and with a suburban identity,
has deeply modified not only the territorial configuration, but also the
relationships between citizens and their local district and between
permanent inhabitants and temporary city-users.
In this context, it is necessary to set up processes that are able to reflect
the new complex identity of the neighbourhood, crossing cultural and
generational boundaries, facilitating community relationships and driving
reciprocal exchange dynamics.
The main goal of the project ‘Plug Social TV’ is creating a platform for
dialogue and interaction which makes use of community-based narratives to
express the several identities of the territory and their perception, in order
to support the relationship among the neighbourhood inhabitants and the
students. The model of a participatory communication strategy has the aim
of offering forms and channels of expression for social groups, sharing
common interests and practices.
Second aim is building a 'narrative transmedia landscape' using digital
technologies and new media in order to engage people on a common
narrative about their local area.
Finally, the definition of a model of partnerships with associations of
citizens and local institutions is able to systematically drive citizens' actions
in the direction of a more participatory local administration.
Within the process we involved the neighbourhood associations who are
connected to city municipality, creating a scalable model, in order to give
voice to community’s needs, helping the inhabitants to understand and
address issues affecting them and driving their interests for more efficient
decision-making operations. We included the establishment of partnerships
with local service providers and retailers considering them as stakeholders
that can have an impact on the collaborative process of regeneration and
empowerment of local identity and community participation.
Activities started in October 2013 with a one-day workshop in which
team-works of students and citizens worked collaboratively in order to
explore the neighbourhood in which our University is located, thus creating
a first connection and occasion of meeting.
A group of active citizens and two classes of students from the Master
Degree course in Communication and Interior Design participated. As
designers and researchers, we facilitated the workshop and we established
partnerships with some citizens’ associations who promoted the event
among other inhabitants and supported workshops’ facilitation.
The whole process counted three main phases: exploration of the local
context, concept and creation of the story world across digital media, video
production and feedbacks.
Aim of the first phase was to explore the local area and investigate the
perception that citizens have of their neighbourhood, asking them to share
needs and expectations. The nine mixed groups, composed by students and
citizens, went out in the neighbourhood and collected audiovisual material
(pictures, videos, interviews, tales from the inhabitants), they identified a
narrative environment and developed a community-based storytelling idea.
The work went on in the following months: students expanded their
short stories and created nine documentaries based on the material they
had collected during the workshop. They presented the documentaries to
the community in December, with an exhibition at the public library. During
the exhibition, students and citizens met again and started discussing about
the visual re-elaboration of the local area: citizens were able to see
themselves interviewed, as well as the people belonging to their community
of reference, they recognized their own voices and opinions in the
interviews and they were able to give feedbacks telling their impressions
and feelings.
The nine documentaries can be considered as mid-term results, which
are able to maintain the connection between the two communities and to
activate a self-recognition process through which individuals and groups can
see themselves as the main characters of a common story.
Design Narratives and Social Narratives for Community Empowerment
Figure 1 Plug Social TV: Timeline of activities and outputs
In order to maintain this dynamic feedback loop, students were asked to
set up the online community, creating the virtual identity for the web-TV
channel. They realized a brand for the web-TV, with a logo and a name (Plug)
and created the profiles on different Social Networks. Facebook has been
chosen as the main platform, but the system involves accounts also on
YouTube and Twitter plus an official landing page.
The use of Social Media as tools and methods for sharing and discussing
information as well as a way to distribute and spread contents of local
interest, have already been proved successful (Lachapelle, 2011).
The use of Social Networks helped us to involve citizens into the
activities, keeping them updated with news and information, giving them a
place – either virtual and physical - where people of the neighbourhood can
discuss, thus creating a basis for further participation and engagement.
In the second phase, students focused on the definition of the story
universe (characters, actions, environments, relationships, etc.) and its
distribution across several channels (online/offline) according to a
transmedia strategy.
The narrative elements that have been collected from the
neighbourhood are, in this second phase, re-elaborated and rearranged in
order to build fictional audio-visual artefacts whose plots are based on
reality. These fictional products are identified as formats that can be
distributed on Social Media channels and that have a transmedia structure.
For the production phase, students developed nine web-series, which
have different genre, language, tone of voice, media structure and degrees
of engagement and they produced the web-series promos.
Here, we want to focus on two of the productions realized.
The first one, entitled ‘Das de man’ (a dialect form for ‘Give each other a
hand’) has real people of the neighbourhood as main characters and shows
stories that are directly connected to their personal experiences. Locations
are real and plots of the seven episodes are based on specific themes that
are identified by citizens in a co-design activity.
