Forensic Fandom: The dark side of true crime fandom
Media Research Group Seminar Series
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True crime fans are no strangers to analysing cases, uncovering evidence and occasionally exonerating those already convicted. The emergence of fan communities as a result of both the highly successful Serial podcast and the Netflix documentary Marking a Murderer demonstrate the ways in which changing digital technologies and changing audience/producer relationships can combine to create a community that blurs the boundaries between engaged fandom and citizen investigation. Yet while some fan investigations can contribute to finding justice others can, as Greg Stratton notes, cause harm to victims and their families by virtue of their experiences being treated “with the triviality common in forms of fandom rather than the respect and nuance that is often displayed by criminal justice professionals and the traditional media” (2019, 190).
This paper is interested in the dark side of true crime fandom, in which fans analyse, discuss and present their findings without considering the impact those behaviours may have on the investigation or the victim and their families. From the erroneous naming of Brown University student Sunil Tripathi, who was later found to have committed suicide, as the Boston Bomber on Reddit, to viral TikTok videos speculating over the disappearance and subsequent death of Gabby Petito, the line between investigation and entertainment has become blurred. True crime podcasts have developed online fanbases; serial killer documentaries have their own subreddits; and the ethics of these fan practices are rarely discussed within those communities. Through participant observation I examine the appeal of true crime content to fans, the ways in which they engage with it, and the ethical implications of treating true crime as a source of entertainment and fannish object.
Dr Bethan Jones, University of York and University of South Wales
Date: Wednesday 30 March 2022
New Research in Music
Dennis Collopy, 21st Century Music Publishing- reinventing the model: a period of disruption, disintermediation, disaffection, dismay and disposals, with a summary analysis of economic power laws and how they impact music creators and publishers.
Rob Godman, Technical solutions for multichannel audio in interdisciplinary site-specific installations: Multidisciplinary arts projects featuring sound often neglect the importance of sound projection and the technical concerns that arise when working with loudspeakers. Relating directly to site-specific works, the problem is compounded by the common observation - ‘Help! It sounded good in my studio. Why doesn’t it sound the same on site...?’
This presentation is an unashamed technical expose of technical problems encountered by curators and artists who work with sound in an interdisciplinary way, by demonstrating the author’s collaborative interdisciplinary work and teaching of ‘sound’ to Fine Art and Digital Media at the University of Hertfordshire. It will investigate software systems designed to enhance the experience of a public art viewer with particular regard to point-source localisation, a method of moving sounds around loudspeakers on a granular level.
Practice Research: ‘Attending Differently: Wittgenstein’s duck-rabbit’
What distinguishes artistic research from professional practice? Can an artwork stand alone as evidence of a research inquiry, or does it require an exposition? What determines the significance of
artistic research? How can a change of perspective help creative artists reinvent their professional practice as research? If you’re still confused, frustrated, or (alternatively) you think you know it all, then this presentation is for you!
In Prof. Nelson’s approach it is necessary to attend differently. Reflecting on changes in HE, and following Derrida in envisioning a future university, Prof. Nelson points up the differences in the cultures of Practice Research and Artistic Research as they have developed in shifting contexts over the past two decades. He also reflects on the role that arts can play in an increasingly corporatized academy. Is the function of Higher Education in the Arts to produce elite practitioners for the creative industries and/or might arts research generate new knowing, equivalent to that in other disciplines?
Professor Robin Nelson, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London
Date: Wednesday 8 December 2021
A multi-planer approach to encoding storyworlds for dynamic narrative
Open World videogames / Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying games have stories embedded within them through quests, artefacts and the occasional clueless Non Playing Character. Current methods for the creation of these elements requires a manual intervention on the part of the game designer. While some procedural systems do exist without a underlying contextual model for story elements that “binds the universe together” elements often feel modular and disconnected. The manual placement of story elements is both time consuming and limits the ability for players to have meaningful action within the game world. In this poster presentation I present a model under development for linking story contextual elements with the game terrain which will eventually be used in the development of a system to allow players greater agency within MMORPGs.
Date: Wednesday 10 November 2021
Our seminars below are listed in date order with the most recent first.
