Audience Creativity and Online Participation in a Transmedia Environment: The Case pf Online 'Lost' Communities as a Convergent Society
This PhD project studies modes of creativity and participation among audiences of the TV series Lost who are active online; it focuses on the dynamics of collective knowledge-building and -sharing, and on the modes of communication and meaning production that occur around the narrative. Through the framework of convergence culture and its features, which instigate engagement and participation, the aim is to conceptualise and empirically analyse the ways in which online viewers utilise and expand official content and user-generated content to dismantle, reassemble and redesign aspects of the narrative and communicate with one another, as well as with the official creators, through these creations. Problem Formulation: How do participatory means of online user engagement with transmedia storytelling in the TV series Lost transform the ways in which audiences experience and interact with the narrative, and how does the collective nature of community-wide meaning production, sharing and articulation in online platforms play into this dynamic? Theoretical Framework: While previous studies have uncovered significant results regarding the online Lost Sphere, their focus is usually on a one-way interaction with the narrative. This study proposes a perspective that will potentially investigate both engagement with the narrative and engagement among users, and potentially bridge a connection between community-wide, networked interaction with narrative engagement. For the purposes of analysing the cultural formations, processes of content creation and engagement around the serialised story and the online activities of its audiences, this study will draw on three main theoretical frameworks: convergence culture and transmedia storytelling, social semiotics and digital content creation and remixing. Methodology: The research study will use virtual ethnography as a methodological framework in mapping out and analysing the activities of online communities. I intend to systematically present the ways in which user-generated content is situated around the official content as well as by itself, both of which are presented through the appropriate channels with the intention of motivating engagement, and the digital content creation practices that arise and transform throughout the growth of this sphere. The methods of engagement, and the ways in which fans interact with the content as well as with one another, which are a focus of this study, are more valuable to the analysis than the advantages and fallouts of utilising online technologies. Instead, the internet and its technological capabilities will be viewed as semiotic resources in multimodal content creation.