Worldcon Programme Released!

The programme of the 75th Worldcon (Helsinki, August 9-13) has now been released! Our project members can, of course, be found presenting and discussing in several sessions in the Academic Track. There will also be a panel dedicated for our Hobbit project. Join us there to hear about the latest developments of our project.

See you all at Worldcon!

Our project in ICFA38 – and other news

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!

The Varied World of Fantastic: Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape Seminar


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.


Emerita professor Liisa Rantalaiho giving her keynote titled “Uses 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.


Emeritus professor Martin Barker giving his keynote titled “On Being Disappointed with The Hobbit: Indications of the Changing Significance of Fantasy

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.


Associate professor Susana Tosca giving her keynote titled “Fantasy Transmediations: the Art of Making It Real”

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.


Our keynotes Martin Barker, Susana Tosca, and Liisa Rantalaiho.

By Jani Ylönen and Mari Koskela


Make your views on Game of Thrones known – Game of Thrones Research Project has started!

Questeros Advertising Image 1.jpgWhile our “Uses of fantasy”-research project on the reception of the Hobbit-trilogy is moving onwards with full force, we have not been idle about the future neither.

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 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.

In the meantime, you can take the survey, spread the word, and stay up-to-date with the Game of Thrones Research Project on their Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook profiles.

Searching for the Golden Road between Quantitative and Qualitative: Martin Barker’s Workshop (19 October 2016)


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

Registration open for Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape!

Hey, all!

Registration for our upcoming seminar Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape (20-21 October, University of Jyväskylä, Finland) is now open. Please register here. Those of you who are waiting to hear if your paper proposals have been accepted, be patient for a bit longer – we have extended the deadline for proposals to 23 September, and will get back to you on your proposals soon. Those of you who have not yet submitted your proposals, now is your chance: send us your stuff by 23 September!

See you all in Jyväskylä this October!


Titles and Abstracts of Keynote Talks Available

We have now updated information here on our website about the keynotes of our forthcoming seminar Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape (October 20-21, University of Jyväskylä, Finland) – such as the titles and abstracts of their talks.

Our three keynotes will be talking about such interesting stuff, read more here!

Also, remember to send us your abstracts for the seminar by September 5.

See you all in October!

The Project in Media – and Some Information

Even though it has been the summer holiday season in Finland, our project members have remained active, and our Hobbit project has been visible in the media:

  • The Finnish newspaper Keskisuomalainen published an article on our project:
    – Kuivalahti, Laura: Fani antaa anteeksi. Jyväskylän yliopisto on mukana
    valtavassa Hobitti-elokuvien vastaanottotutkimuksessa. [The fan forgives. University of Jyväskylä is a part of a large reception study on the Hobbit films.] Keskisuomalainen, July 9, 2016. Kulttuuri, 32.
  • Aino-Kaisa Koistinen reviewed the film Ghostbusters for the Finnish newspaper Kaleva, and also talked a bit about our Hobbit project:
    – Juntto, Anssi: Naiset uudelleenlämmittelyn sankareina. [Women as heroes of a remake.] Kaleva, July 28, 2016. K2, 32.
  • Jyrki Korpua was interviewed on Tolkien and our project for Finnish YLE
  • Aino-Kaisa Koistinen wrote an article of our project for the newspaper Kaleva:
    – Koistinen, Aino-Kaisa: Fantasia auttaa rakentamaan identiteettiä. [Fantasy helps in building one’s identity.] Kaleva, August 1, 2016, 34.
  • In addition, something that might interest some of you fluent in French is that Irma Hirsjärvi, Urpo Kovala and Jyrki Korpua were also interviewed on Finnish weird for Libértine. The interview is not clearly related to our project, but it will prove interesting for anyone intrigued by Finnish fantasy.

Also, we have updated information concerning accommodation  at our forthcoming Uses of Fantasy seminar. Check it out – and remember to send us your abstract for the seminar by September 5 (see the CfP)!

The Hobbit Project at Finncon

Most of our research team spent the last weekend before summer holidays at Finncon, Finland’s longest-running science fiction and fantasy convention, like we promised back in May. We want to extend our thanks to all who showed interest in our presentations, the one in the academic track and the one in the general track, and engaged in discussion with us.


Panelists (from the left): Irma Hirsjärvi, Jyrki Korpua, Tanja Välisalo and Aino-Kaisa Koistinen.
Photo: Minna Siikilä

More insights on Finncon can be found for example in our colleague Essi Varis’ blog. To offer a glimpse of our discussions at Finncon and our current work, we published some of our presentation materials. Take a look and remember  – there is a massive amount of data to go through, so if you find yourself interested in participating, please feel free to contact us at hobbitprojectfinland[a]