Last winter we published news of our participation in the Game of Thrones research project – as well as the link to the questionnaire. The survey has already gathered thousands of responses internationally, for which we are very thankful to all who have participated! Still, we have yet to reach our aim of 10,000 responses worldwide. So please, it would mean very much for the success of the research project, if you could take the time to answer the questionnaire at www.questeros.org/ and pass it on to friends, relatives, and colleagues, and/or mention it in blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else where you post.
The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts took place in Orlando, Florida for the 38th time in March 2017 with the theme of “Fantastic Epics”. Some of our project members also took an epic journey over the Atlantic to represent The World Hobbit Project.
Our very own Jyrki Korpua gave a paper presentation under the title “Divine Mothers and Active Heroines: Female Identity and Roles in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium and Peter Jackson’s Movie Adaptations”. In the same session, Don Riggs (Drexel University) read an interesting paper on Peter Jackson’s videoblogs that build the “epic anticipation” for Jackson’s Hobbit films. A lively discussion around The Hobbit films and their audiences ensued and the ongoing Game of Thrones research project and survey were also mentioned.
Research on fantasy audiences was also represented in several papers on fans and fan cultures, such as Gail Bondi’s presentation on fans learning new literacies through their participation in an online Harry Potter knitting and crocheting community and Nicola Govocek’s presentation on how Supernatural fans approach ethical issues through fan fiction.
A different view on fan experiences was offered by the natural resource of the Orlando area – theme parks! A visit to Orlando Universal Studios gave an intriguing glimpse on how theme parks based on existing narratives can invite visitors to step into the fictional worlds of their favorite stories.
Overall, the conference offered the great atmosphere and lively discussions for which it is known. While the sessions offered wide array of topics from all walks of speculative fiction, the leisure activities, such as the farewell party by the hotel pool and mingling with people after sessions will remain among the brightest memories of ICFA38.
Being a member of a research community continuously offers opportunities for co-learning. Our project team decided to take this opportunity and transform it to a (somewhat) coordinated learning experience in the form of a literature circle!
On Thursday afternoons in April and May, starting on April 13th, we will gather at the University of Jyväskylä campus to discuss select reception studies and audience studies texts, starting with classics, the likes of Stanley Fish and Wolfgang Iser. The participants will decide on the final selection of reading in the first meeting.
We warmly welcome all colleagues with interest in audience and/or reception studies to join! Master’s degree students are most welcome to participate too.
If you wish to join us in discussing, wondering and debating, please contact Tanja Välisalo, tanja.valisalo_at_jyu.fi to receive more information.
You may have thought that our project members have been laying it low, since our web page and Facebook have not been updated so often – but think again! Our project funding for one year from The Finnish Cultural Foundation has almost ran its course, and therefore we have been actively applying for more funding for both The World Hobbit Project, and following The Game of Thrones Project. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Also, our members have been busy with conference presentation preparation, as some of our team members have traveled to the sunny Florida in order to attend the wonderful International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA38). If you happen to be in Florida, go and meet our team members! You can download the conference programme here. You can also expect a full blog post on the conference shortly.
Later in the spring, our team will be presenting our results also at Kirjallisuudentutkijain Seuran vuosiseminaari & Kulttuurintutkimuksen päivät (Finnish conference for research on literature and culture).
In addition, we are currently preparing publications on our project’s results – stay tuned for more information!
We are very happy to announce the publication of the first articles presenting our research results. In the current issue of Participations – Journal of Audience & Reception Studies (volume 13, issue 2) there are no less than three articles based on the Finnish and Nordic research data written by our team members:
- Hirsjärvi, Irma, Kovala, Urpo & Ruotsalainen, Maria. Patterns of reception in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden: In search of interpretive communities. (PDF file)
- Koistinen, Aino-Kaisa, Ruotsalainen, Maria, Välisalo, Tanja. The World Hobbit Project in Finland: Audience responses and transmedial user practices. (PDF file)
- Korpua, Jyrki. Finnish audience responses to myth and mythology in The Hobbit: Connections between J R R Tolkien’s fiction and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film series. (PDF file)
This issue of Participations has a whole themed section of articles based on The World Hobbit Project – intriguing reading for Christmas time!
Ten o’clock in the morning after the Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape seminar had finished, a delegation of its organizers had another chance to present the results of The World Hobbit Project. However, instead of the classrooms at the University of Jyväskylä, the venue was a public hall inside the Jyväskylä City Library, which hosted the annual Lokacon on October 22.
