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Panels and abstracts

Panel 1: Cultural Industries Chair: Kristian Moller

Raymond Boyle     
Media Mixing and Talent: Television, Social Video and Inter-Generic Content
People from Generation Y (broadly, those born between 1980 and 2000) pose challenges for talent management. It is a generation with high expectations and a low tolerance level, voting with its feet if employers fail to deliver. [ ] Four dimensions of work are crucial for motivating and retaining talented individuals: rapid job advancement; money and challenging work; work-life balance; and freedom and autonomy. - Marion Devine and Michel Syrett (2014) Managing Talent, The Economist: London, p 186.

Taking both Devine and Syrett’s quote above and the increasingly porous nature of established television genres as its starting point, this paper offers a case study of the evolution of Multi-Channel Networks (MCN) and their usage as a platform for showcasing new forms of media talent. Drawing from a longer book project on The Talent Industry, this paper examines how these platforms strategically and practically interact with mainstream UK broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel 4 in the multi-platform environment.  What are the contours and culture of this new inter-generic environment?  And how - if at all – is it reshaping the way the television industry is identifying and nurturing the next generation of media content creators?

Allesandro Nani
Production, reception and perceived affordances
Media saturation and the fragmentation of audiences are pushing media networks to exploit the opportunities deriving from the synergy between media. They do so, as a reaction to what they  perceive as threats. Going across media doesn’t however translates into reaching fragmented audiences, on the contrary, can mean the opposite. Within this frame the possible shift from linear productions models to production across media represents a challenge since on the producers side requires a radical cultural shift and on the audience side it requires both  knowledge and willingness to engage with texts across media.

It is within this contexts that works bridging production and audience studies become utterly relevant. With this theoretical paper, that lays its foundations on an empirical work exploring the production and reception of cross-media produced by the PSM of Finland (YLE) and Estonia (ERR),  I argue that the production and interpretation of the message are not only the result of a shared code and its appropriation (Eco, 1979), but also the result of   the 'perceived affordances' (Norman, 2013) of the medium and the text. I then present a list of, by no means exhaustive, factors that have an impact on production and reception, hence on the perceived affordances of cross-media. On the side of production cross-media affordances are influenced first by the perception that television producers have of cross-media; second, by producers crafting their programs based on their self-images; and third,  by producers seeing the audience as a group of  semi-passive consumers. On the side of reception,  cross-media perceived affordances are influenced by first, a silent agreement regarding modes of engagement with different media;  second, by the recognition of relevance, expertise  and genre; and  third,  by distribution strategies and tools. This paper concludes  the two sides often face tensions and in some cases take divergent, rather than convergent, trajectories.

Maria Korolkova
Changing forms of silence
Recent years have seen an explosion of the performance of live music to silent films. Ranging from conventional solo piano performances, to organs, theremins, electronic music, and large orchestras performing a specially written score, today’s cultural institutions compete in curating and delivering programmes of ‘film concerts’ focusing specifically on silent films. With the case study of programming Russian silent films in London during 2017 – the year of centenary of Russian Revolution – this paper will question intermediality of silent cinema and live music on several levels. Is this a form of survival or revival of silent films in our contemporary multimedia environment? What do electronic and experimental scores bring to silent films as a medium? What happens to the agency of in-betweeness in this case – is it within composers, directors, performers, or audiences? How do new scores help in delivering the new meaning of the old and sometimes forgotten film? What is the relationship between the sonic and the visual in these particular cases? What are the curating practices and policies of this intermediality, especially investigated through such a politicised historical content – the case study of celebration of the centenary of Russian Revolution in London. In order to answer this questions, I will look at several performances at Eisenstein’s and Pudovkin’s classics in London, including the Gala screening of Eisenstein’s October (1927) at the Barbican with London Symphonic Orchestra, and an experimental performance of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), accompanied by an entirely original soundtrack, devised and created in a direct response to the film at the time of the screening.

Pille Pruulman Vengerfeldt        
Affordances of digital museums
Museums can be considered as spaces for mixed media, providing audiences with experiences that are often a combination of different mediated knowledge. These mixed media experiences are supporting museums in their mission to preserve and analyse culture, educate, increase societal inclusion, community building and so on. Increasingly also, these activities take place in digital spaces. Digital space is increasingly seen as an opportunity to engage current and potential visitors with museum activities, but while vast amounts of digital material is being made available by museums, there is still lack of conceptual understanding about the kinds of audience engagement envisioned. In design research, concept of affordances, originally coined by Gibson (1979), but usefully developed by Norman (2013) points to the idea that artefacts have preferred uses conceptualised by the designers as well as uses perceived by the users of these artefacts. This concept is fruitfully employed also in discussion of digital artefacts, software, websites and social media environments.

This paper proposes a discussion whether the concept of affordances would help in better understanding the mixed media experiences of the museums. The concept of affordance allows to add new dimension of discussing audience engagement as it takes into account the designerly intentions, the materiality of the digital spaces and the audience perception. Based on theoretical discussions and results from a pilot study conducted with the digital spaces of two museums, the paper proposes a model for discussing affordances of digitally mixed media. Proposed model of affordances of digital spaces will be useful tool to argue for and support digital spaces in museums that can support audience engagement.

