Navigazione – Mappa del sito

HomeNumeri83ArticoliTV Series: A Form of Adaptation t...


TV Series: A Form of Adaptation to The Contemporary Media Condition

Angela Maiello
p. 74-88


The article connects the forms of contemporary TV series with the narrative and participatory logics of contemporary media. In particular, the author proposes to consider the wide diffusion and popularity of TV series as a form of response and adaptation to the contemporary media condition. The article proposes an analysis of the ways in which the human instinct for storytelling finds form in contemporary participatory media practices. This reflection is situated within the broader debate on post-cinema and the ways in which new technologies have transformed cinema and audiovisual products. This theoretical perspective is related to the well-known twentieth-century philosophical reflection on the status of narration. TV series, therefore, are a response to the “call for concordance” (Ricœur) that is nowadays more evident than ever. Yet there seems to be a sort of paradox here, that characterises the TV series aesthetic experience: in the process of accomplishing this concordance, by creating solid and unitary world, TV series adapt that transmedia aesthetic (Jenkins) of fragmentation that is typical of contemporary media logic. At the end the author discusses some examples.

Torna su

Testo integrale

1. Beyond television

1Over the last 20 years, media theory and film studies have dealt with two important transformations. The first transformation stems from the technological acceleration that has led to the development of new media devices and practices, which are reshaping our lives and the environment in which we live; in particular, the audiovisual field. The other transformation is from the increasing popularity and cultural importance that a specific audiovisual format has gained in the contemporary media productions; namely, the TV series. In this essay, I argue that the relationship between the technological transformations, that marked the beginning of the new millennium, and the simultaneous proliferation of TV series, is not accidental. TV series are a form of adaptation to the hybrid media environment in which we live.

  • 1 Shaviro 2010; Denson, Leyda 2016.
  • 2 Montani et al. 2018.
  • 3 De Rosa, Hediger 2016: 16.
  • 4 Denson 2016.
  • 5 Bolter, Grusin 1999.
  • 6 Grusin 2015.

2The theoretical premise for my argument is that the study of contemporary seriality should not be framed uniquely within the history of television, but more generally within the analysis of those technological and media innovations that marked the 20th century, initiating a significant transformation of both formats and forms of moving images. Cinema theory introduces the paradigm of post-cinema to analyse and describe this new media condition.1 Rather than identifying what comes before or after the cinema – and rather than pronouncing the end of cinema altogether – this paradigm works as a heuristic concept to trace the wide perimeter of the contemporary mediascape,2 in which different media, devices, forms, formats, and techniques of moving images are converging. In this media environment, which De Rosa and Hediger refer to as “living multiplicity”3 the distinction between what is and is not cinema – or between what is and is not media – becomes increasingly blurred.4 Our media environment is the result of a continuous remediation process,5 understood not only as a process that affects media formats and the social practices connected to them, but also as a radical movement6, which creates an always new and renewable mediascape that redefines the relationship the human being maintains with the world. In this new mediascape, images – and the technologies linked to them – are no longer confined in a specific area of ​​experience, for example, the creation of symbolic forms, which from modernity onwards have traditionally been referred to as “art”. Today, images and technologies deeply permeate everyday life, continuously overlapping planes: the truth and the fiction, the reality and virtuality, for example.

3Given the way technology has been shaping everyday life, we find ourselves living in a post-cinematic space, a hybrid space in which experience is increasingly fragmented, through multiple media and devices, which lose their individuality. Television, for example, is no longer solely a centralised system for the transmission of images. Similarly, the Internet is no longer simply a device for connecting and sharing data. It is precisely in this new media space, where each single medium loses its traditional framework, that seriality is spreading and emerging as the audiovisual form that, perhaps better than others, is able to occupy and exploit this new media condition. On one hand, there is cinema, with its tradition of genres, authors, and forms. On the other hand, there are streaming platforms, social networks, and the participatory culture of the web. TV series fall somewhere in the middle.

  • 7 Casetti 2008.

4Following Benjamin’s argument that sensitivity is historically determined, we can affirm that during the 20th century, cinema – understood as an epistemological device – not only represented the course of the short century, but has also been its eye,7 the medium in which the gaze of an era has embodied itself. In other words, cinema has been our way of looking at the world and experiencing it. In the post-cinematographic era, new or renewed media are emerging, and it is through them that we interact with each other and build our environment. The argument of this paper is that in this scenario, TV series intercept and give answer to a need that is closely related to this new media condition and to the resulting transformations in the field of the audiovisual narrative.