Shadow Cinema: Unmade Films and the Archive
Supported by BAFTSS New Connections Scheme and Edinburgh University Press
Peter Krämer notes that unmade projects ‘have absorbed much of the creativity and a substantial proportion of the financial investments of the American film industry’ (Krämer, 2015: 381). Yet unmade films have been comparatively underutilised within academic scholarship. This research talk outlines ways archival material on unmade films (such as screenplays, concept art and correspondence) can be utilised to frustrate existing methodological processes. We explore new methods for analysing the production process that underpin all films – those that are completed, and those that never see the light of day.
Dr Kieran Foster is an Associate Lecturer at De Montfort University and Nottingham Trent University. He was the producer of Vampirella: A Live Script Reading in 2019 and has written extensively on the topic of unmade films. He is the co-editor of Bloomsbury’s Shadow Cinema: The Historical and Production Contexts of Unmade Films and is currently writing a monograph entitled Hammer Goes to Hell: The Unmade Films of the House of Horror for Edinburgh University Press.
Date: 5 May 2021
Take Me to Your Leader: Alien Invasion Films in the Reagan Era
Supported by the BAFTSS New Connections scheme and Edinburgh University Press.
The alien invasion narrative was, of course, one of the defining modes of science fiction cinema in the 1950s. From early examples such as The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Man from Planet X (1951) through to Invisible Invaders (1959) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), America spent an entire decade obsessed with extraterrestrial invaders from worlds beyond our own.
Archetypal readings of these films have linked them decisively with Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Russia, and particularly with the dual threats of communist infiltration and nuclear annihilation. But as Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency came to an end and John F. Kennedy took office, the nation's appetite for interstellar marauders dwindled in the early 1960s, and the alien invasion narrative did not experience a popular resurgence for nearly twenty years. It was only under the presidency of Ronald Reagan between 1981 and 1989 that America once again became obsessed with extraterrestrial invaders. Perhaps this is not surprising; a back-to-basics conservative, Reagan sought to erase the social progress of the 1960s and 1970s and reignite the Cold War (or, in other words, take America back to the 1950s). And, importantly, the new cycle of alien invasion films that proliferated during his presidency borrowed heavily from the golden age of science fiction cinema. This is especially true in the case of direct remakes such as The Thing (1982) and Invaders from Mars (1986), but the likes of Strange Invaders (1983), Night of the Creeps (1986) and They Live (1988) also borrow variously from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), It Conquered the World (1956) and The Brain Eaters (1958) amongst others. However, they frequently revise the Cold War politics of their predecessors for the Reagan era. In They Live's take on the Body Snatchers narrative, for example, infiltrating aliens no longer stand in for communists but capitalists: its extraterrestrials are interstellar yuppies who silently brainwash the inhabitants of other planets with subliminal messages encouraging obedience and consumption.
This seminar will explore the social, cultural and political significance of the Reagan era's invasion cycle, and will pay particular attention to the ways in which they might be seen to support or subvert New Right politics.
Dr Craig Ian Mann, Sheffield Hallam University
Date: 17 February 2021
RuPaul as the ultimate winner in RuPaul's Drag Race
Season 10 marked a decade of Drag Race, with RuPaul and other celebrities framing the show as a worldwide phenomenon promoting love, inclusivity, acceptance and Drag. This aspect of RuPaul’s Drag Race is foregrounded in much of the existing scholarship on the reality show which considers the inclusivity and visibility that it offers (Edgar, 2011; Goldmark, 2015). Although Drag Race brings an area of gay culture and history into the mainstream (i.e. RuPaul seasons and Werk the World Tour), we argue that the only Queen and Herstory that is promoted and unquestionably validated is RuPaul Herself.
RuPaul as Ultimate Queen is achieved through strategically using the themes of history and authenticity to support a commodification of RuPaul which reinforces celebrity, cultural capital and authority. From Queens lip-syncing to RuPaul’s back catalogue to the central place RuPaul places herself as drag pioneer; we explore ‘RuPaul as commodity’ and the possible implications on the presentation and marketability of gay / drag culture through the format of Drag Race and RuPaul as ultimate Queen. All queens assume the position behind her.