Panel 2: Journalism Chair: Simon Dawes

Renira Gambrato   
Transmedia dynamics in journalism: The Sochi Project
The Sochi Project is an example of transmedia journalism. The project, a transmedia experience built by Dutch photographer Rob Hornstra and journalist Arnold van Bruggen, depicts the hidden story behind the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The Sochi Project documents the location at which the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics take place beginning more than five years before the Olympics. The project reflects on the transformations of the area and presents a different perspective from the official image portrayed by the Olympic Committee and President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine. The Sochi Project takes advantage of the inherent characteristics of transmedia journalism, offering deep research and credible compelling narratives to engage the audience across multiple media platforms in a more purposeful and significant way. The project involves an interactive documentary, numerous print media extensions, digital publications, and an exhibition. Similar to the transmedia dynamics observed in entertainment, transmedia journalism operates by expanding journalistic narratives on integrated media platforms, in which audience engagement is involved and a more meaningful experience is offered. Transmedia journalism is an elastic term with a wide variety of theoretical possibilities. For Tellería (2016), transmedia journalism is a field scarcely explored and with plenty of possibilities to be implemented. This case study presentation aims at discussing the premises of transmedia journalism as the theoretical background on which the analysis of the project is founded. The methodological approach is the original transmedia project design analytical model by Gambarato (2013) aimed at outlining essential features of the process for developing complex transmedia projects. The structure of the model involves ten specific topics that are guided by a series of practicable questions. The transmedia analysis delineates how The Sochi Project is developed and, consequently, how journalism can benefit from multiple media platforms, content expansion, and audience engagement.

Christos Kostopoulos   
Mixing political economy and frame building
Embrarking from Vliegenthardt and van Zoonen’s (2011) call for framing research that incorporates various levels of power influence, this presentation will focus on an innovative theoretical framework, which employs various levels of political economic structures and processes in order to shed light on the journalistic process of content production in significant political debates. Focusing on the case of the Greek memoranda (2010-2017), this presentation will argue for the necessity of this theoretical framework in the examination of the frames applied in the Greek press. Original data from a frame analysis conducted on articles from the Greek press covering all three lending agreements will be presented and evaluated based on the contribution of political economy in their application in news messages. More specifically, following McChesney’s (2004) argument that the critical position in the political economy of communication is to make sense of why democratic debate around political issues is so limited in range, compared to what is possible and what would be socially desirable, this presentation will treat the frames uncovered as imprints of power that reflect the boundaries of discourse over an issue (Entman 1993) and will demonstrate how the democratic debate fostered by the Greek media placed boundaries on legitimate debate positions through the framing of the memoranda. Finally, the positions delegitimized through the exclusion of frames from the mainstream media in the debate about the memoranda will be presented and that exclusion will be explained through an examination of the political economic processes in the Greek press.

Brit Laak               
Would digital archives change temporal reach of the news genre
This study explores the inter-generic changes in TV-news obituaries.  While the genre has a long history, rich digital archives enable to stretch the diachronic visual narrative of the obituaries. While using the obituaries and life–narratives as a case study the study aims to propose a general question on how visual archives change the once present-oriented television news storytelling?

The presentation focuses on the methodology of deconstructing the visuals, audio and text as multiple narratial frames and messengers within one story.  It analyzes which audiovisual techniques are being used to construct time (including timeline, timeframe and time-jumps) in a biological narrative. Digital archives and well-designed keywords in the systems used at newsrooms should provide better opportunities than ever for journalist to gather visual background information. Yet the visual archives and information it provides are not used purposefully in today’s TV-news production. While using footage from archives, journalists are settling with the same convenient shots over and over again or choose to exclude the diachronic aspects all together. Just like online news might use the same old picture from a photobank for years without aiming for more suitable alternative. One of the reasons might still lay in a tight timeframe in which news are being produced. TV-obituaries have come a long way from brief announcement to minutes long feature stories and for viewers engagement the visuals are more important than ever.

But not everything in a story is visualized. A Journalist (in collaboration with cameraman, editor and director) decides on the emphasis within a story – which parts of the narrative are being underlined with visuals. The more goal-oriented usage of footage from digital archives might be a solution to keep hard news alive without giving into infotainment. Efficient usage of visuals helps a journalist in providing their viewers a retrospective context and therefore wider understanding in news on conflicting topics. My approach provides a combined methodology for this kind of in-depth analysis of the visuals that can be used for different TV-stories.

