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

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:
Request the password by email: hobbitprojectfinland[a]

More information on the keynote lectures at the seminar website:

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]

Transmedial Uses of Fantasy – The World Hobbit Project in Finland in the Transmedia Use(r)s Summer School

By Maria Ruotsalainen*

Soon after our project started in March we heard that it would be possible for us to attend the International Summer School in Cultural Studies, held at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, June 13-15, 2016. Normally, summer schools are targeted for PhD students, but this time our project members – both doctors and doctoral students – were allowed to attend, because the theme of the summer school came so close to the research questions of our projects. And what was the theme this year? Transmedia Use(r)s.

Day 1.

The first day of the summer school began with a symposium with three speakers. First, Professor Raine Koskimaa’s from the University of Jyväskylä opened the symposium and gave a talk about games and transmediality. In his talk, Koskimaa emphasised the importance of temporality in a transmedia gaming experience.

Pic1Professor Koskimaa giving his talk

After Koskimaa, there were two keynote lectures; one by Assistant Professor Elizabeth Evans from University of Nottingham and one by Associate Professor Lisbeth Klastrup from the IT University of Copenhagen. Evans drew attention to the particularities of engagement with transmedia and demonstrated how those who produce transmedia often understand the concept of transmedia as well as that of engagement in a very different way than those who use transmedia.

Pic2Associate Professor Evans presenting her work

Klastrup, in turn, concentrated on the transmedia experience, emphasizing the way that transmedial worlds are experienced and constructed through these experiences. The One particular notion Klastrup discussed was nostalgia’s relation to transmedia. Klastrup pointed out that from the point of view of the people who experience transmedia, transmedial worlds are not all about expanding, but also about returning. This holds especially true in relation to older fictional worlds (such as that of The Hobbit, we feel obliged to add).

pic3Professor Klastrup and transmedial world theory and approach

After the inspiring keynotes we had some refreshing drinks and snacks and change to get to know each other a bit. The discussions started during this welcoming reception also had a  chance to continue in the evening when we headed together for dinner in the restaurant Figaro. Dinner and drinks were well received, albeit one of the dessert choices, basilico pannacotta with devil’s jam, caused some amazement and amusement.

Day 2.

Transmedia(l) fantasy worlds, or the user practices related to them, were a reoccurring theme throughout the summer school. This became clear when the second day was opened by a presentation held by members of our Hobbit research group. In their presentation “The Book, The Film and Audience Responses – In search of a transmedial mode of reading of The Hobbit trilogy by Peter Jackson”  Jyrki Korpua, Irma Hirsjärvi and Urpo Kovala had two main focuses. Firstly, they introduced the term transmedial mode of reading. Secondly, they paid attention on a specific case which emerged from the Finnish Hobbit audience data: That of The Silmarillion. Korpua, Hirsjärvi and Kovala noted that some of the respondents articulated that the Hobbit movies had elements of Silmarillion in them, while in actuality Jackson did not had the rights to use any references to Silmarillion. Through this case Korpua, Hirsiärvi, and Kovala discussed the concept of false memory in transmedial worlds.

The second presentation of the day, held via Skype, was on GoT (Game of Thrones) Audience Research, given by Carmen Spano (University of Auckland, New Zealand). In her presentation Spano discussed about the differences between GoT audiences in Italy and New Zealand. For instance, she pointed out how the Italian audience was in general highly sceptical towards any kind of commercial extras offered to them by the production company of GoT, while the audience from New Zealand did not share this scepticism.

After Spano, the stage was again ours and it was time for the second presentation of the Hobbit project. In the second presentation of our research team, “Uses of Fantasy: The World Hobbit Project in Finland” Aino-Kaisa Koistinen, Tanja Välisalo and myself discussed the transmedial users practices found in the Finnish Hobbit audience data and the meanings of fantasy articulated by the respondents of the Hobbit survey. In our presentation, we presented four interconnected ways in which the respondents assign meaning to fantasy, ranging from an affective or emotional relationship to Tolkien’s work or the Lord of the Rings films/books to escapism and immersion in Tolkien’s world or fantasy worlds in general. The importance of belonging to a community and the significance these fantasy works can have for personal growth were also mentioned.

Nevertheless, the summer school was not all about dragons and fantasy worlds. The last presentation of the second day proved this as it focused on a) planning a transmedia experience or world and b) did not wonder in the realms of fantasy. In their presentation “New Audience Research for the New Audiences: Designing a Basque Transmedia Experience” Díaz Bizkarguenaga, Landabidea Urresti and Salces Alcalde talked about how to design a transmedia experience for the Basque audience. They proposed a model in which the audience engages with what they call a “transmedia Basque news-world” through web-tv, blog, twitter, and newspaper. In the discussions following the presentation, the presenters added that humour or sense of irony would be a common thread connecting the different platforms together.

After the interesting presentations, it was time to relax: in the evening there was a chance to enjoy the summery weather on a boat ride at a beautiful lake.


Day 3.