Each episode is produced using UGC (User-Generated Contents): citizens
are taught how to use cameras and tools for video-production through
online tutorials and specific workshops, so that they are able to express
themselves using audio-visual languages.
This format can be considered as a hybrid between documentary and
fiction in which the citizens involved can be divided in two main groups:
those who have a story to tell about the neighbourhood but that are not
familiar with new technologies, social networks and audio-visual
productions and those who wants to represent creatively their own point of
view. The former group is given voice through the transformation of its
stories into fiction, and the latter can find a channel for its self-expression.
Despite the non-professional form of the final product, a strong sense of
belonging to a specific community of interests is activated by the recognition
of real characters, locations and stories.
On the other pole we have a format (‘Civico X’ - ‘House number X’) that
tells the story of an imaginary character, Mr. X, whose personal background
is strongly connected to the history of the neighbourhood.
By using an imaginary story, this web-series wants to address some real
community issues: the relationship between foreign and native citizens, the
generation gap between young and old people, the lack of public green
areas and other general themes as safety and mobility.
This is the case where it is more evident the use of transmedia in order
to fill the gap between reality and fiction: some of the products that appear
in the episodes are, thanks to partnerships with local retailers, produced and
put into the local market. Moreover, some of the characters have their own
personal profile on social networks and they actively interact with the Social
TV main platform, adding details and elements to their story.
The two formats described above can be recognized as two critical poles:
on one hand, the most participatory format involved citizens into the whole
creation process, from the script to the production of the episodes, missing
Design Narratives and Social Narratives for Community Empowerment
the goal of a strong communicative narrative structure. Based on personal
experiences and having a first person point of view, this format doesn’t
share a dramatic arc in which a character struggles and finally triumphs over
adversity. Moreover, as far as a design issue is concerned, the format
production process presents a lack of professional competences and
produces audiovisual outputs characterized by an aesthetics that announces
their bottom-up nature and reclaims a meta-narration of the process itself,
which has to be enhanced (design issue).
On the other hand, there is a total fictional format, which could present
a lack of patterns recognition. As far as the social issue is concerned, the
format is able to speak to a wider audience rather than the citizens of the
neighbourhood: the format is telling a mystery tale and is referring to
universal values such as love and the fight against evil power. Even though
the plot is based on historical facts and on the environmental issues
affecting a specific urban area, you don’t have to be a citizen of that area to
understand the story: it both fascinates the public and engages people in
being proactive, joining the local community, empathizing with citizens and
sharing similar experiences (social issue).
Considering Plug Social TV as a case study, Communication Design has
the role of setting up the conditions so that reflective dynamics can be
activated and collaborations among groups of territorial actors developed.
Therefore, our mission is to orient the communication system towards
the construction of a narrative community, starting from the identification of
common interests and the setting up of collaborative communication
activities. The oral storytelling, together with its conceptual and visual
elaboration, the collaborative production of audiovisual artefacts - both
from the creative and technical point of view, the collective viewing in public
spaces of the neighbourhood, the distribution through Social Networks and
other web channels - which expands sharing possibilities and feedback
opportunities, all represent different occasions in which social conversation
can be built and carried on. Groups of citizens are both audiences and
storytellers, they are, together with the designers, the main characters of
narrative acts that require the selection of themes and topics to be
dramatized, goals and audiences to refer to and expressive forms to be
coherent with.
In this context, web-series are more than just entertaining products: they
deal with hyperlocal topics enacting universal themes and values, which are
discussed within the community of interests and practices that have been
reinforced through the practice itself of the production of audiovisual
artefacts. More than that, thanks to the narrative form, the community is
now able to shape its mission and goals, building networks and gaining
strength, going beyond localism. Thus, communication design takes part in
the co-design process with the aim to decrease the gap between micro-
narratives and mainstream.
Web-series as audiovisual products are addressing the local community
as general audience and local institutions as focus target, but processes and
narrative practices, from which the products come from, represent the most
meaningful aspect, which can attract the audience also outside the
community. They represent best practices to compare with and to amplify
by networking, linking and monitoring the development, also in terms of
social impact.
We can argue that local participatory experiences enabled by Plug Social
TV can build a widespread network of smart community TV all over the
world that is expected to develop micro-narratives beside the mainstream.