Warwick Jones
In today’s media environment, it is almost inexcusable for one to not have heard of shows like Jersey Shore, Ex on the Beach or Big Brother. The media environment of today’s television landscape is one replete with reality television programming. So prevalent is the genre that a new category of celebrity has been added to the halls of fame: the reality television star, who now makes common appearances on daily talk shows and red-carpet events. This new breed of public figure, while odious (more often than not), is indicative of an increasingly tenuous link between ’reality’ and reality television programming. This phenomenon is even more interesting when one considers fictional television texts that are beginning to borrow this notion of ‘reality’, to make their fictional characters more relatable to audiences. Skam is one such show (a series of shows, now). It began as a Norwegian, fictional teen-drama that is exceptionally adept at blurring the line between fiction and reality. The show is a transmedia production, meaning that its narrative appears on multiple platforms, which is a unique approach for what is essentially a web-series (though it also appears in conventional, ‘linear’ television formats). What is perhaps most interesting (and alarming) is that a large portion of the show’s narrative is presented on Instagram, as a story told by the characters themselves (with no mention that the characters, or the images presented, are manufactured in any way). In addition to having its characters appear on social media as real people, the actors themselves were hidden from the media and not allowed to give interviews or statements. Right down to its setting (a real school in Oslo), Skam seems to do everything it can to convince its audiences that it is a real depiction of the life of real teenagers.

This dissertation looks to examine Skam as it sees itself translated for audiences in the US and around the globe. Here, where television truly meets social media for the first time (as Skam Austin appears on Facebook Watch), I argue that we stand on the precipice of a new kind of television – one that is both exciting and uncomfortable to behold. This paper thus examines Skam Austin and the way it presents itself as a genuine depiction of reality. First, the show is qualified as a transmedia text, before the characteristics of reality television Skam Austin seems to have borrowed
(and where it has used conventional methods of fictional television to similar ends) are analysed. The paper ultimately argues that the future of television lies in transmedia storytelling, even with its challenging implications for society at large.

Panel 3: Documentary, Mockumentary Chair: Jane Roscoe

Miriam von-Schantz      
Spectatorial contract and mockumentality
In this paper, I present two concepts that came out of my dissertation (2018): the spectatorial contract and mockumentality. I posit that these enable a critical examination of the reception of audiovisual media where a mixed mode of address (the documentary/the mockumentary) makes it difficult for the spectator to identify the veracity of the truth claim of an audiovisual text. The spectatorial contract refers to the contraction of foreknowledge of both text and context (such as genre) into an expectation – a contract – and comes in three variations: the doc-contract, the mock-contract and the missing contract. These correspond to the recognition of variations of relations between form and content: from established, to play, to difficult to ascertain. The wording of missing is drawn from Gilles Deleuze (2005), who discusses the missing as that which is “yet to come” (208). Following this, I argue that the missing contract makes possible the production of a mockumentality. This is a reconfigured relationship between the spectator and, what Roscoe and Hight (2001) call, the discourse of factuality and it renders visible as well as challenges the relationship between knowledge(s) of the real and power (cf: Foucault, 2008). In short, the concept of mockumentality enables an inquiry into the destabilization of the factual and the fictional as this is performed through mixed modes of reception of the real and the false. In addition, following Davide Panagia suggestion (2009), I argue that mockumentality produces the spectator as a viewing subject. This term points to the intrinsic aspect of viewing in the constitution of the political subject today (Ibid: 122). I consequently posit that the concept of mockumentality enables an analysis of the shifting conditions for political power of the viewing subject today.

Diana Popa                
Docudrama, transmedia aesthetics and communist myth- making in ”I don’t care if we go down in history as barbarians”
In this paper, I want to analyse the docudrama “I Don’t Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians”. The mixing of fiction with documentary filmmaking practices has a tradition in both international as well as contemporary Romanian filmmaking. Festival successes, such The Death of Mr Lazarescu and 4 months 3 weeks and 2 days, have been praised for using cinema verité practices in order to achieve an increased sense of ‘realism’ (see Gorzo 2012). In contrast, I want to show that through the use of transmedia elements, archival footage and photography among others, “I Don’t Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians” departs from earlier preoccupations with ‘realism’ in order to interrogate not only received ideas surrounding an actual historical event but also the use and evidentiary value of images in a media saturated landscape.
“I Don’t Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians” uses the form of docudrama in order to address a shameful episode in Romanian history, the massacre of Jews in Odessa during World War II. This event is both left unaddressed in contemporary political debates and also obscured by years of communist myth-making. Through close textual analysis of characteristic sequences from the film, I want to explore the ways in which it avoids constructing a unitary perspective from where criticism can be formulated against the past or the present. I argue that the film uses visual and narrative mixing precisely for their capacity to express multiple perspectives and to mobilise these against any homogenising views of the past. This argument has different implications depending on its context, past or present. In this way, the film is also timely as it resonates with contemporary concerns regarding the proliferation of fake news in the media.

Allan Burnett                
The World At War assemblage
This paper applies ‘assemblage theory’ (DeLanda, 2016) to a media historical investigation of the seminal The World At War documentary history series about the Second World War, which was produced in 1971-5 for the ITV network in the UK and broadcast around the globe.  The paper asks, how can assemblage theory be applied to media history and in particular documentary? What could an assemblage approach reveal about The World At War that is new and has wider resonance for media studies, history and other fields?  

Among topics this paper will address are assemblages of materially and biologically situated tools, technologies, techniques, intentions, laws, institutions, propositions and ideologies; the assembling of the production ‘interior’ with ‘exterior’ assemblages including audiences; the relationship between technology and narrative in the production of film and television; and the assemblage of historical narration as a medium for bringing the past into the present.

