Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary as an Unfolding Media Event: Rethinking Narratives if Hype and Paratextual Arrays
Matt Hills (Aberystwyth University)
Matt Hills work focuses on the subject of “paratexts”, which are the bits of hype and publicity surrounding the promotion of a media text. Hills highlights the importance of considering the paratext as an important study that proves the audience does not just do close decodings of media texts, but encounter them through other filters that add to the existing narrative of the text. In particular, Hills identified the problematic nature of paratexts that’s sole purpose were to act as fragmented pieces of narratives for different types of fans. This kind of practice can be hugely problematic as Hills considered the arguments from paratextual scholars that asserted too much hype can damage a media brand, as parts of the narrative may come distorted from the array of audience types they can attract. The 50th Anniversary tribute to Doctor Who was a primary example of this, as fans created paratexts within paratexts by using social media to appropriate new discourses surrounding the product, which Hills also used to highlight the impact that trans-media storytelling can have on fan ideologies. This incoherency in fan discourses were also prevalent within fan produced paratexts, such as the ‘5th Anniversary’ tribute created to appeal to long standing Doctor Who fans on their knowledge and history of the programme by imagining a past event. However, introducing the way that fans can distort and also create and advertise a media text is something that the industry cannot ignore, which Hills began to analyse in a discussion of fans and their emotional involvement of the BBC’s advertisement of the show, where they controversially allowed a conference in San Deigo to view unseen footage of the series. As fans were outraged, this also threw into question the interesting ethical considerations of the BBC in allowing regions outside of the UK to view content before them. This uproar was also mimicked at the BAFTA awards, receiving a mediocre award in critics eyes was met by none of BBC production team of the show coming up for the acceptance, which was then apologised for as a result of the huge fan outcry. The polysemic nature of the ’50th Anniversary’ was also present in the merchandising of the occasion in the form of the human extermination machine Dalek with the Union Jack paint work. This threw up some interesting questions as a result, as only the ‘engaged’ fans tended to participate with this kind of behaviour, would this ‘average’ fan or the ‘non-fans’ still be affected by paratexts? Or would these kind of practices differ within the advertisement of commercial broadcasting systems as opposed to public-service ones?
Transports of Imagination: BBC Radio, 1930s-50s
Amanda Wrigley (University of Westminster)
Amanda introduced an example of dramatised literature or theatrical plays that ware re appropriated for BBC Radio and broadcast during the Second World War as a means to boost morale for the listeners whilst also maintaining the aim to educate them. As a medium, Radio offered an interesting insight to the ways that time and place could be distorted through audio media as opposed to the more recent emergence of the television. The staging of drama production through sound alone was also a particularly interesting concept to explore. This was a work in progress for Amanda, as she stated that she had begun no empirical research on the subject. But through other work she does include work on radio listening practices. For example, her partnership with the British Library titled ‘Listening Publics’, which highlighted some interesting research methods. Amanda played audio recordings from this era to group audiences, a different practice that is not traditionally associated with radio consumption, thought to primarily be an individual practice. Through the talk she also highlighted an interest in audience engagement and interaction with the broadcasts, with an example being listeners letters to the BBC that stated ways they felt they had been informed, educated and entertained (BBC remit). By offering this level of audience interaction, the study aims to shed light on the active individualistic consumption patterns of BBC radio and their contribution to the public imagination by displaying the ‘other worlds’. Linking to Matt Hills talk on paratexts, Amanda highlighted the importance that print had on promoting these discourses. It will be interesting to see where this research will lead in the future.