Even though it is an on-going project, we are already willing to identify what
could be the proper approach to evaluate the impact and the outcomes – in
terms of cascades of transformations produced and processes triggered - of
this activities, (e.g. the Dynamic Evaluation approach) specifically designed
to follow and support the development of innovation processes, within the
Emergence by Design project (MD, FP7- GA n. 284625 Moreover colleagues from MAD/LUCA in
Genk (Belgium) and Università degli Studi di Verona are already asking to
test this model of transmedia practice with other local communities in
collaboration with local stakeholders, in order to strengthen both the social
role of the academy and the relationship between the campus and the
neighbourhood by building a common narrative.
The narrative process that Plug as transmedia practice is unfolding opens
up new possibilities, according to one of the main characteristics of
participatory video: the original goals defined at the very beginning phase,
even if confirmed, often leave the stage to the brand new social and
communicative aims and solutions that the community of citizens and
researchers together might discover and experience along the way due to
the transformative power of stories.
Design Narratives and Social Narratives for Community Empowerment
On one hand, Plug Social TV can be considered as a cultural attractor
(Jenkins, 2006), able to set up the conditions for people engagement in
meaningful experiences. On the other hand, Social TV system scalability can
be possible if we consider it as a format made of practices and partnerships,
which are able to complete social values with the economic ones.
That means that we can refer to the Social TV as a narrative system that
enables communities (worth) and not just as an editorial product with a
commercial account (value) (Jenkins, 2013).
Plug Facebook page, in fact, provides qualitative information coming not
only from the insights, but also from the comments users post on videos.
Thus, they highlight the most meaningful matters: ‘What a thrill!’ (‘Che
emozione!’); ‘I’m so proud of living in this neighbourhood. Beautiful and
precious things are happening’ (‘Orgogliosa di abitare in una zona dove
succedono cose così belle e preziose’); ‘It was nice to meeting you, Mauro!
Good job, Plug, Thank you!’ (‘Che bell’incontro, Mauro! Bravi, Plug, Grazie!’);
‘Great!’ (‘Fantastico!’); ‘Ahah, that’s me and Micia [in the video]’ (‘Ahah, ci
siamo anche io e la Micia’).
Expected results and next steps
The next step of this ongoing project is the production of the web-
episodes together with citizens and partners, developing the participatory
process throughout the audiovisual pipeline and according to the
transmedia strategy. We assume that the different genres of the series
themselves will, in the next future, be able to activate different
communicative patterns and manifold expectations, propping up narrative
acts and enabling different nuances and approaches to participation and
But how can we actually keep on monitoring the engagement? We must
consider both quantitative and qualitative results: by the end of February,
after the publication of the web-series promos, Plug Facebook Page had
more than seven hundred ‘likes’ and Plug Youtube channel counted about
two thousand views. Almost a half of Facebook fans were actually active
users, liking, sharing and commenting posts and videos.
What we can consider as a qualitative result is the fact that the most
commented and shared contents are those videos in which the presence of
the community is more evident: we can notice more interest towards those
clips in which citizens are the main characters of the story.
We concentrate on the three key features of Transmedia Practice (Dena,
2009): first, the creation of a story world towards the construction of a
complex ‘mythology’ (Jenkins, 2009); second, the distribution of content on
different media with the consequent blurring of boundaries between fiction
and reality; third, the audience engagement, which allows people to
participate into meaning making processes becoming aware of their main
role in the media landscape (Ciancia, 2013).
Putting the project into practice requires a large productive effort, that
we are able to face thanks to the collaboration between students and
citizens. The business model can be sustained merging skills and resources,
which are already available within the community: partnerships, product
placement activities, sponsorships, service providing, stakeholders
involvement, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing initiatives.
However, the final result cannot reach a high quality aesthetical
standard: the online spread of UGC (User-Generated Contents) gets people
used to videos and products realized and distributed online despite a lack of
literacy that broadcasting editors would never distribute on mainstream
channels. Therefore, it is necessary to keep track of the process triggered
and to collect those practices, which are able to communicate and give value
to the social and productive context in which the project is considered as a
meaningful social experience.
The collaboration between professionals and non-professionals, then
needs to be designed: we need to document the process of engaging
citizens and making them become protagonists (both as main characters of
the story and videomakers). We have to film people filming themselves in
order to record the self-narration process, to provide them further materials
for self-expression and self-reflection, and to amplify the project itself and
the framework we are developing (meta-cinema, meta-TV).