This paper challenges conventional thinking about the materiality of media as simply a physical technological ‘extension’ or ‘boundary’ by reasserting the primacy of narrative - or content - in media.  It seeks to demonstrate how the medium can be understood as a material technology of narrative that is exterior to - but in assemblage with - the interior narrative perceptions of the subject. It will argue moreover that the assembled medium is best understood as an ‘event’ - or flow of events - rather than a ‘thing’.  

This paper also elucidates the empirical development of my PhD thesis.  Using materials from the series’ production archive including notebooks, memoranda and interview transcripts, the thesis investigates key technical and narrative assemblages that emerged in making The World At War.  These keys were ‘interpellation assemblages’ which both constructed and deconstructed ways of being in the world in terms of social hierarchy, sex and gender, community and race, and technology.  They acted not only upon audiences but also upon the makers of the production in ways that call into question the locus of agency and determination.        

Panel 4: Everyday Life Chair: Joke Hermes

Deborah Chambers            
The Multiscreen Home: Changing media content and second screen use
Today’s ‘multiscreen homes’ are supported by new digital content and generating new household dynamics. The domestic adoption of mobile second screens is accompanied by new kinds of media mixing, transmedia content and modes of connectivity within and beyond the home. Observational studies of second screen engagement while watching TV indicate a complex interweaving of three types of media content: unrelated, related, and semi-related content. Broadcasters are extending second screen use in the living room to foster access to ‘companion content’ including complementary information related social media and play- along games. Companion apps are being extended to augment viewing experiences by enabling users to play along with or compare contestants in live programmes, or generate interactive, real-time experiences for popular programmes.

This paper examines new cross-media content and how these correspond with new modes of reception within domestic second screen practices. The study is supported by research data from the UK communications regulator Ofcom, on patterns of second screen use and types of media engagement. Changing viewing practices involving new interactive television content and streaming services are analysed. For example, media providers have developed additional content in their services such as Amazon’s X-ray that includes pre-loaded information within books and television programmes to provide further details on features. The socio-cultural implications of engagement with second screens and interactive, transmedia content are addressed. These viewing practices indicate a re-making of content and viewing experiences into interactive, real-time encounters of immediacy and liveness. They are transforming living rooms into flexible temporal spaces: extending and enriching shared time and enabling new connections beyond the home. By engaging with debates on media time, reception studies, media mixing and transmedia, I argue that digital screen relations create new domestic screen cultures distinguished as intra-domestic and trans-domestic screen practices. These emergent screen practices operate within mobile/home-centred polymediated
timescapes.

Christine Sandal
You are what you eat online
In Western societies, with increasingly salient mediation processes, eating, too, has become an entanglement of offline and online practices. Food as carrier of values has never merely satisfied bodily needs, which makes it essential to investigate mediated eating practices and emerging digital foodscapes in order to understand how they change everyday life, but also culture at large. One such starting point is the case of Swedish “What I eat in a day” vlogs – a mixed media genre containing elements of of diaries, cooking shows, reality- and lifestyle TV and web 2.0’s participatory culture. Moreover, the food vlogs (re)present actual eating practices, turned into texts while taking place, which makes it necessary to move beyond either a study of practices or representations. This is achieved by combining practice theory (which illuminates people’s mediated eating practices) with structural and cultural perspectives (which give insights into processes such as aestheticisation, stylisation, narration and meaning making of food). Subsequently, by investigating how the food vloggers scenically, visually and narratively perform their lifestyle-diets it becomes possible to get insights into the inner workings of the cultural field of food vlogs. Mechanisms of unspoken foodie hierarchies, internal struggles for positions and the negotiation of moral imperatives become visible. These processes, moreover, illuminate how everyday, bottom-up expertise in a mix with the authority of a micro-celebrity can grant the position of cultural intermediary. As such intermediaries, the vloggers, in cooperation with their online community, define, change and spread everyday eating practices online as well as offline. In addition to illustrating the workings of food vlogs per se, the case of “What I eat in a day” vlogs, thus, also provides insight into more general processes of cultural reproduction and renewal.

Magnus Johansson
Digital games and daily life
The mixing of media use and everyday life is an intricate web of practice and meaning-making. This paper aims at providing a closer look at how games played on phones, consoles or computers are part of the moral production within the everyday of family life. Through semi-structured interviews with nine Swedish parents, the author strives towards creating understanding for how digital games are not only tied to the moral project of the home, but have their values negotiated in relation to public discourses around games, focused on the perceived harmful aspects. The paper deals with both the domestication process of digital games as media technology, as well as the social construction of digital games and their perceived harms. As a base theoretical framework, Silverstone, Hirsch and Morley’s domestication theory is used, together with concepts from theorists Anthony Giddens, Deborah Chambers and Michel de Certeau. The families in this study use regulatory tactics in the everyday to construct moral continuities, which are ’defended’ from the perceived harms of digital games. The meanings of digital games are evaluated as active or non-active in relation to the building of the moral project of the home, visible through varying forms of negotiations and regulations. The contribution of this study is also a vision of inclusion of these ’wild’ technologies and content into the moral project. In an acceptance of digital games containing discourses of harms and threats, they need not be evaluated solely on these terms.