2. Digital media and the instinct for storytelling

  • 8 Bilton 2011.

5In I live in the future, Bilton8 explains how digital media and technologies are transforming the habits and rituals related to the creation, distribution, and consumption of media content. Bilton envisages a new era of storytelling: storytelling permeates every activity of our daily life and each of us, in more or less structured and codified forms, becomes a narrator. The emergence of what we could define as widespread narrativity is to be attributed, once again, above all, to the new media conditions.

  • 9 Cfr. Gottschall 2012.
  • 10 Cometa 2017.
  • 11 Rose 2011.

6Of course, the instinct for storytelling9 transcends the boundaries of narrative forms – in the narrowest sense, literature, theatre, or cinema – and this attitude is not necessarily a specific feature of the era in which we live. Storytelling not only shapes the most varied forms of communication or entertainment, from advertising to sporting events, but it plays a decisive role in the development of the child. More radically, narrative is a distinctive element for the survival of our species. The most recent studies in the field of so-called Literary Cognitivism tend to agree on the hypothesis that narrative ability is a decisive factor in Homo sapiens’ cognitive development and that it precedes the very development of language, as is demonstrated by the creation of technical artefacts and by the ability of transmitting the techniques for creating such artefacts.10 In other words, not only do we live surrounded by stories and tales,11 but we can affirm, with a fair degree of certainty, that the attitude to narration is something deeply rooted in human behaviour, or rather that it codetermines it.

  • 12 Gottschall 2012.
  • 13 Pearson 2015; Ryan, Thon 2014; Page, Thomas 2011.
  • 14 Benjamin 1936a, Eng. trans. 1968: 234.
  • 15 Manovich 2001.

7If the ability to create stories is a distinctive trait of the human beings, which ensures their ability to adapt to the environment around them,12 the question arises as to whether or not it is then possible to identify specificities of the storytelling in the post-cinematographic era.13 More specifically, is it possible that the rapid and intense diffusion and proliferation of series narratives is nothing more than a form of adaptation to the hybrid, trans and post media environment in which we live? We cannot here outline and discuss the variety of narrative forms and formats that have been developed with the diffusion of digital technologies, from hypertexts to video games. Rather, I propose to take into analysis those media forms in which narration is the result of a process of exaptation, so to speak; that is, those forms of media in which narration is not the programmed end, but the result of the technological development linked to that specific medium. Thus, I will move from the analysis of the narrative functioning of social networks because I believe it can help to understand the “need for narrative” that characterises our age and to identify ways to respond to it. The spontaneous narrative forms that emerge from social media participation condense that tendency toward fragmentation that has marked the evolution of media, from the birth of cinema to social networks. During the 30s of the last century, Benjamin described the image of the cameraman, as opposed to that of the painter, as a composition “of multiple fragments which are assembled under a new law”.14 This fragmentation, that can be traced back to the age of mechanical reproduction, becomes “modularity” and “variability” within the digital transformations.15 Digitization, in other words, maximises a tendency already inherent in analog media, and the fragmentation of post-media and post-cinematic storytelling is the downstream result of more general, older tendency, inherent in the very functioning of media, which finds clear manifestation today in the narrative enabled by social media.

  • 16 Casetti 2011.
  • 17 Cometa 2017: 107.

8Now, one way to understand the impact that social media has on communication – and more generally, on the design of the environment in which we live – is to embrace the hypothesis that social media are identitary media.16 This hypothesis proposes that social media enable new ways of externalisation, through which we create our own identity. This is a very controversial subject, because facing the most radical forms of self-promotion or self-exposure that take place on social media, it is common to understand them as a simple demonstration of an increasingly diffused narcissism. We do know, thanks to the theory of extended mind, that within the process of self-construction it is not possible to separate what happens inwardly (in the brain) from what happens outside in our body’s relations with external objects. As Cometa suggests, “the Self does not exist except in the act (enactment) of confrontation, dialogue with things, with the outside world and with others”.17

  • 18 Antinucci 2011.

9With this hypothesis in mind, it seems that social media augment a crucial moment in the individuation process, in the self-construction that takes place through forms of externalisation. It is therefore possible that the extraordinary ability of social media to influence human behaviour depends precisely on their essential rootedness in this species-specific human trait. This process of externalisation mainly follows two often intersecting paths: the iconic and the textual. We could thus say that the development (and posterity) of social media depends essentially on how these two trends – which can be traced back to the evolution of human cultures18 – hybridise themselves more and more effectively.

