Proposal Title

Audiences: Imagined and Re-imagined

Start Date

25-6-2022 10:00 AM

End Date

25-6-2022 11:30 AM

Abstract

Panel overview: This panel will explore how adaptations, platforms, and formats reflect the changing nature of audiences and their relationship with technologies, particularly in light of the global pandemic. Through three case studies – of a popular YA book series, a conglomerate publisher-led reading community for teenagers, and a scholarly podcast series about popular culture – these papers will examine both corporate and grassroots strategies to make books, culture, and scholarly information more accessible, inclusive, and widely available. All three papers will take an intersectional approach, considering who has been missing from bookish and scholarly conversations, and why, contextualising the findings in wider discussions about inequalities and inclusion in the creative/cultural industries, as well as in academia. The papers will consider these issues from academic and practitioner lenses – based on both ethnographic and autoethnographic approaches – to explore how these audiences can be reinvented and whose responsibility it is to do the reinventing.

Paper 1: Re-imaging the original text

This paper examines the Netflix adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s imaginary YA fantasy world—the Grishaverse. Netflix reimagines and reinvents the Grishaverse in many ways, particularly in terms of ‘diversity’ and the representation of marginalised identities—characters of colour, women, disabled characters, plus-size characters, queer characters, and more—by diversifying the cast of characters, most notably, racebending the main character, Alina Starkov, from dominant Ravkan (i.e. White) in the books to marginalised Shu (i.e. Asian) in the Netflix adaptation. Through an analysis of the changes made from the original text to the Netflix adaptation, I demonstrate the impact that book-to-screen adaptations have on the stories we consume. This paper draws from the YA fantasy texts Shadow and Bone (2012) and Six of Crows (2015), as well as the TV show adaptation Shadow and Bone (2021). This paper analyses the representation of diverse characters in Netflix’s Shadow and Bone and maps it against the parameters of the YA fantasy genre and its expectations. Ultimately, I argue that transmedia adaptations can play a significant role in moving the ‘diversity’ conversation forward and adding value to the original text. However, there are many problematic implications that can arise along with this process, making it difficult to draw the line between useful and harmful reinventions.

  • Bardugo, L. (2012) Shadow and Bone. First edition. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • Bardugo, L. (2015) Six of Crows. First edition. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • Heisserer, E. (2021) Shadow and Bone. Netflix.

Paper 2: Re-imagining [teenager] reading communities

There have been numerous studies, and cultural commentaries, that declare that teenagers are reading fewer books than in previous generations. However, these often focus on traditional modes of reading (i.e. reading a physical book) and do not consider the different ways of reading and engaging with literary culture. Teenagers are now spending more time on digital media, especially social media, than ever before, which means that authors and publishers (and parents/guardians and educations) have to reimagine how they speak to young people about books, if they want teenagers to continue reading (in a traditional sense).

This paper will examine how teenage readers, of young adult fiction, are engaging in discussions about literature and culture across social media platforms. These issues will be explored through a case study of Penguin Platform – a corporate initiative created by Penguin Random House UK in 2015 – which provides tailored content to their young adult community based on discussions and direct conversations with teenage readers. Penguin Platform uses a multi-platform approach – YouTube, Instagram, Discord, and TikTok – to provide targeted, and branded, content to its audiences (new and old). This paper will employ digital ethnography – to observe both Penguin Platform and their audience - to analyse and categorise if/how Penguin Random House are reinventing the traditional book club to appeal to a teenage audience (particularly those who have intersectional identities that might not be represented in young adult fiction). Overall, it will consider whether this type of reimagining can take place under such a corporate structure.

Paper 3: Reimaging scholarly communication

More than ever, scholars within and outside the academy are considering the importance of multimodal communication in their research and teaching. In recent years, there has been a surge of attention focused on academic podcasting, especially in humanities circles. For example, texts like A Guide to Academic Podcasting by Stacey Copeland and Hannah McGregor and gatherings like the inaugural Humanities Podcasting Symposium (hosted by the Humanities Podcasting Network) invite scholars to teach podcasts in their classrooms and even develop their own shows. This presentation will explore my journey with (semi) academic podcasting, and the creation of my show Sex. Love. Literature. (SLL), which began during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. On our show, my co-host and I discuss why—and how—romance and sex in pop culture texts matter, highlighting pressing questions of consent, desire, and power dynamics for public audiences. In my talk, I will discuss how my partner and I select which texts to discuss, the struggles of balancing a show and a dissertation, and how podcasting ultimately interfaces with my scholarly goals, along with providing an avenue for connection during a time that can feel immensely isolating. In a sense, the presentation will function as a practitioner’s statement. Through my discussion, I hope to encourage the audience to consider the myriad benefits of academic podcasting and, perhaps, give it a try themselves.


Bio

Ikram Belaid, ikram.belaid.18@ucl.ac.uk

Ikram Belaid is a PhD candidate at University College London (UCL). Her PhD project focuses on YA fantasy fiction and the publishing industry. She explores the current state of ‘diversity’ in YA fantasy stories with a particular focus on ‘crew’ hero dynamics. Ikram’s research aims to reach a better understanding of genre expectations and the influence of publishers, social media influencers, readers, and transmedia storytelling on the representation of marginalised groups in YA fantasy.

Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, melanie.ramdarshanbold@glasgow.ac.uk

Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold is an Associate Professor at the University of Glasgow, where she teaches and researches children's and YA literature and book culture. Her research specialism is Inclusive Youth Literature and Book Culture, with a particular focus on the representation of people of colour, and the experiences of authors and readers of colour. Melanie has published widely on the topic; alongside numerous publications about contemporary book culture. Her book Inclusive Young Adult Fiction: Authors of Colour in the United Kingdom, 2006-2016, was published by Palgrave in 2019. Melanie’s interests in Youth Literature and Book Culture extends beyond academia. She was a judge on the UKYA book prize and the Scottish Teenage Book Prize, and is on the Advisory Boards for the CLPE Reflecting Realities project, the Pop-up Pathways into Children’s Publishing project, and Literature Alliance Scotland, and works with a number of cultural organisations across the UK.