Maarit Jaakola    
Vernacular reviewing as a media mixing practice
This paper takes a look at the phenomenon of vernacular or non-institutionalised reviewing and investigates it as a case for ‘media mixing’. It is based on findings derived from recent empirical analyses in media and cultural studies and intends to reflect upon the practices of content production by ordinary users online, or ‘user reviewers’ in the ‘reviewsphere’ that has become a new digital environment for expressing cultural critique and preferences.

Vernacular reviewing is by definition reviewing produced by online users on digital platforms. Vernacular reviews present the presentation, interpretation and evaluation of new cultural products by individual users, representing a bottom-up or laypersons’ approach to cultural critique, which traditionally has been an institution by journalistic and academic institutions, as well as communities of the ‘artworld’. User-generated reviewing (UGR) is characterised by varying grades of professionalism (and amateurism), reflecting different forms of media production agency, and different grades of generic affordances imposed by the platform.

The reflections in this paper will be based on empirical studies on three different platforms, presenting visual and audiovisual forms of vernacular reviewing. As blogs and amateur review platforms such as Imdb, Rotten Tomatoes and Amazon have already been richly studied as cases of amateur reviewing, these audiovisual multi-purpose platforms have gained less attention. The findings in this paper are based on a) a study of 200 most-subscribed YouTube reviewing channels (2018); b) an analysis of review videos on Vimeo (2019, forthcoming), and c) written and visual entries of #bookstagram activities on Instagram (work in progress).

It is suggested that audiovisual vernacular reviews are ongoing processes rather than independent works, illustrative in the example of ‘evolving reviews’. The review, in its online-native vernacular form, is typically cross-media production, and the review genre is mixed with platform-specific genres, ranging from unboxing to pranks. ‘Media mixing’ thus constitutes a fundamental principle in the production of vernacular reviews, which makes a profound and maybe the characteristic distinction from the institutional forms of reviewing that has traditionally been mono-medial, monological and logocentric.

Panel 5: Storytelling Chair: Christine Geraghty

Antonella Mascio    
Series between entertainment and politics: The Handmaid’s Tale
In the current mediascape, TV Series represent a flagship product. They tell exciting stories, pursue a “cinematic” logic (Mittell 2015) and attract an ever-wider audience. Their complexity is based on a storytelling able to give life to stories that span different genres, offering a range of potential narrative implications that appeal to the audience. Although Tv Series traditionally belong to entertainment, often they are inspired by the narrative of real events, as it happens for Aquarius (NBC, 2015 - 2016), The Crown (Netflix, 2016 -) or in Italy for 1993 (Sky Atlantic, 2017). Even if the aim is never to propose a documentary, mixing fiction with reality produces effects on several levels. For instance, some audience groups considered Period Dramas a reliable interpretation of past events (Cfr. De Groot, 2015; Gao, 2016; Wodak, 2010).

In other series, where an undefined temporality is called into question as a sort of “near future”, the plot is often accompanied by a dystopian vision of events, while fictional frames offer different suggestions for a study of the real. Belonging to this dystopian sub-genre, we have Black Mirror (Channel 4, 2011–14; Netflix, 2016–present) which sometimes has been quoted inside the news as a reference to phenomena arousing concern and anxiety. Nosedive, or San Junipero are two episodes of Black Mirror appearing frequently in articles devoted to situations with extreme ethical concerns. With regards to this sub-genre, in my presentation I would like to focus on The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu, 2017 -), a series based on a novel by Margaret Atwood. It is set in “the near future”, where a totalitarian theocracy movement has overthrown the US government. The Handmaid's Tale, usually included in the category of feminist dystopia, explores the subjugation of women as well as the various means that politics employs to enslave the female body and its reproductive functions (Cfr. Shi, 2017).

Here my focus is to investigate the uses that have been made of The Handmaid's Tale, starting from its airing in spring 2017, which was coinciding with many of the events organized by the #MeToo movement. Red costumes used in the TV Series have in fact quickly become the symbol of a female resistance, spreading throughout the world. With respect to the storytelling project, The Handmaid's Tale teach us how this kind of narrative should had been observed as a continuously evolving storytelling process, in which audiences increasingly participate. The political reading of that text has influenced lots of online discussions (forums, Facebook groups, ..) and collective actions. We can talk about demonstrative effects, like occupied streets and squares, participation in public discussion and municipal councils groups. In particular, I am referring to some peculiar situations related to the Italian scene, in which the symbolic clothing of The Handmaid's Tale was worn by women, as a female protest against new motions related to the abortion law. In brief the questions that have guided my research on The Handmaid's Tale can be summarized as follow:
- Can we consider the connection between fiction and reality as a "political" reading produced by the audience?  Or  is it "suggested" by the text (Hall 1980)?
- Why do fiction is useful for telling us uncomfortable realities? Is it fiction an help in describing our (dystopian) scenarios?
-    How can a TV Series like The Handmaid's Tale become  a cultural symbol in such a short time?