10In an early phase of social media development – for example, the early versions of the Facebook profile – the networked space functions as a kind of database in which users can put their own data and return to from time to time to share their thoughts and moods. The Facebook social page offered the semblance and experience of an identity card to be updated from time to time and used to get in touch with the inhabitants of the web world. The rapid evolution and massive expansion of Zuckerberg’s social network, which today has over two billion users, has been made possible by a progressive redesign of the user experience: on one hand, enhancing the visual aspects on the other, providing more tools for the creation of actual stories, as in the case of the nowadays more popular Instagram.

11The possibility of inserting images and videos in our own profile, along with sharing links and other audiovisual materials, leads to a more immediate social media experience. However, this seems to be at the expense of a more articulated and inclusive public discourse. The image tends to progressively gain ground on text, as demonstrated by the creation of emoticons to comment on other users’ posts, giving a standardised shape to emotional reactions. At the same time, while the immediate and extemporaneous nature of participation increases, prompted by the use of the images, social media users experience the emerging of the need of “collecting in a story” the traces of their online activity. The transformation of Facebook’s profile, starting in 2012 and continuing to the present, reflects the following trend: the creation of the timeline, characterised by an intrinsic openness but also by limited interactivity. This paradigm shift seems to be an answer to the need of creating a unified story of our social media life.

12The immediacy of social media experience and the possibility of playing with images prevail, not only over the idea of articulating a discourse using the written world, but also over the idea of linearity, which is historically connected to it. One of the most significant moments in this brief history of social media is the introduction of the Stories by Instagram. If up to that moment the social network, taken over by Zuckerberg, struggled to take off, carving a space between the already known Flickr and the participatory version of a mood board, the Stories represent a powerful new model of self-storytelling. This model is comprised of short videos, composed with images, sequences, texts, gifs, music, and other visual elements or with spoken words that we address to ourselves. The circulation of these videos is in some ways very limited because one of the peculiarities of this social network is that it is difficult to link to content outside the social bubble. Even with this potential constraint (which may not be perceived as a constraint by all users), these videos can gain great popularity and catalyse the attention and participation of thousands and thousands of users due to their immediacy. In other words, we could say that Instagram is the new TV, a new million-channel system to share audiovisual content, and each of us can organise its schedule.

13But what kind of stories are Instagram Stories? And what does the rapid and intense evolution of social media tell us about storytelling in the post-cinematographic era? Let’s try to answer these questions using some keywords: shareability, fragmentation, openness.

  • 19 Ricœur 1983, Eng. trans. 1984: 3.
  • 20 Floridi 2015.
  • 21 Ricœur 1984, Eng. trans. 1985: 56.

14The most evident consequence of the evolution of social media is the fact that the sphere of the shareable is now wider or, more properly, that we live in the continuous overlapping of the shared experience with the so-called real experience. Events do not take place in one sphere (what we call reality) and then they are “represented” in another, the web. Life happens exactly at the intersection of these two worlds, which continuously exceed their “natural” borders, which are becoming thresholds of interchange instead. There is not first the “fact”, reality, and then its narrative-media representation, but the exact synchrony, and therefore also reciprocity, of these two moments. If Ricœur argues that “time becomes human time to the extent that it is organised after the manner of a narrative”19, then social media seem to have introduced a new way of thinking and practising this organisation. If this statement is accurate, on what terms today is it true? The forms of widespread narrativity, enabled by social media, are characterised by their intrinsic fragmentary nature. The moments of our life that we share in the form of 15-second videos – the culinary experiences we make and transform into photographs, the places we visit by informing our followers through geolocalization, the songs we listen to, the memories we dig from a past and transform into digital files, the opinions in video-selfie and all other contents we share through social media – are all isolated moments, clippings of a life (or of a story) that doesn’t have a completed sense. Looking for the construction of what is called self-branding – the representation of our own life as a brand – in the overlap between the online and offline spheres,20 our existence becomes a sort of mosaic; we create the pieces, while the technological infrastructure provides the layout. Within this storytelling format, life time becomes a highly fragmented series of time slots, 15-second frames that last only 24 hours. This creates, at most, a heterogeneous image, but not a story organised as a flowing narrative with an overarching theme. To use a term that Ricœur borrows from semiotics,21 we find ourselves in the paradigmatic order, in which terms related to a given action (e.g., dinner, concert, trip) are all synchronic and the relationships of intersignification are continuously variable and interchangeable.

