The Meta-Image

Bridging the research produced at the University of Chicago and the crucial contribution of practitioners from the media and creative industries, I used my PhD at the University of Exeter (UK) to finalise the Meta-Image tool and its over-reaching research framework The Image As Storytelling.

With them, I aim to: 1- investigate how media forms (i.e. the digital photograph) reshape communicative formats (i.e. visual and multimedia storytelling) and 2- provide audiences with the competencies and practical skills to best assess and produce visual communication.

Specifically, the Meta-Image consists of a number of embedded layers providing the nesting single photograph with added information. Through its interactive features, the Meta-Image expands and empowers the digital photograph by incorporating – for instance – debates on its finalised design, the ethics of its aesthetics and the explanation of particular storytelling techniques.



A work-in-progress template for the Meta-Image.
© Massimiliano Fusari / Massimedia: Aesthetics As Storytelling.


The upper part of the nested layers – the interactive Meta-Image (MI) – are activated by audiences as they choose to engage more with the photograph and its communicative universe.

The lower part of the nested layers – the passive Meta-Image (MI) – trace how design, i.e. composition and aesthetics, thoroughly shapes the semiotics of the image.



A gif with more details on the passive Meta-Image, and how aesthetics impresses communication.


In such a scenario, aesthetics is strategically enhanced rather than neglected for the photograph. As a result, are represented ‘real/s’ falsified, misled or on the contrary, communicated more consistently with the photographer’s vision? What are they for, and according to which space of representation?

Greenaway (2008) reminded his viewers that ‘just because you have eyes does not mean to say that you can see.’ I agree, in spite of its richness and complexity, visual communication still remains profoundly overlooked and trivialised.

The overall philosophy of the Meta-Image tool is to use its interactive structure to advance the field of visual studies and inform the public sphere with its digitally augmented communication.  It facilitates a renewed appreciation of the storytelling capabilities of each and every image.  It offers the audience ‘informed communication’ rather than ‘clearly-cut forensics.’

In fact, by incorporating interventions from different parties, the Meta-Image turns the photograph into a space to question, explore and contextualise much more than assessing the Real.  The presumed paradigms shift from verbal-driven to visual-centred communication urges digital storytelling to be practiced and – at the very same time – theorised.

In conclusion, the Meta-Image and The Image As Storytelling aspire to combine educational capabilities with creative storytelling production.  They aim to advance professional and public awareness on the changed space, role and dynamics of today’s visual communication.

I’m currently transforming the Meta-Image into a mobile App.

November 2017 I presented this paper to wrap-up the state of my research as I prepare to edit my monograph Aesthetics as storytelling from February 2018.

Curious?  Review my over-reaching framework of the Image as Storytelling or the section on Research.

In the meantime, would you like to know more about my professional training?