Lokacon is a traditional event organized by the local Jyväskylä Science Fiction Society 42 on the 42nd week of each year. This year the one-day affair hosted presentations by SF authors, experts, and scholars with the Uses of Fantasy project having the first slot. Unfortunately, being first sometimes comes with its own problems. This time a lack of a simple adapter meant that the audience was denied the visual aids planned for the show — among them pictures of the hot dwarves, or rather their fan art depictions, so often mentioned in The World Hobbit Project’s survey answers.
The delegation’s Irma Hirsjärvi and Tanja Välisalo did, however, verbally and on a flip board review some of the results. The audience was introduced, for instance, to the many ways in which the audience had reacted to the different characters in the film from the dwarves to the additional elf Tauriel. They also received information about the possible societal implications of the results and, of course, on details and results specific to the Finnish answers, such as the especially strong participation in fan activity connected to the films.
The audience was active in asking questions. They were, for example, critical about the comparability of the Finnish data. They questioned whether the data, which apparently has a high degree of fans, can be used for making broader interpretations about the audiences in general. However, our research team explained that this is an interesting result in itself and more in-depth research on the Finnish audience in particular is underway, so they can expect more results on this topic in the future.
By Jani Ylönen
On the 20 – 21 October our project held a seminar called Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. The speeches, presentations and discussions ranged from the reception to medium and genre specific uses of speculative fiction. In the end, the seminar’s participants argued for more research on the growing significance and variety of fantastic in the contemporary world.
The seminar was opened by Professor Raine Koskimaa of the University of Jyväskylä, who in his brief address reminded the audience that fantasy offers vast universes to explore, but also that one should not forget the many levels on which technology is a part of this world building. Prof. Koskimaa was followed by the first keynote speaker of the day, Emerita professor Liisa Rantalaiho of the University of Tampere, who concentrated on the first words in the name of the seminar in her speech concisely titled Using Fantasy. Her speech keyed on the issue of use, first discussing how fantasy has been seen as useless or useful from different perspectives, for example, citing Tolkien’s thoughts on the matter. She further discussed the age old tension between escapism and estrangement that has influenced the discussion about the role of fantasy.
Prof. Rantalaiho’s address was followed by the second keynote by Emeritus professor Martin Barker of the Aberystwyth University titled On Being Disappointed with The Hobbit: Indications of the Changing Significance of Fantasy . Prof. Barker took the conversation to the ending of the seminar’s name, i.e. the changing media landscape and the disappointment expressed in the reception of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Through examining the feeling of disappointment that was strongly expressed in some of the answers to The World Hobbit Projects’ survey, he argued that there has been a change in how fantasy is received and what functions it performs in the contemporary society. He, furthermore, called for more research on this topic; this shared, varied world of fantasy that is a growing in significance.
After the keynotes and a lunch break the seminar divided into two parallel sessions. Session I concentrated on the television serie Game of Thrones and the need to move away from the question of fidelity that has traditionally haunted adaptation studies to a more transmedial view as well as how reactions to the fate of the serie’s character Hodor can be used to discuss questions of mourning and carnivalization of death. Meanwhile, Session II moved in a varied fashion through speculative fiction with looks into gene technology and parenthood to the phenomenon of zombilution in the contemporary society and, finally, to anthropological points of view into writing speculative fiction.
After a coffee break parallel session number three discussed people using toys and social networks to create fantasies of adult life as well as how Pablo Escobar created a dark fantasy of himself through an intertextual zoo. Simultaneously, in the fourth session the discussion concentrated on questions of transmedia and intertextuality three papers discussing the reception of the films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and fantasy novels influenced by them. After a heavy dose of speculative fiction, the participants retired for the conference dinner at the nearby Sohwi to discuss topics related and unrelated to the day’s event.
Friday was started by Associate Professor Susana Tosca of IT University of Copenhagen, whose keynote lecture, Fantasy Transmediations: the Art of Making It Real, focused on transmedial objects such as clothes, figures, and amusement parks that have incarnated into our “real world” from the immaterial, non-existent fantasy world. She stated that the items can, in a manner of speaking, mimic or represent the fantasy world and carry meanings for their possessors, just as the religious objects can be taken as transubstantiated items rather than only symbols of what they represent. In addition, the fantasy stories may also offer a new kind of alternative spiritual tale for the fans. Assoc. Prof. Tosca also pointed out that despite the negative dimensions of our consumer society, the consumption of this kind of material stuff can have its positive effects due to the empowering nature of spirituality the fans experience.
After the keynote, Professor Raine Koskimaa presented some of the results of our project Uses of Fantasy – The World Hobbit Project in Finland. For more on the results, see below:
After the keynote session and the results from the Hobbit project the crowd divided into the final parallel sessions. One session discussed the changes occurring in the adaptation process from one media to another as well as the more transmedial approaches when a product is made simultaneously onto two different media platforms. In the meantime, the other session examined comics by concentrating on how authors experiment with medium-specific possibilities transgressing boundaries between stories and story-worlds.
