mahjong research

Here is some initial visual microethnographic material from Seth’s recent fieldwork on the technocultural contexts of mahjong in Hong Kong. Led by Hanna Wirman of Hong Kong PolyU, the team played the traditional game (Hong Kong rules, with the demanding 3 fān scoring), mobile and PC versions. We visited a mahjong club, played in a domestic setting on Peng Chau island, in a videogame arcade and were refused entry to a mahjong parlour. We also discussed console versions and mahjong films.


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creative dissemination

Dan and Seth ran a masterclass on alternative / creative forms of disseminating and publishing research for the Breaking Silos doctoral research conference in FBLA at Southampton in April 2018.

Slides for the masterclass can be viewed here.

postdigital mahjong

Seth Giddings has been invited by Dr Hanna Wirman to participate in a series of workshops at Hong Kong Polytechnic University that will develop a research proposal for Hong Kong government’s general research fund, about the cultural importance of the game Mahjong. A key emphasis will be understanding the relationship of new digital forms of the game to traditional forms played at homes, in game parlours, casinos and at game arcades.

The Work of Storytelling symposium

On 29th and 30th May, the Transforming Creativity research group and MA in Global Media Management co-hosted a symposium on “The Work of Storytelling”. The first day of the symposium was focused on student projects from GMM. On the second day of the symposium staff and students from across the University of Southampton were invited to share their current research, and encouraged to seek out possibilities for future collaboration.

The symposium explored some of the diverse working practices and dynamics that shape contemporary storytelling. In an age when lives are increasingly branded, gamified, and narrativized, how do our stories get created and communicated? What are the challenges of meaning-making across media? Focusing on digital media transformations, this symposium encouraged discussions that interrogated the “work” (rather than the “art”) of storytelling.


Presentations included talks on global transmedia storytelling and story-building, book production and deconstruction, a short film responding to the themes of feminism and cannibalism in Julia Ducournau’s film Raw (2016), and an impromptu flash fiction composition.

With the kind permission of the participants, you can download some of the symposium presentations here:

More information about the symposium, including the full list of speakers, can be found at the event website. A showcase of GMM student projects will follow shortly.

You can also find tweets from the symposium at the Twitter hashtags #gmmstorytelling and #wsastorytelling.

toying with the archive

Seth Giddings has been awarded a stipend to conduct research on toys in the archive of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum at the University of Exeter. The research will centre on two categories of objects in the collection: Toys in general, and Optical Toys. A particular concern will be toys as media objects, both as communication media in their own right and as products of a commercial media culture – from contemporary ‘hybrid’ and transmedia toys back to the merchandising and tie-in toys collected by the Bill Douglas Museum. There are fascinating overlaps between these two categories as well, with the Toys collection featuring toy theatres, cinema apparatus and cameras, clockwork toys, and electronic games that could be regarded as genealogical descendants of optical toys and automata.

Given the centrality of the material and technical characteristics of toys to Seth’s research, a prolonged visit to the Museum with hands-on access to these collections would be an invaluable experience. Phenomenological questions of scale and tactility are key to the attraction of toys and play with them – their relationships to hands and fingers, their manipulability and feel cannot be captured in photographs and need to be experienced. As do their technical and mechanical capabilities, particularly in the case of optical toys. Through careful examination and description of the toys in the Bill Douglas collection it should be possible to speculate on their affordances, the suggestions made by instructions and other ephemera, and to explore their material qualities and the possible ways in which they shape playful behaviour and communicate ideas and values.

Read more here.

Studying the Force: A Star Wars Symposium

Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé will be speaking at a Star Wars symposium in Portsmouth, hosted by the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries and organised by Dr Lincoln Geraghty.

Celebrating Star Wars Day (4 May 2018) through discussion and debate, this symposium will offer us the opportunity to interrogate why the franchise has been so successful and how much it has impacted on popular culture.

