Theme Park Fandom & Spatial Transmedia
“spatial transmedia’ accounts for these moments of narrative extension and world-building that take place within specified rooted locations. Whilst fans who do not visit these places may learn about them via publicity, reviews or the accounts of other fans, it is only by physically being there that one can experience the extended narrative or world” (Theme Park Fandom 2020:12)
This strand of my research focuses on the connections between media, space and place and I have worked on funded research projects examining audience responses to on-screen representation of local places, and the lived and embodied experiences of media and screen tourists when they visit important sites. My work also focuses on the use of physical objects at sites of significance and how this allows fan and media tourists to negotiate the boundaries between place, object, and the self, as well as expanding our understandings of what audiences do with transmedia texts.
In particular, my monograph Theme Park Fandom highlights the links between transmedia, participatory cultures and media tourism, focusing on the intersections between fan tourism, material cultures, and mediated place. My ongoing research into themed spaces and modes of spatial transmedia seek to challenge established binary oppositions between commercial and non-commercial media tourist sites, audiences and producers, and textual and spatial readings.
Recent years have seen an increase in media companies, corporations and industries begin to build on prevalent trends in tourism and leisure behaviours to deepen audiences’ connections with, and explorations of, the narrative worlds of favourite media franchises through geographically-dependent or place-based experiences. Examples range from the UK public service broadcaster the BBC’s announcement of place-based Escape Room experiences based on its Doctor Who franchise, the ongoing commitment to Game of Thrones tourism demonstrated by Northern Ireland’s government and tourism industry, and the development of the media-themed London Resort theme park. Meanwhile, audiences, fans and tourists continue to hunt out favourite locations from a range of media texts and engage in acts of ‘film-induced tourism’ (Beeton 2005) or media and screen tourism, in turn sharing their knowledge about the sites involved across web-based platforms such as blogs, and social media sites and apps such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
This convergence of the tourism industry-led turn towards ever-more immersive modes of engagement and experience, the opportunities presented by augmented reality and interactive technologies, and a participatory culture where media users and tourists generate and circulate their own forms of information necessitates the formulation of new understandings of these practices. This turn towards what we are describing as ‘transmedia tourism’, requires academic experts, practitioners, and figures from the tourism industry to engage in dialogue in order to better understand how to theorise, evaluate, and harness the opportunities presented by transmedia tourism as an emerging faucet of contemporary convergence culture. To fully understand these emerging issues, greater attempts to bring together two more disparate areas of academic study – work on tourism studies and work on transmediality – are needed in order to explore the opportunities, limitations and potential insights that can be generated when the concept of transmediality intersects with debates and practices relating to media tourism.
Works In Progress
[Edited Collection] Animation: Key Films/Filmmakers: Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. With Filipa Antunes and Brittany Eldridge.
[Book Chapter] ‘Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas meets the Haunted Mansion: Seasonality and Transmedia Worlds in Disney’s Theme Parks‘
[Journal Article] ‘Visiting True Crime Locations: Spatial Transmedia, Citizenship & Dark Participatory Cultures’.
[Journal Article] ‘Affective & Appreciative Immersion in Themed Spaces: Exploring Disney’s Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A) and Marvel’s World Engineering Brigade (W.E.B.)’.
[Journal Article] ‘“Higher, Further, Faster”: Self-improvement, Feminism, and Behaviour Regulation in Fannish Self-Help Texts.’
[Journal Article] ‘One Nation Under a Roof: Ontological Security, Timeless Fandom, and ‘Life-Pauses’ During the COVID-19 Pandemic.’
[Book Chapter] ‘Transtexts at the Theme Park: Exploring the “Spatial Transmediality” of the Universal Monsters Franchise’.