3. The contemporary “call for concordance”

  • 22 A different approach is required to understand the very recent success of TikTok and Reels, the Ins (...)

15If what was previously discussed is true, that the instinct for storytelling is something deeply rooted in human behaviour, then these individual, isolated, fragmented moments require a configuration; that is, they require an act of mediation that gives them an intelligible unity. The web is rich in tools and software, inside or outside of the technical infrastructure of social media. There are several examples of social media platforms and apps which permit this “storytelling” operation. These include the Facebook timeline; the “Archive” function of Instagram, which allows you to collect in a single “chapter” several Stories; or Storify, the platform through which you could create a story, using the content shared on different social media. Last but not least, the most spontaneous forms of reuse of web contents, stored mainly in that great archive of our times that is YouTube, where previously shared images and videos find a new form and life. The pivotal aspect of these forms of stories is their total openness; these contents are available for a continuous work of writing and rewriting and editing and reassembling. In this way, they acquire different configurations each time. These configurations are always temporary and always redefinable. The final work is always in process, yet to come.22

  • 23 Benjamin 1936b, Eng. trans. 1968: 87.
  • 24 Ibidem.
  • 25 Bakhtin 1975, Eng. trans. 1982.

16Are we facing the end of the narrative? The reasons for this question can be traced back to the origin of the contemporary media age. In the essay The Storyteller Benjamin (1936b, en. tr. 1968) argues, “the art of storytelling is reaching its end”.23 He identifies two events that announce this end: 1) the rise of the modern novel; and 2) the spread of information. For Benjamin, the novel marks a clear change in the narrative tradition, dominated by the epic. The novel is a form of individual and not collective storytelling. In addition, while the epic offers a representation of a collectively shared wisdom, the novel puts into prose “the profound perplexity of the living”.24 From this point of view, Benjamin’s arguments are in agreement with those of Bakhtin. Even for Bakhtin epic has as its object the nation’s past; it is rooted in the national tradition; and it creates a world totally separate from the present. In contrast, the novel completely upsets these temporal coordinates, giving birth to characters that are extremely close to the present. So if the narrative coincides perfectly with the epic, the rise of the novel marks its end.25

17However, Benjamin argues there is a much more dangerous form of storytelling than the novel and it is information, which has a more immediate nature and aspires to be understandable in itself, reaching everyone. Information used to be more reliable, Benjamin continues, but today it is more pervasive, able to cover every event around the world, although no story emerges as significant. Once again it seems surprising how the reflections of the German philosopher can to some extent prefigure a situation that finds fulfilment in our age. But even in this case, as in his thesis on art, Benjamin’s argument is anything but a conservative reflection on the decadence of a value, but rather a lucid analysis of a process in progress in which different components and forces take part and which requires new paradigms and new theories. Benjamin’s reflection is echoed by Ricœur):

  • 26 Ricœur 1984, Eng. trans. 1985: 28.

Perhaps, in spite of everything, it is necessary to have confidence in the call for concordance that today still structures the expectations of readers and to believe that new narrative forms, which we do not yet know how to name, are already being born, which will bear witness to the fact that the narrative function can still be metamorphosed, but not so as to die.26

18I propose that TV series answer the “call for concordance”, theorised by Ricœur, which is particularly strong in our media age. In the post-cinematographic era, the proliferation of serial audiovisual stories seems to be a response to the media fragmentation of our life and to the intrinsic openness of the discourses we make to present and tell our stories, to others and to ourselves. TV series are a form of cultural adaptation to this new hybrid media environment, and in so doing they participate in the continuous flow of production and consumption of media contents. This seems to lack a unitary framework, something like a story, that gives a meaningful sense to our experience, regardless of the mere technical infrastructure.

  • 27 Bandirali, Terrone 2021.