Michael Stewart            
Looking for the greatest love of all: social melodrama and the absurd in Toni Erdmann
This paper examines how family melodrama in film mixes forms to adapt to new social circumstances. Melodrama renews itself by redistributing the sensible and suffering. This is manifested via increased evidence of guilt and shame and a juridicial structure. Alongside this is a heightened social locatedness, and a greater willingness to confront repressed histories and the violence of the neo-liberal present. Family melodrama becomes more accented and understated. It also features exiled characters and combines melodrama with the cinema of precarity. This paper considers these features, but is especially interested in the mixing of melodrama with black humour and the absurd. Globalized family melodrama increasingly does this, but black humour and the absurd are under-researched in film and media studies. The paper’s primary focus is Toni Erdmann (Ade, 2016), which features two characters (a father and daughter) who have lost social traction and are restless. In interviews, the film’s director downplays its comedy, emphasizing instead its actors’ abilities to ‘play it straight’. The film, though, is a series of excessive, bizarre and frequently painful performances. At one level, it constitutes a perverse courtship, where, as Camus notes of the absurd, hatred binds two figures together, but not without consequences. In his attempt to reach Ines (Sandra Hüller) and/or an unspecified future, Winfried (Peter Simonischek) almost kills himself on one occasion, and on another loses a Romanian worker his job. This is collateral damage, Ines and Winfried’s neurosis and eccentricity becoming brutal neo-liberalism and woeful narcissistic indulgence. Toni Erdmann here mixes melodrama, the absurd and the social, Bucharest becoming an ex-pat playground and laboratory for outsourced risk and family repair. What is on trial is ambiguous, but it is Ines who most has to account for herself: as a virtuoso performer in the affective economy; as a daughter and therefore risky commodity in the family economy; and as a woman and therefore enduring fantasy of nationhood. Regarding the first of these, while the distinction between the aesthetic and political pertains, the common ground between these realms expands in post-Fordist economies. A productive tension emerges between the absurd, melodrama and the social, as well as between public and private spheres. The film’s mix of modes makes more visible the paradoxically private theatres of immaterial labour. In so doing, it exposes competing liberalisms and a contemporary terror of emptiness, as well as the deep desire for intimacy and meaning at the heart of both these cultural forms.

Stefania Antonioni & Chiara Checcaglini    
How deep is your love? Transmedia storytelling and emotional engagement in the web series SKAM Italia
Skam is a Norwegian teen drama format: its storylines develop through different media and different forms, displaying both mixed modes of storytelling and mixed modes of reception. Following the success of the original Norwegian version, Skam has been produced and distributed in other countries, with basically the same plots, characters and transmedia structure.

Our paper will focus on the Italian version of Skam, which, like every Skam adaptation, presents its specific cultural and local references to the Italian context, and to the city of Rome specifically. In Italy, Skam episodes are posted on a website owned by TIMvision (TIM on-demand streaming platform). The main medium is the video: several clips are released during the week, until they are re-connected in a 25 minutes episode. In addition to the clips, the website and the Facebook page collect other materials produced by the characters in the story or between the filmed parts of the story: Whatsapp conversations, Instagram photos, SMS, comments. The release system is peculiar: the clips’ releases are not scheduled, so the viewers must pay constant attention to the website and the social media pages to be up-to-date. The overlapping of real and fictional time and the dissemination of social media profiles contribute to a sense of continuity between fiction and reality, which can be related to as a form of liveness (Bourdon 2000). Concerning at the same time the chosen storytelling style and the different contents’ self promotion, this particular strategy reinforces the engagement and affection mechanisms experienced by the audience. In fact we can assume that Skam is particularly suited for teenagers, whose audiovisual modes of consumption require (and offer) a quite wide amount of performativity, a sense of commonality and the perception of belonging to a “hidden niche”. Part of the success of the series lies indeed in the audience’s perceived closedness and exclusiveness, a feeling of being part of a “tribe”.

We will analyse the first two seasons of SKAM Italia following these research questions:

  1. Which strategies are used to build the Italian version of the series’ transmedia storytelling?
  2. How is liveness constructed?

To what extent can it be considered one of the means of the success among the Italian audience? To investigate these research questions we will use a mixed method combining the series’ content analysis with an analysis of the audience reception through social media platforms.

Ioanna Vovou    
Narrating reality in a creative way
This paper proposes to question contemporary processes and modes used in media narratives when it comes to showing us a ‘real’ state of the world. The authenticating genres, which are supposed to inform us on (and shed light on) the truth, the actuality, the state of the world "as it is" offer a rich field of study, especially as the different forms of factual narrative intertwine with the forms of the fictional narrative. In the context of a transmedia culture, our paper examines the articulations between factual narrative, reality and promise of truth. Whether it is to inform about current events, social and political topics, or to accompany our everyday lives (eg. TV shows, blogs and sites focused on food, or magazines of information / entertainment on television or on the web), it seems that narration is a key issue. In the era of synergetic storytelling (Jenkins, 2006a) on various media platforms and that of the rise of the idea of a "participatory culture" (Jenkins, 2006b) we often tend to ignore the fact that the blurring of borders between truth / fiction / imaginary (cf. Iser) did not wait for the digital turn to exist. Certainly, nowadays, because of our daily intermedial practices, the world "as it is" is inextricably linked to the media world, forming a sphere with several porous layers of intelligibility. To understand the rise of the transmedia narrative that finds a favorable ground in the digital environment, our focus will be on communication modes such as seriality, iteration, staging, the logic of seduction, the feint, etc., in various examples, already amply developed in the so-called traditional media and particularly in the television narrative and discourse. The question that we propose to examine with regard to real-life narratives (journalistic and other) would be the following: would the multiple narratives of reality be changing the original promise of "telling / showing / explaining the truth " ? For, in order to understand what is at stake in these authenticating stories, it seems that the traditional primacy of truth is fading away to leave room for new epistemic issues that suggest the rise of a renewed paradigm of sincerity.

Giovanni Prattichizzo    
Tell me data… Statistics storytelling
In the Social Network Society it is no longer enough to be there; it’s need to know how to tell. We are immersed in the stories and we can’t do without it. It is not enough to be found, it is necessary to be followed. In this current scenario, scientific and statistical production is compared with the narrative schemes of imaginative storytelling, according to which the story is intended to make the narrative seem more captivating than the numbers and the meaning of numbers as such could succeed in to say. To tell a statistical history, for example, means to insert the statistical data in a text flow and in a social narration that increases its significance and facilitates its understanding, in the belief that users remember more easily the stories of numbers, than the numbers in themselves.

The aim of this paper is to show how, on the one hand, we are facing an exponential increase of fake news and fake statistics, on the other, the public are increasingly eager to find scientific communication channels, which, very followed, start a Public Engagement with Science and Technology and represent a real antidote to the spread of fake information. The analysis of the case studies and the experiment of "Lost in Istat", a competition promoted by Istat, show that the transition from disclosure to scientific serial communication is increasingly widespread and represents the path to follow by making narrative rules their own. This implies the necessity of a statistics storytelling: an approach able to tell the statistics, inserting the data in a context narrative, in order to obtain a more captivating merger between the cold world of numbers and the most exciting words. The data tells what is happening, the stories tell why. If data meets stories, change is possible.

Panel 6: Mixed Media Chair: Anna Reading

Joanna Doona & Tommy Bruhn        
Do you realize what you have done - @svtnyheter - public service?
In 2018, the satirical public service prime time programme ‘Svenska Nyheter’ (Swedish News, SVT, 2018-) sparked a serious and multifaceted debate in Swedish press and comments sections, after launching the web tool ‘SKOLKO’ (translates into ‘SCHOOL QUE’ but also connotes the word ‘skolka’, meaning ‘to cutting class’). The tool was designed to make fun of but also correct an unfair allocations system for private school applications. While there has been quite a few studies of the textual qualities of satirical calls to action (cf. Baym 2005; Day 2011; Jones 2013), there has been less focus the mapping of how satirical modes of discourse blend with non-satirical ones, in the context of public and civic debate – especially in relation to public service satire. Using the case of SKOLKO, and considering the ensuing debate as rhetorical and performative acts, we ask how various media, modes of discourse, and stakeholders interplay, in order to map the processual development of the discursive and political meaning of the event. The study is interdisciplinary, combining methods from rhetoric and media and communication studies; and the analysis is approached from the perspective of dialogism (Todorov 1984), focussing especially on the polyphonic, emotional, contextual and intertextual dimensions of utterance-response. The empirical materials consist of the programme itself, news and debate articles, as well as a social media analysis of the programme’s comments section. The analysis shows how the contextualization of issues is a primary point of controversy, and how strategies of discursive positioning can expand the public debate and reach of an issue, by appealing to non-aligned discursive communities. This in turn demonstrates how the processual development of a public issue emerges in the mix of constitutive rhetorical, satirical, cultural and social practices across a range of media.

Jesper Enbom    
The many faces of podcasting        
In February of 2018 fifteen years have passed since Ben Hammersley wrote an article about weblog-based amateur radio in The Guardian. He used the term podcasting to put a name to this new phenomena. During the years that has passed there has been a steady expansion of both podcasts and their audience. Today there are approximately two million podcasts globally and large part of the population in countries like US and Brazil listen to podcasts et least once a week. During 2018 just over half the Swedish population listened to podcasts which makes Sweden ranked seventh in the world when it comes to podcast audience.  There has though been surprisingly little attention given to podcasts among scholars in Sweden as well as globally. Podcasting - new aural cultures and digital media (LLinares et al 2018) being one of few exceptions. This study provides insights obtained from six qualitative interviews in pilot study involving podcast producers and hosts working across different podcast genres in Sweden and the UK.

Among the themes explored in this paper are podcasts as a grassroots medium versus a ’legacy medium’, the multitude of formats and the variety of revenue streams with inherit possibilities and challenges. Furthermore the paper discusses how the combination of podcast and social media development growth has contributed to trans media storytelling, audience interaction and genre mixing.

