Hills made an important distinction early in his talk between “world-building” and “world projecting”, and this, he argued, was particularly relevant in the case of Doctor Who, a show never read as a product of a single auteur. World creation, then, is something fans did early in the life of the show, whilst it was still an episodic and somewhat incoherent entity: the Whoniverse was not constructed but projected by fans during the show’s early years, in which the producers had little intention of building the Whoniverse themselves.
Constance Penley began her talk by distinguishing between tactics and strategies, questioning the apparent incommensurability of the two terms. If the former represents a “seize the moment” attitude, then the latter, simply put, represents a more systematic, careful approach to political intervention. With the three interdisciplinary projects that she participated in, she hoped to show that there were ways of connecting the two terms.
Collins began his talk by arguing that case studies of transmediaphilia have yet to explore broader theoretical implications. Beyond the enumeration of the ways in which fans engage with transmedia content and in the process build worlds, what exactly are they exploring? Furthermore, what effects are digital devices such as cellphones, smart-tablets and kindles having on the way fans maintain and construct worlds?
Last year I was at a graduate conference on cinephilia, where during the discussion on the last day of presentations, the question of what distinguishes a cinephile from a fan came up. Several theories were brought up, such as concerns over barriers to access, overprotection of canonical texts, and varying levels of taste value.
De Certeau is often appealed to as a forerunner of the appreciation and validation of popular consumption practices, often against the institutionally sanctioned, hierarchically established forms of authority (e.g. popular reading). Bourdieu is another figure who is brought forward in support of fan participatory culture with, for instance, his accentuation of affective immediacy, immersion, and the desire to emotionally engage with works.
Giovanni Macchia’s "Alternative Worlds, Multiverse: ThePoint of View of Cosmology" seemed for a while to be a strange inclusion to the conference but, I think, one that will pay off as we let it sink in. We saw some early walkouts, maybe it was a long day and the dreamy ethereal worlds that Macchia was guiding us through might have drawn some somnolence; or maybe the presentation of a science based in some hard core math seemed beyond the entertainable relevance of a transmedia-inclined audience. But all in, we weren’t asked to do any math.
Mark Wolf provided a lucid overview of four key terms - Immersion, Absorption, Saturation and Overflow - so as to develop an account of the manner in which worlds are built, sustained, and developed by both producers and consumers.
Martin Picard’s talk was, in many respects, influenced by the work of Henry Jenkins. Picard was interested in the particularities of world building from the perspective of fans, those delinquent textual poachers that reshape and reform official narratives.
Marie Laure Ryan's talk, entitled 'Texts, Worlds, Stories: On the Aesthetics of Narrative Proliferation' was a particularly appropriate opening to this year's conference. Ryan began by sketching a recent history of the story world in the academy: from socio-linguistics' and structuralism's interest in the signifier through to the narrative turn in the 80s, in which the focus returned to the signified, she explained that we have shifted our focus away from the world of the author and/or genre, to the world of the story.
During the discussion after the second talk, Guglielmo Pescatore’s “Narrative Ecosystems: a Multidisciplinary Approach to Media Worlds” there seemed to be some tentative contention, from the audience, about the literal (“scientific”) rather than merely metaphorical application of the term “ecosystem.” Ryan, in the earlier talk, rejected the metaphorical use of “world” as being too broad. Pescatore’s objection also pertained to the looseness of calling something metaphorical, but isn’t this, after all, a question of degrees?