19The series do exactly that for us: they create unitary and highly recognizable worlds. Moving from a concept, they nourish it, with variations27 that derives from it and, at the same time, they augment it. Yet there seems to be a sort of paradox here that characterises the TV series aesthetic experience: in the process of accomplishing this, of creating a unitary and meaningful narrative world, TV series use those media logics to which they are a response; that is, the continuous openness and always refreshing organisation of the narration. The result is a virtuous circle between narration and the enrichment of the narrative world; between the open evolution of the story and the unity and recognizability of the world it creates. The strength, power, and posterity of the serial device do not lie in its ability to develop a narrative arc, but in its ability to build worlds that surround the spectator, generating a very strong feeling of adherence to it. To simplify: we don’t watch TV series because we want to know how they end, we watch and love TV series because we want to know how they work, how those worlds are built, in the awareness that their meaning far exceeds the simple story, which, however, gives them a shape.

  • 28 Cfr. Boni 2017; Wolf 2011.

20In the TV series, therefore, the storytelling has the task of creating the world of the story, defining its rules; the result is the activation of a mutual relationship between the definition of the rules that make up that world and the fact that they are repeatedly questioned by the narration itself. Serial storytelling is the result of a continuous, and potentially endless, act of montage of the narrative world,28 which does not proceed linearly towards an end. In TV series, the narration can continuously reopen new paths, able to enrich the story with new rules and events without undermining the unity and recognizability of its world.

  • 29 Mittell 2015: 134.

21There are many examples, which draw from the enormous number of TV series produced only in the last 20 years. However, I think that the series Lost (2004-2010), anticipates and exemplifies in an almost too explicit way the argument that I am presenting here. With its puzzling storylines, its unsolved enigma, and its disappointing and controversial series finale, Lost is the most powerful example of the fact that the process of serialisation is prompted by the enrichment of the narrative world and not by the evolution or resolution of one or more storylines. As already argued, we do not watch TV series to see how the stories end, but rather to understand how they work – and more precisely to understand how their world works – to decipher its meaning. This cognitive involvement is what Mittell terms operational aesthetics: the pleasure of complex serial narration lies in the continuous repositioning of the spectator’s attention on the mechanisms of storytelling in order to understand their rules, “enough to follow their narrative strategies but still relish in the pleasures of being manipulated successfully”.29

  • 30 Mittell 2009.

22The last episode of the third season, Through the Looking Glass, is paradigmatic. On an isolated street along the Los Angeles airport, Jack, in an inexplicable state of confusion, tells Kate that he wants to go back to the island. At first sight, the scene is totally inexplicable and it acquires a kind of intelligibility possible only if the viewers tune themself to the narrative twist that the series is working on. If up to that moment the storytelling was organised through the intersection of past and present, a new temporality breaks into the narrative, the future, in which for some reason Jack and Kate have managed to escape from the island; for some other even more incomprehensible reason, Jack wants to go back. The season ends by using the king-expedient of seriality, the cliffhanger, the basic tool of serial writing that originates every addiction, fueling the spectator’s desire to continue the vision, and then ferrying them into a new season. In this case, the cliffhanger does not surprise the spectator only because it envisages an unexpected evolution of the storylines. This kind of curiosity certainly plays an important role: the viewers want to know how Jack and Kate escaped from the island and why Jack wants to go back. However, in this case the cliffhanger generates a surprise effect because it puts into question the general strategy of the narration, which after three seasons the spectator has internalised. The desire, then, is also to understand how this new temporality is part of the world of the series.30

  • 31 Pearson 2009.

23If we watch TV series to understand the rules of the game, so to speak, this is even more true for Lost. The protagonists move in an enclosed space, the island, which they will progressively explore trying to understand how the island works, its secrets, and its story. Over the course of six seasons, the characters explore new places, facing physical and mental challenges (for example, the button to be pushed every 108 minutes) without fully understanding their logic; this is akin to the traditional pattern of videogames, where the player proceeds by trial and error. The resolution of the enigmas that the island presents is necessary for the evolution of the narrative, and that is why the storylines of each single character – and their possible development – is of secondary importance to the general understanding of the functioning of that world, of that unity to be discovered and deciphered.31 Just as in a videogame, each puzzle solved will unlock a new level of the game, which will always present a new goal to achieve. While at the beginning the viewers thought the purpose of the game was to escape from the island, during the evolution of the narration it is revealed that the task is becoming more and more challenging. The pivotal aspect of Lost’s game-world is that each new level of narration corresponds to new temporalities that end up converging and blasting any reality principle while still managing to maintain a form of truthfulness that makes the spectator want to continue in the vision.

  • 32 Planes et al. 2022.