Dr Hazel Collie & Dr Gemma Commane, Birmingham City University
Date: 13 January 2021
Zero Gravity Wardrobes
In this commercial space age, audiences increasingly expect realism in science fiction. Weightlessness is commonly simulated through physical or virtual special effects, but reduced gravity aircraft offer opportunities for capturing the effects of microgravity more authentically. While this poses practical challenges for costume designers, it also invites the possibility of creative engagement with weightlessness. Costume can be employed to visibly evidence the effects of weightlessness, but to take advantage of this opportunity, designers must discard many of the fundamental principles of fashion design.
Dr Barbara Brownie, University of Hertfordshire
Date: Wednesday 11 November 2020, 1pm
Memex in the Mirror
An introduction of a long-term research/creative project which uses real-time searches of large data sets produced by social media systems to permit the visualisation of collective thought in real-time. The project explores the relationship between technology and those who make and use it, suggesting that digital technology affects the ways modern humans think; thought patterns which the examination of social media data can reveal. This seminar also presents two implementations; ‘What We Think About When We Think About…’ which autonomously generates streams of collective consciousness, and the first public showing of ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’, a VR based digital oracle.
Dr Ian Willcock, University of Hertfordshire
Date: Wednesday 7 October 2020, 1pm
Performing Sherlock: A Study in Studio and Location Realism
Dr Richard Hewett is Lecturer in Media Theory at the University of Salford's School of Arts and Media. He has previously published articles on the production of the BBC's 1951, 1965 amd 1968 Sherlock Holmes series in Adaptation and The Journal of British Cinema and Television. 2017 will see the publication of his book, The Changing Spaces of Television Acting, in addition to a chapter on the small screen performance of Holmes in the edited collection Exploring Television Acting.
The History and Value of Web series to the Screen Industries
Prof Sue Turnbull is Professor of Communication and Media at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and is currently Discipline Leader for the Creative Industries cluster that includes Media, Journalism and Graphic Design. Sue is a regular commentator on media issues in the media, is a much sought after public speaker and panelist on a range of media topics, and has for many years been the crime fiction reviewer for Fairfax press. She is a national convenor of Sisters in Crime Australia and has been a judge for the Victorian Premier Literary Awards, the Age Book of the Year and the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime fiction.
Transformation and Tradition in Sixties British Cinema
Production Cultures, Cross Media Relations and National Branding The historian Arthur Marwick has characterised the sixties as nothing short of a ‘cultural revolution’, an opinion widely shared by both enthusiasts and critics of the period. Others, such as Dominic Sandbrook, have been more circumspect, adopting a revisionist approach, while in recent years water has been poured on the idea of a vibrant ‘Swinging Sixties’ as nothing more than media constructed fantasy. It is also possible to note this contrast between continuity and innovation in the British cinema of the decade.
The sixties saw a number of international successes made possible by an injection of American funding, while the New Wave cycle was hailed as a great artistic moment for British cinema and the ‘Swinging London’ films evinced a youthful vibrancy and a connection between cinema and other forms of popular culture. However, British cinema continued to be dominated by the vertically integrated duopoly of Rank/ABPC, while new practitioners found it increasingly difficult to break into an industry where certain working practices were entrenched and established filmmakers and their cinematic styles continued to endure.
Making use of underexplored and underexploited archive collections held by institutions around the UK, this 3-year AHRC-funded project, in partnership with the British Film Institute, will launch a major re-examination of sixties British cinema, taking this historical struggle between novelty and tradition at its core. The project is based between the Universities of York and East Anglia and led by Professor Duncan Petrie (York) and Co-Investigator Dr Melanie Williams (UEA), with Dr Laura Mayne (York) and Dr Richard Farmer (UEA) as full-time research associates.
Spaaace: The Games Consultancy
James Wallis has been designing, publishing and writing about games since he was 14, when he started his first fanzine. In 1986 he set a new Guinness World Record for endurance play of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, with a time of 84 hours (three and a half days) played non-stop, as part of the Dragonaid charity team. It’s been superlatives from that point on. He runs the games consultancy Spaaace (http://www.spaaace.com/), an agency that designs and advises on the build, implementation and marketing of traditional, digital and transmedia games and interactive campaigns. Clients include Warner Bros, Cadbury, Sony, Hasbro and Penguin Books. Spaaace specialises in interactive storytelling and creating collaborative narratives.
