Explore the phenomenon: The narrativity of audiovisual content on social media

Learning material about social media and how stories can be told there with audiovisual means. With the help of the text, video and tasks, find out what the teacher and the student need to know about this phenomenon.

Narrativity in the audiovisual content of social media

Narrativity is a visible and increasingly frequent phenomenon in the audiovisual content of social media (e.g. short TikTok videos, Instagram reels and stories). Narrativity is a crucial framework that the human mind relies on to comprehend and make sense of things. Today, as we are flooded with information and complex global problems, it is also a safety mechanism: a cognitive, ethical and emotional way of controlling chaos. A moving experiential narrative is a powerful rhetorical means, and simultaneously a method of effective and persuasive communication that makes the recipient identify or attach themselves to the message.

Narrativity rouses interest and is much quicker to create an emotional bond than a direct, informative or declaratory text. When it comes to narrativity, identification may occur on the basis of the situation the message is about (e.g. an experience of failure told by a first-person narrator) or roles featured in the story (e.g. good, evil, bystander, adversary, hero). In narrativity, the plot, juxtaposition and description create an engaging situation for the recipient of the message. Often, the underlying aim is to change the values, attitudes or (consumer) behaviour of the target audience. Criticising narrativity may be difficult since it is often perceived to be “on the side of good”. The affective consensus of social media may also protect it from criticism and reprehension related to trivial content. This should not prevent it from being approached with a critical eye and perceptive reading of audiovisual texts.


Mäkelä, M. 2019.  Totuuksia ja politiikkaa tarinallistuvassa mediaympäristössä. Tieteessä tapahtuu, vol. 37 (3). https://journal.fi/tt/article/view/80463 retrieved 29 March 2022

Text: Saara Martikka

Image: Siru Tirronen

The media landscape of children and young people keeps changing, with new phenomena following each other back-to-back. Providing pupils with tools for understanding and processing these phenomena is important. This learning package is part of Pathways to New Media Phenomena – Information and Exercise Materials Series. The series includes information and exercises for the teacher and the pupils. You can explore new phenomena in a meaningful way with the help of the How to discuss new media literacy phenomena through pedagogical means method. 

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Material for the teacher

  • The video demonstrates the narrativity in the audiovisual content of social media and illustrates how various narrative means can be used for different purposes, including influencing. The video has English subtitles.

    Consider the following questions:

    • How are narrativity and its methods used on social media?
    • What should the pupils know about narrativity on social media?

    Video: Saara Martikka

    Editing: Keltamusta Media

  • Teachers do not need to be experts and skilled at everything. Having a good control over one’s own speciality and pedagogics and being curious and enthusiastic about learning new things provide a great starting point for tackling new media phenomena. Approach to processing new media literacy phenomena encourages you to use your own expertise and competence when working with various phenomena.

    Examine the model and consider the following questions:

    • Based on your experience, what challenges does discussing new media literacy phenomena entail?
    • What things support the discussing of new phenomena in your own work?
    • How would you utilise the model to discuss the phenomenon at hand?
  • Media literacy is a transversal competence, whose promotion is required by the core curriculum of basic education (2014).

    The objectives based on the core curriculum have been expressed separately for each school grade in the national descriptions of media literacy (the New Literacies development programme 2021). Basic education concerns the descriptions of good and advanced competences. The descriptions clarify the meaning of media literacy and the related objectives expressed in the core curriculum texts. The descriptions have been divided into three main areas: media interpretation and evaluation, media production and acting in media environments. You can learn more about the descriptions here.

    Consider the following questions:

    • How is the phenomenon under discussion structured in the media literacy competence descriptions?
    • What kind of media literacy skills do the pupils learn in connection with discussing the topic?
  • You can refer to the materials of KAVI and the New Literacies development programme for support in the promotion of media literacy.

    Media Literacy School (mediataitokoulu.fi) The Media Literacy School website brings together various learning resources and materials for the media education purposes of different age groups also in English.

    The Media Literacy School – New Literacies brings together a range of materials that were created within the development programme to support the media education of basic education. The materials produced in the programme can be found on the open learning materials website at AOE.fi.

Material for the pupil

  • Videos on social media often include a narrative, a story, with clear roles. These may include roles such as the main character to whom things are happening (often the maker or narrator of the video), their adversary or helper, good and evil. The narrative may be a glimpse into a situation or a longer story, which may also include a caption overlay.

    The aim of using narrativity is to make the user identify with the story. Identification means that the situation shown in the video is familiar to the viewer or that it involves recognisable feelings or thoughts, even though the viewer’s own experiences do not entirely correspond to those portrayed in the video. Identification takes place when we laugh at the content of a video or realise that what the video is talking about seems familiar, for example.

    When identification occurs, the viewer becomes open to the topic or message of the video. This makes it easier to agree with the video or share its mindset.

    It is important that we recognise the things that make us identify with or enjoy a particular video. These are the things that the makers of a video use when trying to influence the viewer. The objective of influencing can be, for example, to make the viewer watch the maker’s next video or to make the viewer agree with the video’s line of thinking. This is called an influencing attempt.  By influencing the viewer, the makers of a video are able to promote their message and gain more views and followers.

    Text: Saara Martikka

  • The questions are reflection exercises for groups of 2–4 pupils.

    The purpose of this exercise is to briefly chart the influence of a social media video chosen for this assignment.

    The teacher may choose the following video or let the pupils select their own video. The pupils should preferably choose their own video, as this will cause them to think about the topic already when making the selection.

    Unicef: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMYHFDGj1/ (Captions in English)

    • What is the “truth” or story the video conveys? Write down the “plot” of the video at approximately 5 minutes.
    • What is the world view, generalisation or claim the video wants to convey?
    • What is the purpose of the claim the video makes, what is it trying to influence?
    • Bonus task: rate the effectiveness of the video on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 = not effective at all, 5 = highly effective. Provide reasoning or evidence to support your answer.

    Text: Saara Martikka

  • The questions are reflection exercises for groups of 2–4 pupils.

    The teacher may choose some videos or let the pupils select their own video or videos. Watch the videos and answer the questions.

    What roles does the video feature? (The roles can also be narrated; not all performers are necessary visible in the video)

    The roles may include, for example, victim, winner, loser, bystander, good, evil, helper

    • Who wins and who loses in the video?
    • In your opinion, what is the message of the video, what does it try to tell us?
    • Why did you choose this particular thing as the message of the video? Is the message important? Provide reasoning or evidence to support your answer.
    • Bonus task: rate the video using the following scale

    1p. = the video did not affect us in any way

    2p. = it was nice to watch the video, and it made us think about its topic

    3p. = the video was powerful and interesting, and it changed our views on the topic

    Text: Saara Martikka

  • Examine the picture and answer the following questions.

    • What is happening in the picture series?
    • What things and methods related to social media influencing can you recognise in the picture?
    • What does the picture tell you about making videos?
    • What kinds of videos are you interest in and what types of videos would you like to make yourself?

    Text: KAVI

    Image: Siru Tirronen