24Lost is probably the most advanced and perhaps unsurpassed example, that anticipates the way the narrative seriality embeds the contemporary media logic of openness and fragmentation32, without renouncing to create a unitary and recognizable world. This logic, indeed, can be traced in other narrative forms and solutions that we can find in more traditional or linear series (Maiello 2020), from Mad Men (2007-2015) to Breaking Bad (2008-2013), from Game of Thrones (2011-2019) to the most recent The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (2017-). However, there are many as yet unexplored potentialities as to how this serial logic meets and integrates new technologies and new media practices. I am referring to the so-called transmedia storytelling, through which the same world is presented and displaced on different media formats.

  • 33 Jenkins 2006.

25In the early 2000s, Henry Jenkins33 introduced this concept to describe what he himself calls the “art of world making,” moving from the analysis of The Matrix franchise (Lana and Lilly Wachowski 1999). Transmedia storytelling is a new aesthetic, which has emerged in response to the media tendency to convergence and is based on the participation of users and on the distribution of narrative worlds on multiple formats. Each different media, in its own specificity, offers a new and different way of access to the world that the storytelling builds. When the transmedia art of world making meets the peculiar configuration of serial storytelling, it gives birth to what can be defined as an extended serial narrative ecosystem. In the transmedia model, the distribution of storytelling is organised through narrative extensions of different media, and all of them contribute to the creation of the sense and the world of the story. The design of the transmedia system, therefore, has a decisive importance, as it defines the narrative’s coherence and completeness. All products and formats become necessary for the understanding of the whole world.

  • 34 De Pascalis, Pescatore 2018.
  • 35 Innocenti 2018.

26In the extended serial narrative ecosystem, what matters most is not the design of the entire transmedia project; rather, it is the core of the narrative world, which must be, on the one hand, strongly iconic and recognizable in order to be developed or increased through other media formats while preserving its own identity. On the other hand, the narrative world must also be flexible enough to allow the adaptation of the narrative to new formats.34 The extensive capacity of the ecosystem precisely depends on the autonomy of its parts. For this reason, it can only partially be controlled because it can develop extensions that are not necessarily foreseen in the design itself, although it can still guarantee the coherence and enjoyability of the narrative world. In other words, starting from convergence, divergent forms can also develop.35

27In recent production, one of the most successful and advanced examples of extended serial narrative which has created a powerful transmedia ecosystem is Skam. Skam was originally produced in Norway in 2015. After achieving great success, seven national versions have been produced, including one in Italian (Skam Italia 2018-2020). The series, which tells the story of a group of teenagers, was created precisely to address the audience of young people, who do not contemplate, among their viewing habits, watching TV in the traditional way. To meet this need, the narration is distributed in real time on several platforms. Videos are released every day, and at the end of the week, they will compose the whole series episode. The result is the complete overlapping between the time of the narration and the time of the viewing experience. In order to amplify the reality effect of storytelling, WhatsApp screens are shared on Instagram and other social networks with text messages, vocal messages, images, and videos. These are contents that characters share with each other but which do not appear in the filmed episode. In this way, the social media experience integrates the experience of the series and the narrative itself.

  • 36 Hill 2019.
  • 37 Menarini 2018.

28Because of its transmedia format and its specific organisation of the temporal flow of the story, Skam applies in an unprecedented and absolutely innovative way the aesthetics of fragmentation that characterises our post-media and post-cinematographic age. This is an aesthetics which is considered natural by the so-called digital natives. It is no longer the world of storytelling that is distributed over different media products, opening up new narrative horizons that find their legitimacy in the unitary of the world; rather, it is the narrative itself that is articulated over several formats, which are integrated and at the same time call for the interactivity of the spectator-user. In this sense, we can say that the narration includes in itself the “media engagement”36 that characterises our relationship with media devices and practices but which is also increasingly important in the series experience. This is currently considered the result of the convergence of diversified media experiences. Within what we can define as mediaphilia, TV series are “by far the most discussed, shared and loved objects”,37 and Skam capitalises on this shared feeling and integrates the user experience not only in the articulation of the storytelling world, but in the narration itself. The haptic pleasure of scrolling is added to the pleasure of vision, along with all those practices and media gestures that have become natural for us.

29The aesthetic of fragmentation, therefore, is no longer reconstructed through the articulation of the narrative world, but it is rendered as such, generating a complete and immersive melting between the world of the story and the world of the viewer, as evidenced by the real time that the narrative follows. Even watching the episodes in their entirety, fragmentation remains a dominant feature of the aesthetics of the series. The transmedia ecosystem of the series comes to coincide perfectly with the media environment in which we live, activating a new mode of relationship with the viewers, which enhances the desire for appropriation that binds them to the series.

30The future challenge of seriality seems to be the possibility of combining the unity and richness of the narrative world with the pleasure of the narration and the open and fragmented aesthetics that is dominant in today’s media culture. In other words, to integrate the diversified media experiences within the narrative, without renouncing the call for concordance, which is very strong today more than ever.

Torna su


Antinucci, F. 2011, Parola e immagine. Storia di due tecnologie, Roma-Bari, Laterza.

Bakhtin, M. 1975, Voprosy literatury i estetiki, Eng. trans. by M. Holquist, The Dialogic Imagination, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1982.

Bandirali L., Terrone E. 2021, Concept TV. An Aesthetics of Television Series, Lanham, Lexington Books.

Benjamin, W. 1936a, L’œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproduction mécanisée, Eng. trans. by H. Zohn, The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in H. Arendt (ed.), Illuminations. Essays and Reflections, New York, Schocken Books, 1968: 217-251.

Benjamin, W. 1936b, Der Erzähler. Betrachtungen zum Werk Michail Lesskows, Eng. trans. by H. Zohn, The storyteller. Reflections on the works of Nikolai Leskov, in H. Arendt (ed.), Illuminations. Essays and Reflections, New York, Schocken Books, 1968: 83-110.

Bilton, N. 2011, I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works. Why Your World, Work and Brain are Being Creatively Disrupted, New York, Crown Publishing Group.

Bolter, J.D., Grusin, R. 1999, Remediation. Understanding New Media, Cambridge, The MIT Press.

Boni, M. (ed.) 2017, World Building, Transmedia, Fans, Industry, Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press.

Casetti, F. 2008, Eye of the Century. Film, Experience, Modernity, New York, Columbia University Press;

Casetti, F. 2011, I media nella condizione post-mediale, in A. Campo, D. Cecchi, D. Guastini (eds), Alla fine delle cose. Contributi a una storia critica delle immagini, Lucca, La Casa Usher: 162-170.

Cometa, M. 2017, Perché le storie ci aiutano a vivere. La letteratura necessaria, Milano, Raffaello Cortina.

Denson, S. 2016, Speculation, transition, and the passing of post-cinema, “Cinéma & Cie”, XVI/26-27: 21-32.

Denson, S., Leyda, J. (eds) 2016, Post-Cinema. Theorizing 21st-Century Film, Sussex, Reframe Books.

De Pascalis, I., Pescatore, G. 2018, Dalle narrazioni estese agli ecosistemi, in G. Pescatore (ed.), Ecosistemi narrativi. Dal fumetto alle serie TV, Roma, Carocci: 19-30.

De Rosa, M., Hediger, V. 2016, Post-what? Post-when? A Conversation on the ‘Posts’ of post-media and post-cinema, “Cinéma & Cie”, XVI/26-27: 9-19.

Floridi, L. 2015, The Onlife Manifesto. Being Human in a Hyperconnected Era, Berlin, Springer.

Gottschall, J. 2012, The Storytelling Animal. How Stories Make Us Human, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Grusin, R. 2015, Radical mediation, “Critical Inquiry”, 42, 1: 124-148.

Hill, A. 2019, Media Experiences. Engaging with Drama and Reality Television, New York, Routledge.

Innocenti, V. 2018, Convergenza e divergenza negli ecosistemi narrativi, in G. Pescatore (ed.), Ecosistemi narrativi. Dal fumetto alle serie TV, Roma, Carocci: 213-227.

Jenkins, H. 2006, Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide, New York, New York University Press.

Maiello, A. 2020, Mondi in serie. L’epoca postmediale delle serie TV, Cosenza, Pellegrini.

Manovich, L. 2001, The Language of New Media, Cambridge, The MIT Press.

McLuhan, M. 1964, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man, New York, McGraw-Hill.

Menarini, R. 2018, Il discorso e lo sguardo. Forme della critica e pratiche della cinefilia, Parma, Diabasis.

Mittell, J. 2009, Lost in a Great Story. Evaluation in Narrative Television Studies, in R. Pearson (ed.), Reading Lost, New York, Tauris: 19-138.

Mittell, J. 2015, Complex TV. The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling, New York, New York University Press.