Date: 4 November 2015
Start With Earth
Multiple Origins, Golden Geek, and ENnie Award winner Kenneth Hite has designed, written, or co-authored over 80 roleplaying games and supplements, including GURPS Horror, GURPS Infinite World, Call Of Cthulhu d20, The Dresden Files RPG, The Deadlands Noir Companion.
Line Developer for Chaosium’s Nephilim and Last Unicorn Games’ Star Trek RPG, , he has written for White Wolf, Pinnacle, Atlas, and many other game publishers. His “Suppressed Transmission” column explored the Higher Weirdness for ten years; from 1997 to 2009, he wrote “Out of the Box,” an RPG industry news and review column. He currently writes the “Lost in Lovecraft” column for Weird Tales and a column for Swedish gaming magazine Fenix. His most recent game books include the Trail Of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents RPGs from Pelgrane Press, a series of PDFs focusing on Lovecraft’s Hideous Creatures, and the Bookhounds of London, Qelong, Dracula Dossier, and Day After Ragnarok settings.
Outside gaming, he has written Tour de Lovecraft: the Tales, Cthulhu 101, Dubious Shards, The Nazi Occult for Osprey Publishing, and the graphic illustrated version of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to U.S. History, and published a number of Cthulhu Mythos short stories and four Lovecraftian childrens’ books. These include, Where the Deep Ones Are, The Antarctic Express, Cliffourd the Big Red God, Goodnight Azathoth.
His essays and criticism have appeared in Dragon Magazine, flamesrising.com, Games Quarterly Magazine, National Review, Amazing Stories, University Bookman, and in encyclopedias and anthologies from Ashcroft Press, Ben Bella Books, Dagan Books, Greenwood Press, and MIT Press. An Artistic Associate at Chicago’s WildClaw Theatre, he served as dramaturg for their recent stage production of The Shadow Over Innsmouth. He has also written for computer games companies including 10Tacles, UbiSoft, and inXile. Half of the podcasting team behind Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, he lives in Chicago with two Lovecraftian cats and his non-Lovecraftian wife, Sheila. Follow his blog, if you can call it that, at http://princeofcairo.livejournal.com. Look for him on Facebook (facebook.com/kenneth.hite) and Twitter (@kennethhite).
Dead Media: Analogue terror in the horror genre
This talk will outline the beginnings of a new project on ‘Dead Media’, which explores the reappropriation of analogue media formats within the contemporary horror genre. While the ‘dead’ in ‘dead media’ evokes themes of death and haunting situated at the heart of the genre, the term is also indebted to media archaeology and Bruce Sterling’s Dead Media Project, an archive of obsolete technologies initiated in the 1990s as digital formats began to take off and take over from analogue.
Much existing scholarly work has explored the cultural contexts and the collection, distribution and reception of analogue media forms such as vinyl, video, and obsolete or outdated modes of photography and film. But less attention has been given to how dead media objects now function within the contemporary horror genre and its diegeses.
Horror has, of course, always been quick to reflect the threats of new technology, and haunted, cursed, or dangerous media has provided fertile ground for horror narratives (e.g. Brainscan, Videodrome, Ring, Feardotcom, Unfriended). But a recent raft of films (Beyond the Gates, Antrum), series (Dead Wax), games (Outlast, Fatal Frame) and podcasts (Video Palace) use analogue objects at the centre of their narratives to explore the malevolent possibilities of dead media in the digital age, or adopt analogue aesthetics including glitches, static or other forms of media degradation.
In contemporary horror, dead media is utilised in various ways: as an object of nostalgia, as a reverent nod to the genre’s past, to forefront a gritty analogue aesthetic, or to engage with the horror of recording, repeating and recycling — ever more relevant in our hypermediated world.
Dr Shellie McMurdo and Dr Laura Mee
Date: Wednesday 13 October 2021