Serial series

Pardon my slightly redundant title. “Serial”, or.. series, wonderful series.

We are quite surrounded by TV series. Everywhere. Even on the Web, recently a few television-like series have appeared with a lot of success. Actually, calling them “television-like” is an error; these series are not TV, use multimedia and the Web, and have quite different writing and production cycles from classic TV shows. They are usually low-budget, lo-tech microformats. One, quite intriguing actually, is Shieldfive, the first series being broadcast exclusively on Instagram. Appearing every day on Instagram with 28 episodes of only 15 seconds each. Moreover, each episodes cycles infinitely, so one has good opportunities to fully grasp it. I think the series phenomenon has established a golden age for TV and has spun off a number of new formats that are creative and almost avant-garde beautiful, impacting storytelling.

In class, last Wednesday, we shared the world of Serial, a professionally produced podcast series now at its second season. The beauty of Serial is that the story is intriguing and you get absorbed by it almost immediately. You are brought back to ol’ radio days when you begin to imagine faces and landscapes, accurately described in words and sounds. The podcast format allows one to subscribe and get each episode through RSS feeds with one of many apps for every platform. Like with all podcasts, one can download an episode and then enjoy it offline when walking or driving.

Thus, we shared the world of Serial and we listened to its whole first episode. There were few students, sadly. And of those, I saw quite a few yawns. True, it’s a medium we’re completely not used to. Even if we may enjoy radio shows, this one is a format so different that it puts a listener off-guard. I proposed to follow the transcript while we were listening, because we could then 1) more easily understand what was being told, and 2) get more easily immersed in the story, btw, a well-known story. In fact, there was no transcript for season one (which I haven’t listened to), and, as said earlier, I believe this affordance gives all an invaluable degree of immersion.

In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home.


Also, each chapter does not stop at the story being told. Each episode is complemented by maps, extra info, etc. So, it’s a full immersive environment for storytelling, and one that cost a number of production hours and dollars.

Serial podcast: Season 2, episode 1.

Serial podcast: Season 2, episode 1.

I enjoyed it. And I hope we’ll watch listen at least to a couple episode more on our own. It’s a good exercise: at the end, let’s each post our ideas and reflections on the experience, through our blogs.

How Do I Get A Podcast?  << READ here!!


About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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