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... Il coinvolgimento della comunità e dei diversi attori locali è stato sviluppato attraverso attività sul campo e workshop che hanno coinvolto associazioni e cittadini (circa 30 membri della comunità locale) 3 , studenti della Scuola del Design (circa 100 fra studenti di Design della Comunicazione e Design degli Interni), in collaborazione con il Consiglio di Zona 9 (ora Municipio 9) del Comune di Milano, settore Ambiente e Territorio (Anzoise, Piredda, Venditti 2014;Piredda, Fassi 2015). ...
... Un fenomeno che emerge all'interno del paradigma Second Screen, ovvero dell'utilizzo da parte dei pubblici di più schermi contemporaneamente durante la fruizione di un programma, di solito per commentare e condividere l'esperienza con i propri pari, pur non essendo in presenza. Per il progetto specifico però assume una specifica connotazione: in Plug Social TV, infatti, il termine 'social' fa riferimento, da un lato, al fatto che le principali piattaforme di distribuzione dei contenuti sono rappresentate dai social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter e Instagram) 4 ; dall'altro al fatto che si riconosce ai social network e alle social television un ruolo cardine nei processi di auto-rappresentazione e auto-narrazione (Anzoise, Piredda, Venditti 2014). ...
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In questo paper presentiamo il caso studio Plug Social TV, un esperimento di progettazione collaborativa attivato nel 2013 in due quartieri periferici della città di Milano (Bovisa e Dergano), che per circa tre anni ha coinvolto l’intero sistema locale: l’università, con la Scuola del Design e il laboratorio di ricerca Imagis Lab1 del Politecnico di Milano, il Consiglio di Zona 9 (ora Municipio 9), cittadini, artigiani, commercianti e associazioni di quartiere. Un progetto che, incrociando il tema della cultura, dei linguaggi di comunicazione e del territorio, sperimenta l’uso delle pratiche narrative (storylistening e storytelling) in un contesto in cui si sta assistendo al proliferare di contenuti prodotti dal basso e di processi di coinvolgimento degli utenti e dei pubblici, secondo la retorica della partecipazione e dell’interazione.
... Visualization was suggested as a mediator for user participation and empowerment in neighborhood design [27]. Narratives have the ability to create imaginary worlds for the public and increase their active participation in social life via enabling social dialogue [28,29]. Olivia's research identified crafting activities as a way to allow older adults to participate in the design process [30]. ...
... This case study mostly concerns the idea of "making things visible and tangible", "reconstructing local identities" (Manzini, 2015). What's more, we are experimenting ways for engaging non-experts in participatory video and storytelling processes developing specific tools for collecting and reframing stories, producing narratives and storytelling formats (Anzoise, Piredda, Venditti, 2015). The final result is the production of transmedia systems for Plug Social TV, including on one hand brand new contents for social media and digital storytelling (web series, video pills, graphic novels, serial novels, twitteratura, ecc.) and spin-offs that developed new story lines through pages and profiles. ...
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The German philosopher Hannah Arendt believes that storytelling can be used to reopen the idea of public space and to facilitate dialogue/action amongst citizens aimed at attaining a more participative society. She regards storytelling as the only real political action, as it opens up the idea of public space where everybody is invited to take part in the discussion in which decisions upon the polis – the common realm – are taken together. Arendt goes back to Aristotle’s definition that man is a political animal, “zoon politikon”. To participate in the construction of the common realm and to be an active component of societal life is what defines the most profound human vocation. Arendt sees this as the meaning of the word “hero”; not a superman, but rather one who contributes to the construction of the public sphere. This paper further expands on the political implications of storytelling in social innovation, by taking into account the writings of Arendt as well as some experimentations of use of storytelling in social innovation taken place at international level.
This chapter is about the impact and legacy of the campUS project related to the wider topic of universities as drivers of social innovation. It involves a comparison of the previous chapters, offering a discussion of the research actions conducted in the campUS programme. By discussing the various actions implemented, the specific or shared methodologies adopted and the different results obtained, this chapter seeks to interpret the individual operations and results achieved and highlights cross-cutting issues as both paradigmatic and challenging in the field of participatory design: time, scale, governability, impact and integration.
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Design for Territories is a rather recent field of study and research. It began to be outlined at the end of the ‘90s and was initially established as a direct application to real situations through action research activities or educational experimentations. Thus, situated design methods are applied and verified, models and processes are improved and specific tools are developed. The aim of this paper is to describe this field of study’s state-of-the-art in order to fulfil the goal of outlining the distinctive features of design for territories from a theoretical point of view. What does Design for Territories deal with? What are its strategies and its methods? The paper aims to answer these questions through a review of design research experiences and the debate with experts in the field, who have been involved in this study through interviews and focus groups.