Montani, P., Cecchi D., Feyles, M. (eds) 2018, Ambienti mediali, Milano, Meltemi.

Page, R., Thomas, B. (eds) 2011, New Narratives. Stories and Storytelling in the Digital Age, Lincoln-London, University of Nebraska Press.

Pearson, R. 2009, Chain of events. Regimes of evaluation and Lost’s construction of the televisual character, in R. Pearson (ed.), Reading Lost, New York, Tauris 141-158.

Pearson, R., Smith, A.N, (eds). 2015, Storytelling in the Media Convergence Age. Exploring Screen Narratives, New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Planes, J.A, García, A.N, Pérez-Morán, E., 2022, Flashbacks in Netflix original TV series (2013-2017): Predominant categories, formal features, and semantic effects, “International Journal of Communication”, 16: 3443-3469.

Ricœur, P. 1983, Temps et Récit. L’Intrigue et le Récit historique, Eng. trans. by K. Mclaughlin and D. Pellauer, Time and Narrative. Volume 1, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Ricœur, P. 1984, Temps et Récit. La configuration dans le récit de fiction, Eng. trans. by K. Mclaughlin and D. Pellauer, Time and Narrative. Volume 2, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Ryan, M.L., Thon, J.N. (eds) 2014, Storyworlds Across Media. Toward a Media Conscious Narratology, Lincoln-London, University of Nebraska Press.

Rose, F. 2011, The Art of Immersion. How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories, New York, Norton & Company.

Shaviro, S. 2010, Post-Cinematic Affect, Winchester, O-Books.

Wolf, M.J.P. 2012, Building Imaginary Worlds. The Theory and History of Subcreation, London - New York, Routledge.

Torna su


1 Shaviro 2010; Denson, Leyda 2016.

2 Montani et al. 2018.

3 De Rosa, Hediger 2016: 16.

4 Denson 2016.

5 Bolter, Grusin 1999.

6 Grusin 2015.

7 Casetti 2008.

8 Bilton 2011.

9 Cfr. Gottschall 2012.

10 Cometa 2017.

11 Rose 2011.

12 Gottschall 2012.

13 Pearson 2015; Ryan, Thon 2014; Page, Thomas 2011.

14 Benjamin 1936a, Eng. trans. 1968: 234.

15 Manovich 2001.

16 Casetti 2011.

17 Cometa 2017: 107.

18 Antinucci 2011.

19 Ricœur 1983, Eng. trans. 1984: 3.

20 Floridi 2015.

21 Ricœur 1984, Eng. trans. 1985: 56.

22 A different approach is required to understand the very recent success of TikTok and Reels, the Instagram response to it. In these cases it seems in fact that the functioning of the participatory mechanism is based on the idea of self exposure through a performance that repeats itself always the same, rather than on the impulse to storytelling. In these cases, therefore, the engine of participation seems to lie more in the performative act than in the narrative one, although it would certainly be productive to analyse the modalities of storytelling enabled by these new social interactions.

23 Benjamin 1936b, Eng. trans. 1968: 87.

24 Ibidem.

25 Bakhtin 1975, Eng. trans. 1982.

26 Ricœur 1984, Eng. trans. 1985: 28.

27 Bandirali, Terrone 2021.

28 Cfr. Boni 2017; Wolf 2011.

29 Mittell 2015: 134.

30 Mittell 2009.

31 Pearson 2009.

32 Planes et al. 2022.

33 Jenkins 2006.

34 De Pascalis, Pescatore 2018.

35 Innocenti 2018.

36 Hill 2019.

37 Menarini 2018.

Torna su

Per citare questo articolo

Notizia bibliografica

Angela Maiello, «TV Series: A Form of Adaptation to The Contemporary Media Condition»Rivista di estetica, 83 | 2023, 74-88.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Angela Maiello, «TV Series: A Form of Adaptation to The Contemporary Media Condition»Rivista di estetica [Online], 83 | 2023, online dal 01 février 2024, consultato il 23 mai 2024. URL:; DOI:

Torna su


Angela Maiello

Articoli dello stesso autore

Torna su

Diritti d’autore


Solamente il testo è utilizzabile con licenza CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Salvo diversa indicazione, per tutti agli altri elementi (illustrazioni, allegati importati) la copia non è autorizzata ("Tutti i diritti riservati").

Torna su
Cerca su OpenEdition Search

Sarai reindirizzato su OpenEdition Search