Worldcon 75 and The Hobbit panel

Worldcon, that is, The World Science Fiction Convention, was held for the 75th time in August 2017. Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland was the first one to have an academic track, a whole string of panels dedicated to academic research on science fiction and fantasy, arranged by Finfar – The Finnish Socienty for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. Our project had the honor of hosting the first session of the academic track! We were pleased to notice that we had a room full of audience eager to hear results from our Uses of Fantasy project.

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Image: Minna Siikilä

The opening presentation was held by our project leader PhD Irma Hirsjärvi, a fandom researcher at the Research Centre for Contemporary Culture at the University of Jyvaskyla. She introduced our project and explored the possible differences between the responses of the  Nordic countries, as well as the dilemma of “Did we pose the right questions in the survey?” PhD Jyrki Korpua, our international Tolkien expert, gave a talk on the audience responses to myth and mythology in The Hobbit films. Doctoral student, MA Tanja Välisalo analysed audience attachment to particular Hobbit characters as following different trajectories through narrative and social contexts of Tolkien’s world and fandom. MA, also a doctoral student Minna Siikilä discussed how fandom and antifandom are intertwined in online discussions of The Hobbit film trilogy.

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Irma Hirsjärvi, chairing our panel at Worldcon.
Image: Sanna Pudas

One of the high points of Worldcon for many attendees was most certainly seeing George R.R. Martin. The author of A Song of Ice and Fire, a book series adapted into a television series Game of Thrones, appeared in several programme numbers, for example a panel on the creation of fictional worlds. Martin’s appearances were especially intriguing for our project group because of the on-going global research project on the reception of Game of Thrones. As we have previously advertised in this blog, the data for the project is gathered through an online survey, and there is still time to participate until the end of August!

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“Winter is coming” – but what does it mean?

Game of Thrones questionnaire http://www.questeros.org/qLast 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.

‘Fantastic Epics’ in Orlando, Florida

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Literature circle on reception and audience studies

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.

First research results published

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:

This issue of Participations has a whole themed section of articles based on The World Hobbit Project – intriguing reading for Christmas time!

A Visit to the Library: Lokacon 2016

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

Livestream from our open keynote lectures

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:
https://moniviestin.jyu.fi/ohjelmat/hum/taiku/nykykulttuuri/uses-of-fantasy/live
Request the password by email: hobbitprojectfinland[a]gmail.com

More information on the keynote lectures at the seminar website:
https://theworldhobbitprojectfinland.com/keynotes/