When the sessions ended, the keynote lecturers Barker and Tosca joined with the representatives of the University of Jyväskylä, Senior Researcher Urpo Kovala, Professor Raine Koskimaa and Researcher Irma Hirsjärvi, to discuss the future of fantasy research. According to them, it is quite apparent that the fantasy landscape is chancing and has changed during the recent years: now instead of being a genre appealing only few, it reaches large audiences, and, as someone noted from the crowd, has got rid of the nerd stigma it once had. Hirsjärvi also commented the appliances the fantasy research may have in the future, by depicting the unfortunate recent events in Finland with the refugee center attacks. Could the fantasy research help to explain why and how some of us see the world in such a different way? All in all, the field of fantasy research was agreed to be off to a running start but at the same time, in need of many new researchers and studies.
By Jani Ylönen and Mari Koskela
As part of group of over 40 researchers from all over the world, led by Professor Martin Barker from Aberystwyth University in the UK, we are now conducting an international project to gather thousands of people’s views on Game of Thrones.
The research project is entirely self-funded, and is not connected with HBO or George R. R. Martin in any way. It is being conducted by a group of university researchers with a large interest in fantasy films and television. Some of the researchers involved also worked on The World Star Wars Project, The World Hobbit Project, and the Watching The Lord of the Rings Project.
The researchers for the Game of Thrones Research Project have very recently launched an online survey, which should take around 20 minutes to complete, on the project’s website at www.questeros.org. We want to gather thousands of people’s views on the series, and we are depending on people’s willingness to spread the word about the project, telling their friends and relatives and mentioning it online on their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else that they post.
The results and findings of the project will be made publicly available, and the survey will be open well into 2017 after the much-anticipated Season 7 finally airs. If you have any questions about the Game of Thrones Research Project, you can read more information about it here.
Professor Barker in the workshop. Picture: Aino-Kaisa Koistinen.
Emeritus professor Martin Barker’s workshop, which he hosted a day before the Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape seminar, began with a question. He asked the participants to help him come to a decision whether his approach to combining qualitative and quantitative research, “Q to Q”, was a methodology, a method, or a research device. Indeed, he preferred to call the event a “Think-together-shop”.
Before the question was posed, the leader of the Uses of Fantasy project, Irma Hirsjärvi introduced Prof. Barker of Aberystwyth University and the leader of the World Hobbit Project to the approximately twenty people gathered in the University of Jyväskylä’s Seminarium building. In some sense much of the event was an introduction to Prof. Barker and his career. After a look at how Q to Q fits into the field of attempts to combine qualitative and quantitative research, he explained his motivations for setting upon the road towards his current approach. These included the wish to bring audience research into cultural studies, but also the need to test the claims of mass communication research that cultural products have negative effects on their consumers.
During the three-hour workshop, the audience had the possibility to ponder whether the latter has also influenced Prof. Barker’s choice of research topics along the years. Prof. Barker introduced a selection of his reception studies from the past 40 years. Many of these examined controversial cultural products ranging from violent, yet thought provoking comics, such as Action and 2000 AD, to films that were almost banned in the UK, like Crash (1996), and, finally, to fantasy films often criticized for being “merely escapism” such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
Barker explained, how Crash was studied with a nine-cell structure. Picture: Katja Kontturi.
Through these projects Prof. Barker narrated the development of his research and how he honed his approach to reception studies through trial and error. He kept the audience activated through conversation points and plenty of examples that emphasized the benefits of combining quantitative and qualitative questions and the importance of their contextual honing. In the end, the fellow thinkers’ answer to the prior question was that Q to Q has elements of both a methodology and a method. No doubt, all of them were eager to hear more about it in the future, especially after its application in the near-future Game of Thrones television series reception study.
By Jani Ylönen
Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape seminar takes place at the University of Jyväskylä 20. – 21.10.2016. The seminar keynote lectures (Seminarium building, S212) are open to all.
Professor Emerita Liisa Rantalaiho (University of Tampere, Finland): Using Fantasy
October 20, 2016 klo 10 am to 11 am
Professor Emeritus Martin Barker (Aberystwyth University, UK): On being disappointed with The Hobbit: indications of the changing significance of fantasy
October 20, 2016 from 11 am to 12 pm
Susana Tosca (IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark): Fantasy transmediations: the art of making it real
October 21, 2016 from 10 am to 11 am
Keynote lectures by Barker and Tosca will also be available through livestream at:
Request the password by email: hobbitprojectfinland[a]gmail.com
More information on the keynote lectures at the seminar website: