Narrative Architectures. Bodies, Spaces, Technologies in Contemporary Media Experience

deadline for submissions: 
April 5, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Imago. Studi di cinema e media


Media have always been able to configure our sense of space. However, in recent years, technological development—which tends to affect the relationship between the individual and the environment more and more deeply—has been radically intensifying this process. More particularly, the spatial dimension has assumed a role of increasing importance in determining the subject’s activity and agency.

Two types of experiences appear particularly interesting in this regard. Those of the first type, which are more immediately relevant to the field of media studies, tend to delocalize the user in non-empirical worlds through the use of immersive devices. Virtual reality—in its varied range of applications and levels of interactivity, ranging from pure contemplation to videoludic interaction—is an effective example of such “heterotopic” spaces.

The experiences of the second type, which are only apparently not related to the field of the media, explicitly reconfigure the relationship between the body of the subject and the material space. Transit through urban spaces, frequenting stores and shopping centers, visiting an exhibition or a museum, enjoying tourism and theme parks, mass events or shows, and so on, are today mediated experiences, not only in their content but in their own conditions of existence.

Whether immersive technologies are used to build simulated worlds or to construct mediatized physical environments, the design of the space plays a fundamental role. It is a complex operation, to be conceived above all as a process of organization and prefiguration of the interactions between bodies and environments. In particular, such a design: 1) establishes criteria of accessibility of space by organizing and hierarchizing the sensory processes; 2) orients the subject by establishing the range of perspectives and the breadth of fields of interaction; 3) lays out plans of action through the articulation of space and the distribution of centres of interest; 4) manages the experience by prefiguring trajectories, more or less rigidly oriented but nonetheless deployed over time.

Upon closer look, these operations are in themselves narrativeprocedures. In the study of the narrative dimension of media, the narratological perspective has often been privileged. Such a theoretical approach insists especially on the temporal dimension of events, taking as its basis a fundamental distinction between the discursive present of the act of narrating and the past of the narrated actions. Although the representational forms of narrative spaces are frequently investigated, the spatial dimension of storytelling is frequently relegated to a metaphor (“narrative architecture”, “narrative structure”, “conceptual map”, etc.).

A new “narratopology” applied to environmental media may instead be able, first to describe forms of narrative design of the situated media experience (i.e. grounded in a physical environment), this time in a non-metaphorical sense. Think, for example, of the arrangement of installations in a museum itinerary; or of the functional configuration of a shopping centre; or of the creation of a digital environment. Second, it would be able to identify a different temporal structure, in which the users’ action takes place in the present but interacts with a previously established discursive organization. On this front, the prototype is videogame experience, which is arranged by the game designer and variously implemented by the player; but one can also think, for example, of the design of website navigation.

These new narrative architectures accentuate both the environmentalization of media experience and its prefigured nature. Consequently, this monographic issue aims to encourage reflection on two unavoidable issues that media studies have progressively highlighted over the past decades: 1) the ecological or “territorial” logic, which emphasizes the situated and relational aspects of mediation, and in particular the interdependence between subjects and environments; and 2) the logic of premediation or feed-forward, i.e. the prefiguration or anticipatory organization of the physical and mental trajectories of the subjects.

Scholars from all disciplines interested in the narrativity of spaces are invited to send essay proposals aimed at investigating the theme at a theoretical level and/or focusing on specific case studies. The bibliographical references offer some examples of the different theoretical-methodological areas from which the contributions may come. Possible areas of investigation are:

  • the narrative design of architectural and urban spaces;
  • the narrative configuration of museum and exhibition spaces;
  • the design of virtual and videogame environments, immersive or not;
  • the penetration of cinematic/televisual imagery into everyday space;
  • the body-environment relationship in the constitution of the media experience;
  • the role of technological devices in the mediation between subject and environment;
  • the role of images and sounds in the production of narrative space;
  • the functioning of cinematic/televisual storytelling in light of contemporary media structures;
  • the issues of environmentalization and premediation in contemporary media studies.

Contributors can send proposals in English or Italian (max. 2000 characters, 5 references, 5 keywords and a short bio) to Adriano D'Aloia ( and Enrico Carocci ( by April 5, 2020. All notifications of acceptance will be sent no later than April 20, 2020. If accepted, 40.000-character essays will then be required for double peer review by July 19, 2020.



Bolter, Jay D. and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999).

Borries, Friedrich von, Steffen P. Walz and Matthias Böttger, eds. Space Time Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level (Basel - Boston - Berlin: Birkhauser, 2007).

Calleja, Gordon. In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation (Cambridge, MA - London: The MIT Press, 2011).

Carbone, Mauro, Anna Caterina Dalmasso and Bodini, Jacopo, eds. Des pouvoirs des écrans (Milan: Mimésis, 2018).

Casetti, Francesco. The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key World for the Cinema to Come (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

Durham Peters, John. The Marvelous Cloud: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media (Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Durt, Christoph, Christian Tewes and Thomas Fuchs, eds. Embodiment, Enaction, and Culture: Investigating the Constitution of the Shared World (Cambridge, MA - London: The MIT Press, 2017).

Eugeni, Ruggero. Semiotica dei media. Le forme dell’esperienza (Roma: Carocci, 2010). Eugeni, Ruggero. La condizione postmediale. Media, linguaggi e narrazioni (Brescia: La Scuola, 2015).

Grusin, Richard. Premediation: Affect and Mediality After 9/11 (London - New York: Palgrave, 2010).

Hammad, Manar. Lire l’espace, comprendre l’architecture: Essais sémiotiques (Limoges: PULIM, 2006).

Hansen, Mark B.N. Feed-Forward: On the Future of Twenty-First-Century Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Herman, David. Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002).

Hutto, Daniel D. and Erik Myin, Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013).

Ingold, Tim. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture (London - New York: Routledge, 2013); Making. Antropologia, archeologia, arte e architettura (Milano: Cortina, 2019).

Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture”, in Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, eds. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (Cambridge, MA - London: The MIT Press, 2007).

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

MacLeod, Suzanne et al., eds. The Future of Museum and Gallery Design: Purpose, Process, Perception (New York: Routledge, 2018).

Mallgrave, Harry Francis, Architecture and Embodiment: The Implications of the New Sciences and Humanities for Design (London - New York: Routledge, 2013). 

McLuhan, Marshall, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: Mc Graw-Hill, 1964).

Montani, Pietro, Dario Cecchi and Martino Feyles, eds. Ambienti mediali (Milano: Meltemi, 2018).

Noë, Alva. Varieties of Presence (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2012).

Pallasmaa, Juhani and Sarah Robinson, eds. Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment, and the Future of Design (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2015).

Popova, Yanna B. Stories, Meaning, and Experience: Narrativity and Enaction (New York - London: Routledge, 2014).

Ryan, Marie-Laure. Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence and Narrative Theory (Bloomington - Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1991).

Stewart, John, Olivier Gapenne, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, eds. Enaction: Toward A New Paradigm For Cognitive Science (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2010).


Imago. Studi di cinema e media is a biannual Class A-rated peer-reviewed academic journal of film and media studies. The journal is sponsored by the Department of History Anthropology Religions, Performing Arts, Sapienza University and the Department of Philosophy, Communication and Performing Arts, Roma Tre University.

Directors: Veronica Pravadelli, Vito Zagarrio.

Scientific board: Giaime Alonge, Silvio Alovisio, Jacques Aumont, Raymond Bellour, Lucia Cardone, Giulia Carluccio, Antonio Catolfi, Antonio Costa, Elena Dagrada, Antoine de Baecque, Mary Ann Doane, Richard Dyer, Thomas Elsaesser†, Guy Fihman, Uta Felten, David Forgacs, Román Gubern, E. Ann Kaplan, Sandra Lischi, Giacomo Manzoli, James Naremore, Guglielmo Pescatore, Jesús González Requena, Laurence Schifano, Pierre Sorlin, Giorgio Tinazzi, Anita Trivelli, Chris Wagstaff.