Dr William Proctor (Bournemouth University) will talk about the global research project on Star Wars after Disney’s acquisition, discussing changes and shifts in the franchise seen since The Force Awakens, and then turn to consider The Last Jedi as site of struggle between
fan “tribes”.

Dr Matthew Freeman (Bath Spa University) and Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé (University of Southampton) will analyse the multimedia storytelling of the franchise, both historical and contemporary. Dr Freeman will discussing Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and the 1970s culture of transmedia contingency. Dr De Bruin-Molé will look at Forces of Destiny, plastic representation, and transmedia story strategies in Disney’s Star Wars

There will be a special screening in the afternoon, introduced by staff from the School of Media and Performing Arts, followed by a Star Wars themed quiz with prizes!

The day will begin at 9.30am in ELW 1.09, and will end at 6.00pm.

Registration is free though Eventbrite, and a full schedule of events can be found here.

Star Wars Roundtable on

Last month the newest member of the Transforming Creativity research group, Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé, participated in an online roundtable discussion of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) on ‘Confessions of an Aca-Fan’ (the official weblog of Professor Henry Jenkins). Other participants included Dr William Proctor (who convened the roundtable), Dr Rebecca Harrison, Dr Suzanne Scott, Dr Mar Guerrero-Pico, and Professor Will Brooker. The first instalment can be found here.

Professor Jenkins introduced the roundtable as follows:

Over the weekend, Warwick Davis, noted for his performances in various Lucas-directed films, weighed in on current controversies around The Last Jedi: “It’s a piece of entertainment, it’s not about making political statements. It’s just there for people to enjoy. You go in there and are supposed to lose yourself in the world the director has created. Star Wars has always been a great example of that – it’s pure escapism and you can forget the 21st century for a couple of hours. That was George Lucas’s philosophy with Star Wars – to make a fun adventure.” This is characteristic of a Hollywood move which seeks to distance itself from politics and thus absolve itself from critical discussion: “Get a life! It’s only a television series.” The reality is that Star Wars has always been about politics — if nothing else, Lucas’s choice to base the stormtroopers on, well, stormtroopers or to tap the aesthetics of Triumph of the Will for the final moments of A New Hope means that he was tapping certain political narratives to give the story much of its punch.

So, the question is not whether one group or another is “politicizing” Star Wars but whether what kind of politics seems “natural” within the context of a Hollywood blockbuster franchise and whose politics seems intrusive, whose politics gets read as, well, “political.” The discussions around The Last Jedi allow us to take certain soundings about where our culture is at in terms of embracing an ethos of diversity and inclusion, in terms of rethinking old genre formulas to encompass people whose stories have not been told in that term before.

This is an important part of the story of The Last Jedi‘s reception, but it is ONLY one part of the story. There are also questions about how we define notions of quality in a transmedia era — and what notions of quality are appropriate when factoring in somewhat different and still emerging narrative expectations, ie. what information needs to be contained in the film, what we may legitimately access from other sources, what expectations we have about closure or plot development as the unified Hero’s Journey narrative which Star Wars helped to popularize in Hollywood gives way to what Jeff Gomez has called “the collective journey” structure.

And there are also issues around how fandom gets represented in the media, how we break through what is often a monolithic conception of Star Wars fans in the hand of journalists, and how we deal with a legacy of gender politics which still breaks fandom down into male and female binaries despite efforts towards greater fluidity.


The resulting exchange is lively and thoughtful. I don’t necessarily agree with every perspective represented — I am personally pretty enthusiastic about The Last Jedi (not necessarily as the best of all possible Star War Movies but as a step forward for the franchise) — but I have learned something from all of the participants here.

There are moments of tension in the discussion, but the participants are able to work through their disagreements with some degree of mutual respect and with some openness to each other’s arguments. You will get four installments of this discussion. And the discussion will continue further as, coming soon, we launch a new podcast, How Do You Like It So Far?, which I am developing with Colin MacClay from the Annenberg Innovation Lab and which will take up The Last Jedi as our first extended case study. Watch for more soon.

Read more here.