Ayanni C. H. Cooper, ayanni.hanna@ufl.edu

Ayanni C. H. Cooper is an English PhD Candidate at the University of Florida, specializing in comic and animation studies. Her research interests include monster theory; feminist critique; gender & sexuality; science fiction & fantasy; representations of Blackness in speculative fiction; and anime & manga studies. Her dissertation project is tentatively titled “‘We Live in a Time of [Sexy] Monsters’: Desire and the Monstrous in Contemporary Visual Media.” Ayanni also co-hosts the podcast Sex. Love. Literature., which takes a semi-scholarly look at why the “sex-stuff” in media matters.


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Jun 25th, 10:00 AM Jun 25th, 11:30 AM

Audiences: Imagined and Re-imagined

Panel overview: This panel will explore how adaptations, platforms, and formats reflect the changing nature of audiences and their relationship with technologies, particularly in light of the global pandemic. Through three case studies – of a popular YA book series, a conglomerate publisher-led reading community for teenagers, and a scholarly podcast series about popular culture – these papers will examine both corporate and grassroots strategies to make books, culture, and scholarly information more accessible, inclusive, and widely available. All three papers will take an intersectional approach, considering who has been missing from bookish and scholarly conversations, and why, contextualising the findings in wider discussions about inequalities and inclusion in the creative/cultural industries, as well as in academia. The papers will consider these issues from academic and practitioner lenses – based on both ethnographic and autoethnographic approaches – to explore how these audiences can be reinvented and whose responsibility it is to do the reinventing.

Paper 1: Re-imaging the original text

This paper examines the Netflix adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s imaginary YA fantasy world—the Grishaverse. Netflix reimagines and reinvents the Grishaverse in many ways, particularly in terms of ‘diversity’ and the representation of marginalised identities—characters of colour, women, disabled characters, plus-size characters, queer characters, and more—by diversifying the cast of characters, most notably, racebending the main character, Alina Starkov, from dominant Ravkan (i.e. White) in the books to marginalised Shu (i.e. Asian) in the Netflix adaptation. Through an analysis of the changes made from the original text to the Netflix adaptation, I demonstrate the impact that book-to-screen adaptations have on the stories we consume. This paper draws from the YA fantasy texts Shadow and Bone (2012) and Six of Crows (2015), as well as the TV show adaptation Shadow and Bone (2021). This paper analyses the representation of diverse characters in Netflix’s Shadow and Bone and maps it against the parameters of the YA fantasy genre and its expectations. Ultimately, I argue that transmedia adaptations can play a significant role in moving the ‘diversity’ conversation forward and adding value to the original text. However, there are many problematic implications that can arise along with this process, making it difficult to draw the line between useful and harmful reinventions.

  • Bardugo, L. (2012) Shadow and Bone. First edition. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • Bardugo, L. (2015) Six of Crows. First edition. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • Heisserer, E. (2021) Shadow and Bone. Netflix.

Paper 2: Re-imagining [teenager] reading communities

There have been numerous studies, and cultural commentaries, that declare that teenagers are reading fewer books than in previous generations. However, these often focus on traditional modes of reading (i.e. reading a physical book) and do not consider the different ways of reading and engaging with literary culture. Teenagers are now spending more time on digital media, especially social media, than ever before, which means that authors and publishers (and parents/guardians and educations) have to reimagine how they speak to young people about books, if they want teenagers to continue reading (in a traditional sense).

This paper will examine how teenage readers, of young adult fiction, are engaging in discussions about literature and culture across social media platforms. These issues will be explored through a case study of Penguin Platform – a corporate initiative created by Penguin Random House UK in 2015 – which provides tailored content to their young adult community based on discussions and direct conversations with teenage readers. Penguin Platform uses a multi-platform approach – YouTube, Instagram, Discord, and TikTok – to provide targeted, and branded, content to its audiences (new and old). This paper will employ digital ethnography – to observe both Penguin Platform and their audience - to analyse and categorise if/how Penguin Random House are reinventing the traditional book club to appeal to a teenage audience (particularly those who have intersectional identities that might not be represented in young adult fiction). Overall, it will consider whether this type of reimagining can take place under such a corporate structure.

Paper 3: Reimaging scholarly communication

More than ever, scholars within and outside the academy are considering the importance of multimodal communication in their research and teaching. In recent years, there has been a surge of attention focused on academic podcasting, especially in humanities circles. For example, texts like A Guide to Academic Podcasting by Stacey Copeland and Hannah McGregor and gatherings like the inaugural Humanities Podcasting Symposium (hosted by the Humanities Podcasting Network) invite scholars to teach podcasts in their classrooms and even develop their own shows. This presentation will explore my journey with (semi) academic podcasting, and the creation of my show Sex. Love. Literature. (SLL), which began during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. On our show, my co-host and I discuss why—and how—romance and sex in pop culture texts matter, highlighting pressing questions of consent, desire, and power dynamics for public audiences. In my talk, I will discuss how my partner and I select which texts to discuss, the struggles of balancing a show and a dissertation, and how podcasting ultimately interfaces with my scholarly goals, along with providing an avenue for connection during a time that can feel immensely isolating. In a sense, the presentation will function as a practitioner’s statement. Through my discussion, I hope to encourage the audience to consider the myriad benefits of academic podcasting and, perhaps, give it a try themselves.