Day three (the final day) started with a focus not on fantasy worlds nor any location on Earth, but on space.  In his presentation “Transmedia storytelling for science promotion: NASA’s #JourneyToMars transmedia storyworld” Sergei Medvedev discussed how NASA uses multiple platforms in their construction of a “Journey to Mars” storyworld, which is also used to promote NASA. This storyworld consists of multiple aspects: The Martian movie  and Ticket to Mars Campaign, some to mention. The presentation resulted in a very vivid discussion considering the nature and definitions of transmedia, as well about the blurring boundaries between the real and the fantastic.

The second presentation of the day – and the last presentation  of the conference – was given by Tanja Välisalo form our Hobbit project. This time she did not discuss The Hobbit films but her other research interests – the furries. Välisalo’s presentation “Original characters as a transmedia practice in media fandom”  highlighted how in furry fandom the content, and in this sense the whole transmedia world, is produced by users and fans. Her presentation sparkled an interesting discussion on the nature of medium, as the very materiality of the costumes worn by fans is an integral part of furry fandom.

After the last presentation, and before the final lunch together, it was time for some conclusive remarks and discussions. The general feeling was that of contentment and inspiration. Thus, the conclusion was that the summer school had been a success.

Some lessons learned and notes to take home

For us from the “Hobbit project”, the summer school was as inspiring and educating event and while a whole posting could be written about the lessons learned and ideas created during these three days, I will now mention only two of the central ones.

First of all, it was really interesting to see the different ways transmediality can be understood and conceived, especially in relation to the world of Tolkien.

Secondly, the discussions held after our presentations greatly helped us to plan our research and upcoming articles further.

A big thank you to all the participants and the organisers of the summer school! With these lessons, we now continue on our fantastic journey.

If you are interested in transmediality, here is something you might want to read (our team will surely be revising these texts during the summer!):

Dena, Christy. 2009. Transmedia Practice: Theorising the Practice of Expressing a Fictional World across Distinct Media and Environments. Doctoral Dissertation Thesis. Sydney: University of Sydney. (accessed 1 December 2015)

Evans, Elizabeth. 2011. Transmedia Television. Audiences, New Media and Daily Life. New York: Routledge.

Harvey, Colin B. 2015. Fantastic Transmedia. Narrative, Play and Memory across Science Fiction and Fantasy Storyworlds. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Jenkins, Henry. 2007. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. The Official Web-Blog of Henry Jenkins, March 22. (accessed 17 January 2015)

Jenkins, Henry. 2011. “Transmedia 202: Further Reflections.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. The Official Web-Blog of Henry Jenkins, August 1. (accessed 1 June 2015)

Jenkins, Henry. 2013. “T is for Transmedia…” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. The Official Web-Blog of Henry Jenkins. March 18. (accessed 7 January 2016)

Klastrup, Lisbeth & Tosca, Susana. 2014. “A Game of Thrones: Transmedial Worlds, Fandom, and Social Gaming.” Storyworlds across Media. Toward a Media-conscious Narratology. (ed. Ryan, M. and Thon, J.), University of Nebraska Press. Accessed through EBSCOhost.

Mittell, Jason. 2015. Complex TV. The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York and London: New York University Press.

Scolari, Carlos A. 2009. “Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Production.” International Journal of Communication (3): 586-606.

Scott, Suzanne. 2008. Authorized Resistance: Is Fan Production Frakked? In Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica, edited by Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall, 210-223. New York: Continuum.

Scott, Suzanne. 2010. The Trouble with Transmediation: Fandom’s Negotiation of Transmedia Storytelling Systems. Spectator 30 (1), 30-34.

Scott, Suzanne. 2013.“Whose Steering the Mothership?” The Role of the Fanboy Auteur in Transmedia Storytelling. In The Participatory Cultures Handbook, edited by Aaron Delwiche and Jennifer Jacobs Henderson, 42–52. New York and London: Routledge.


*Maria Ruotsalainen is one of the researchers of Uses of Fantasy – The World Hobbit Project in Finland. Read more about Maria here.


Updates on the seminar Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape

Good news, everyone!

Associate Professor Susana Tosca from the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Professor Emerita Liisa Rantalaiho from the University of Tampere, Finland, have agreed to be keynotes in our seminar Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape (University of Jyväskylä, 20-21 October, 2016) in addition to Professor Emeritus Martin Barker from Aberystwyth University, UK, who already agreed before. So, now we have three!

We will be updating information considering the seminar after the summer. Before that, be sure to check out the CfP here!


The World Hobbit Project at Cardiff University, UK

By Minna Siikilä*

 Me, Aino-Kaisa Koistinen and Maria Ruotsalainen had the great pleasure to attend The Fantasies of Contemporary Culture symposium held by Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy on May 23, 2016. The symposium focused on exploring the political and cultural functions of fantasy. All in all, this one-day event included eight panel sessions, and two keynotes; Doctor Mark Bould (UWE Bristol) and Doctor Catherine Butler (Cardiff University).


IMG_7994Cardiff University. The Fantasies of Contemporary Culture symposium can be found with #cultfantasies on Twitter.


IMG_7997Aino-Kaisa Koistinen and Martin Barker discussing The Hobbit project.