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Theoretical and analytical considerations around the development of transmedia projects are evolving, but are still widely open, probably because transmedia storytelling is a relatively new subject that does not yet have its own specific methods and methodology of analysis. Moreover, transmedia projects are complex phenomena involving multiple dimensions, such as narrative, cultural context, marketing, business models, and legal framework. Currently, the usual approach gives place to methodologically separate analytical perspectives related to some of these dimensions. This article first discusses the elusive concept of transmedia storytelling and later presents analytical considerations outlining relevant aspects that can contribute to perceive the process of developing transmedia projects. The significance of these discussions is to address essential features of the design process behind transmedia projects and contribute to support the analytic needs of transmedia designers and the applied research in the interest of the media industry.
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The paper will address the issue of dialogue between actors with different skills, starting from some evidences: 1- TRANSLATION. The growing need (in the scientific field and dissemination) to display and shape ideas, information, data, to communicate results and findings making them accessible, interpretable and sharable (Breidbach and Vercellone 2010) by communities that are heterogeneous in terms of skills or operational contexts; 2 - TRANSFORMATION. The interdisciplinary nature of transformation design, that has its great strengths in its ability to mediate diverse points of view and facilitate collaboration due to the assumption that complex problems cannot be addressed from a single point of view (Design Council 2006); 3 - ENVISIONING. Communication design therefore takes on the role of promoting cultural change using tools for listening and expression, that are common or shared between disciplines, and able to activate a dialogue for social innovation. It has to face and drive change by developing processes, tools and forms of communication that assume listening and storytelling activities, and the relationship among people as the real engine of innovation. The paper proposes an approach that considers the audiovisual artifacts, especially the "informative animation", as "Boundary Objects" (Star and Griesemer 1989), artifacts produced in the context of decision-making and collaborative processes that involve actors with different skills and heterogeneous expectations: “Their boundary nature is reflected by the fact that they are simultaneously concrete and abstract, specific and general, conventionalized and customized” (Star and Griesemer 1989: 408). Will therefore be proposed examples of animations created over the years (since 2009) by the IMAGIS research team and some students in communication design (School of Design, Politecnico di Milano). These short forms of audiovisual communication are dedicated to the theme of urban transformation and are part of a process of dialogue between stakeholders (citizens, city users, associations, businesses, schools, institutions), giving shape to their expectations and the collective aspirations in order to build shared visions of the future (Galbiati and Piredda 2012; These audiovisual artifacts will be analyzed from the point of view of aesthetics and languages, focusing on the complex relationship between live action and animation. As far as animated images have been created rather than captured, they foster people to reflect on what is represented and not simply observe what is shown (Wells and Hardstaff 2008). For this reason animation can be account as "boundary object", being characterized, at the same time, by constructedness (Wells 2011), and by the high flexibility given by the reactivation of a rich toolbox (Hébert 2005). According to the state of the art, our experience highlights how communication designers often use forms of animation to activate a dialogue with other disciplines. Therefore, the main goal of this work will be to bring out an aesthetic of the so-called “video scenario” as a "boundary object" and going beyond the definition of the 4 types proposed by Star and Griesemer (Repositories, Ideal type, Coincident boundaries, Standardized forms).
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Transmedia is a cultural paradigm that allows audiences to participate in the meaning-making process of narrative worlds. However, what does 'transmedia' really mean? There are so many voices and definitions, but the question remains: is transmedia a real practice able to foster multiple perspectives, allowing the development of widespread creativity and enhancing the role of the crowd? The aim of this paper is to expose the debate around the term and identify its key features in order to develop a design tool.