Jurate Kavaliauskaite            
The hybrid nature of Google’s corporate blogging
The hybridization of media system (Chadwick, 2013), platformization of digital intermediation (Nieborg, Poel, 2018) and increasing complexity of the tech-enabled mediascape challenge communication and media scholars with new phenomena and demand a focus on the media(ted) articulation of the multi-dimensional change. Focusing on a case study of the Google’s Central Blog (blog.google), I ask how the proliferation of hybrid or mixed modes of communication is related to the practices of self-reference and self-reflexivity (Nöth, Bishara, 2008; Goldman, Papson, 1996) in the emerging media space, and how we can think about broader cultural implications of this interplay. To conceptualize Google’s blogging one needs to ‘follow the natives’ (Latour, 2005) beyond a medium (the post-human materiality of tech), or audiences (human readers and media appropriators) and, first of all, turn to the agency of production, leading the vanguard of techno-cultural innovation and publicly reflecting upon it. In the Google’s case, I suggest, blogging by ‘googlers’ should be read as a mixed genre, a double-edged practice of cultural ‘(re)encoding’ (Katriel, 2015). On the one hand, bypassing major conventions of public relations, for fifteen years, blogging serves the company’s corporate goals via the appropriation of attributes of the social web and ‘genre of personal expression’ (Puschmann, 2010). The Central Blog can be explored as a peculiar type of diary-writing, storytelling about ‘affordances’ (Hutchby, 2001) of new media and digital innovation, and, consequently, about Google’s, their architect’s, multi-faceted identity. On the other hand, as a distinct type of conversation, the tech giant’s blogging stretches beyond narrating the self. Here, the self-reflection is intrinsically relational, its performance involves encoding of a digital tech’s social life, of its benefits as well as beneficiaries, including end-users, turning the blogging into a broader cultural commentary that contributes to the evolving social imaginary of the human self and cultural citizenship amidst the tech-driven change.

Katie Day Good
A wonderland of devices: Media Mixes and Citizenship Formation in American Classrooms,1904-1946
Media mixing and multimodal literacies are widely prioritized as beneficial outcomes in twentyfirst century education. The ability to critically consume, produce, evaluate, and creatively combine diverse types of audio, visual, textual, and digital media is increasingly understood as a basic component of literacy and informed citizenship in a heavily mediated democracy. But where did these ideas come from? Current literature traces the rise of multimodal instruction to the postwar decades, when an information boom in the form of computers, satellites, television, and affordable and portable consumer electronics prompted educational leaders to embrace what Marshall McLuhan called a “mosaic approach” to media in the classroom. This paper argues that a multimodal sensibility took shape much earlier in American education, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Drawing on case studies of the St. Louis Educational Museum (est. 1904) and discourses about “multisensory” and “child-made” classroom aids in American educational literature, this paper highlights how educators, researchers, and policymakers began positioning the use of diverse audio, visual, and tactile media forms as foundational to a twentieth-century education. More than beneficial to learning, advocates touted these diverse media mixtures as important for the formation of good citizenship and, increasingly in the 1930s and early 40s, necessary for fortifying American democracy against the threat of fascist or persuasive propaganda. Specifically, educational media mixtures were believed to promote progressive ideals “active” and hands-on learning in the service of a healthy individualism, help children resist the allure of “mindless” and “mechanical” amusements such as cinema and radio, and promote a broad, liberal, “world-minded” outlook that would assist in the harmonious assimilation of immigrants into society and bolster the democratic sensibilities of young American citizens. This paper concludes by considering the contradictions and limitations of these historic discourses about media mixes and draws parallels to contemporary calls for teaching multi-media literacies in an age of rising intolerance and propaganda online.

Pernilla Severson            
Exploring how to research webisodes
In this paper I explore how to research webisodes as mixed modes of media production, distribution and reception. I argue that appropriate theoretical and meta-theoretical reflections are needed to research mixed modes of media production, distribution and reception in relation to each other. I use the notion of the ‘circuit of culture’ (du Gay 2013) to describe a theoretical foundation to understand relations between how cultural products – mixed modes or not – are produced, distributed and consumed. As a mixed mode technology product, the webisode is referred to as an example. A webisode is defined by its distribution. Production aspects can be very different, for example The Walking Dead webisodes or Fan-produced re-edited soap opera webisodes. The former invites discussions on business opportunities (Peirce 2012), the latter invites discussions on audiences as readers and consumers of resistance (Dhaenens 2012). A simple example used in the paper is that audiences can be studied as and by online focus groups articulating mixed modes in various ways. The Fan-produced re-edited soap opera webisode imply that audiences can be producers at the same time, hence becoming a particular form of “privatized leisure” (du Gay 2013:104) as consumption as well as production. On the other hand, The Walking Dead webisodes are part of a commercialized setting, hence becoming a produced “privatized leisure” offered for consumption. Online traces of both the online focus groups and the traffic data of the usage of the webisodes can further knowledge on location, temporality and sharing/storing.