What is specifically relevant for this blog is that the symposium had a separate session, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again”, dedicated to research on The Hobbit films. There were three separate presentations, of which two addressed The World Hobbit Project directly. The first presentation was held by one of The World Hobbit Project’s principal researchers, Emeritus Professor Martin Barker from Aberystwyth University. In his talk “Experiencing Powerfully: How Audiences Find Meaning in Fantasy Films” Barker argued that according to his studies audiences can view The Hobbit trilogy as a political story, where “small people” can change the world. In this way fantasy is a new way of “saying out loud”, expressing the unsayable.

As Barker stated: “… the more audiences appreciated these trilogies, the more they felt able to locate a certain kind of politics in their experiences of them”. As a reference Barker used anthropologist James C Scott’s “Weapons of the Weak” (1985) and “Domination and the Arts of Resistance” (1990). Barker also discussed his findings on different types of viewers, and the relationship of the original book and the film trilogy as experienced by these viewers.


IMG_8001Martin Barker distinguished four kinds of viewers from his data.


The second presentation on this session was by Doctor Aino-Kaisa Koistinen and PhD students Maria Ruotsalainen and Tanja Välisalo, as representatives of Uses of Fantasy – World Hobbit Project in Finland. Tanja Välisalo, one of the presenters of this paper, could unfortunately not take part in the seminar, so only Koistinen and Ruotsalainen presented their paper. The paper was called “The Hobbit Films and Transmedial Practices: The World Hobbit Project in Finland”. The paper discussed the Finnish audience’s transmedial practices and take on the meanings of fantasy.

When discussing transmedial practices, Koistinen and Ruotsalainen used Henry Jenkins’s (2008) term “transmedia storytelling”, which refers to the ways  a story unfolds via various media platforms. Koistinen and Ruotsalainen emphasized that “although The Hobbit films are adaptations, engaging with The Hobbit can be a transmedial practice”. From Finnish respondents 77% had engaged in what Koistinen and Ruotsalainen call transmedial user practices, like debating the films, commenting online, collecting merchandise, gaming and producing fan art. All in all, there were 1614 respondents in the Finnish online enquiry, and the responses indicated that most of the transmedia users were 16–25-year-old women.

When discussing their findings on meanings of fantasy according to their respondents, Koistinen and Ruotsalainen concluded that the answers commonly implicates an affectional relationship between the respondents and the world created by J. R. R. Tolkien (or, in some cases, Peter Jackson), and the significance to one’s personal history and growth was mentioned often. In addition, respondents had stated that they enjoyed the feeling of immersion and escape in Tolkien’s world. In many cases watching The Hobbit also provided a way to belong to a community and to share memories with friends or family.


IMG_8008Maria Ruotsalainen and Aino-Kaisa Koistinen combined quantitative and qualitative methods in their research.


My own presentation was called “’I’m just being a difficult lotr hardcore fan’: How Fandom and Anti-Fandom Manifest Themselves in Online Conversations About Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy”. In this paper I discussed my tentative findings in two different online conversation threads (Wired & Facebook); 986 independent messages in total. Both conversations occurred in relation to an article discussing The Hobbit movies. The themes of these online conversations dealt with questions about the creative powers and artistic preferences of Peter Jackson and J. R. R. Tolkien, and about the concern whether it is right to make an adaptation about this canonical book at all. Tolkien’s fans were very protective at times, and all in all it was very clear, that the original text was seen more valuable than the movies.


WiredEthan Gilsdorf’s article on Wired received 941 online comments from readers.


Many fans thought that Jackson had manhandled Tolkien’s original text too badly, and some Tolkien-fans even declared that they are boycotting Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy altogether. In some cases, being a fan of Tolkien also meant being an anti-fan of Jackson, meaning that there was a binary opposition between Tolkien and Jackson that invited anti-fandom. There were conversations about making a pure fan-edition from The Hobbit movies, as well. This kind of activity was in line with Henry Jenkins’ (1992) well-known observations about the fact that fans are keen on producing their own aesthetic works “that speak to the special interests of the fan community”. On the other hand, there were also Jackson-fans, who defended him, and Tolkien-fans, who took Jackson’s movies in stride, or enjoyed them.

At the moment I’m working on my quantitative analysis. In the future I’m also going to reflect my results to The World Hobbit Project’s results to see, how much correlation there is. On my own behalf I would like to thank our session’s chair, Doctor William Proctor (Bournmouth University), and everyone who took part in our Hobbit session. This was very inspiring, beneficial and also great fun.


IMG_8024Before heading back to Finland we visited Cardiff’s beautiful castle.


*Minna Siikilä is a PhD student of Contemporary Culture in University of Jyväskylä and an affiliate member of Uses of Fantasy – The World Hobbit Project in Finland.



 Facebook (2014). Kontu: ”Kun joutuu tekemään jotain, jota ei haluaisi tehdä..” ”Näistä syistä Peter Jacksonin Hobitti-elokuvat epäonnistuivat [online]. [9.1.2015].

Gilsdorf, Ethan (2014). Peter Jackson Must Be Stopped. Wired. [online]. [9.1.2015].

Jenkins, Henry (1992). Textual Poachers. Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.