The following conversation is an edited excerpt from a broader roundtable discussion, organized and moderated by Cinema Journal between June and July 2013. In this section, the conversation focuses on popular culture, fans, and niche cultures. The contributors responded to a series of prompts that asked them to consider the relationship between Spreadable Media and past and current work in fan studies (including Henry Jenkins’s Textual Poachers and Convergence Culture).1 Participants also explore Spreadable Media’s relationship to fan studies scholarship and ask whether Spreadable Media represents a shift in the way we think of fans in relationship to popular culture. The full conversation addresses Spreadable Media’s engagement with questions of transmedia, digital culture, and online social activism more broadly, and it will be published online in an upcoming edition of Transformative Works and Cultures. [End Page 152] Although Spreadable Media is ultimately not a fan studies book, nor does it try to be, it purposefully engages the concept of the fan and thus gets read in conjunction with fan scholarship, including Jenkins’s previous works, Textual Poachers and Convergence Culture. Given that trajectory and the way the book repeatedly deploys specific examples of fan activities within its larger project, it raises the question as to how Spreadable Media uses the fan and how it engages with fan scholarship. Looking at the way Spreadable Media stretches the concept of being a fan to a point of seeming unrecognizability, I would suggest that the book is ultimately not interested in fans, except what they tell us about larger audiences. There are obviously strategic reasons to expand the term fan from the narrow confines that Henry Jenkins’s earlier Textual Poachers set out. In the intervening years, many aspects of fandom have mainstreamed, a move that Henry has both described extensively and partly helped bring about. There are many benefits to conceptualizing active audiences as fans, but I’d like to look at some of the drawbacks. In particular, I’d like to look at what happens when the definition of fan changes from one based on identity to one based on action. I’d like to look at what gets left out when the definition of fan is as broadly conceived as it is in Spreadable Media, when any “like” click on Facebook, any forwarding of a YouTube link, constitutes a fan activity. I am concerned that such a broadening of the concept facilitates a shift from the fans studied in Textual Poachers to general audiences. Such a shift moves the focus away from the marginal media fan, who was mostly commercially nonviable, often resistant, and uncooperative, and whose dedication to a gift economy was often in spite of capitalist alternatives and not because they didn’t exist. In its stead, the fans who take center stage in Spreadable Media are the commercializable audiences, who happily seem to collaborate in their own exploitation, free laborers creating value of which they cannot even assume ownership. What gets excluded and marginalized in Spreadable Media, then, are the very founders of the concept of fan, the unruly and aggressively anticommercial, the queered and sexually explicit, the anticapitalist and anticopyright. What gets excluded are the audiences whose practices may have been adapted and adopted and celebrated but whose presence is ultimately not desired in this brand-new, commercially viable fan universe. Spreadable Media acknowledges this danger: “We all should be vigilant over what gets sacrificed, compromised, or co-opted by media audiences as part of this process of mainstreaming the activities and interests of cult audiences.”2 But when reading through the chapters, I am distressed by observing that very compromise the authors warn against. I fear the actual driving force of...
Narrative is especially relevant to the analysis of organizational processes because people do not simply tell stories-they enact them. Narrative data have surface features that are useful for description, but explanatory process theories must be based on deeper structures that are not directly observable. To address this problem and to facilitate better process theory, in this article I use concepts from narrative theory to create a framework for analyzing structural features in narrative data.
Spreadable Media maps fundamental changes taking place in our contemporary media environment, a space where corporations no longer tightly control media distribution and many of us are directly involved in the circulation of content. It contrasts "stickiness"-aggregating attention in centralized places-with "spreadability"-dispersing content widely through both formal and informal networks,some approved, many unauthorized. Stickiness has been the measure of success in the broadcast era (and has been carried over to the online world), but "spreadability" describes the ways content travels through social media. Following up on the hugely influential Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, this book challenges some of the prevailing metaphors and frameworks used to describe contemporary media, from biological metaphors like "memes" and "viral" to the concept of "Web 2.0" and the popular notion of "influencers." Spreadable Media examines the nature of audience engagement,the environment of participation, the way appraisal creates value,and the transnational flows at the heart of these phenomena. It delineates the elements that make content more spreadable and highlights emerging media business models built for a world of participatory circulation. The book also explores the internal tensions companies face as they adapt to the new communication reality and argues for the need to shift from "hearing" to "listening" in corporate culture. Drawing on examples from film, music, games, comics, television,transmedia storytelling, advertising, and public relations industries,among others-from both the U.S. and around the world-the authors illustrate the contours of our current media environment. They highlight the vexing questions content creators must tackle and the responsibilities we all face as citizens in a world where many of us regularly circulate media content. Written for any and all of us who actively create and share media content, Spreadable Media provides a clear understanding of how people are spreading ideas and the implications these activities have for business, politics, and everyday life.
Scientific work is heterogeneous, requiring many different actors and viewpoints. It also requires cooperation. The two create tension between divergent viewpoints and the need for generalizable findings. We present a model of how one group of actors managed this tension. It draws on the work of amateurs, professionals, administrators and others connected to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, during its early years. Extending the Latour-Callon model of interessement, two major activities are central for translating between viewpoints: standardization of methods, and the development of `boundary objects'. Boundary objects are both adaptable to different viewpoints and robust enough to maintain identity across them. We distinguish four types of boundary objects: repositories, ideal types, coincident boundaries and standardized forms.