My current research project focuses on narrative strategies in contemporary American television. It will end up being a multiplatform book (both in print and a digital book-like object), with the manuscript in-progress currently posted at MediaCommons. I have worked through many of the ideas as a series of disparate essays, chapters and posts published in a variety of sites since 2005. I’ll try to keep this page updated to aggregate the pieces, sort of like an emergent anthology:
The best place to start is “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television,” The Velvet Light Trap #58, Fall 2006, 29-40. This essay is the closest I have to a core thesis for the project. While a lot has changed in my thinking in the many years since writing this, it does sum up the key facets of why contemporary television storytelling interests me.
A fair amount of my narrative project has focused on Lost, given its status of narrative innovator (and my own fandom). Here are a collection of my pieces on Lost, all of which deal with narrative and viewership in some manner – as well as my assorted blog posts on the show:
- “The Loss of Value (or the Value of Lost),” Flow 2: 5 (2005).
- “The Value of Lost,” Flow 2:10 (2005).
- “Lost in an Alternate Reality,” Flow 4:7 (2006).
- “Speculation on Spoilers: Lost Fandom, Narrative Consumption, and Rethinking Textuality,” co-authored with Jonathan Gray, Particip@tions 4:1, May 2007. Jonathan & I do some survey research to figure out why anyone would want to read spoilers before watching Lost unfold.
- “Sites of Participation: Wiki Fandom and the Case of Lostpedia,” Transformative Works & Culture vol. 3, 2009. This piece explores the specific ways that fan culture use the Lostpedia wiki to engage in “forensic fandom” as a specific reading strategy.
- “Lost in a Great Story” in Reading Lost: Perspectives on a Hit Television Show, edited by Roberta Pearson (I.B. Tauris, 2009) – the link is to a pre-publication version on the blog; the essay considers the role of evaluative criticism in discussing a show like Lost.
A couple of other essays have appeared as prepublication drafts on the blog as well: “These Questions Need Answers: Narrative Construction and the Veronica Mars Pilot,” and “The Wire and the Serial Procedural: An Essay in Progress,” the latter of which appeared in print as “All in the Game: The Wire, Serial Storytelling and Procedural Logic,” in Third Person, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan (MIT Press, 2009).
I was asked by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green to contribute a short piece on the relationship between narrative complexity and online dissemination, like YouTube videos, for an anthology they’re writing on spreadable culture. I explored another aspect, “drillability,” and am happy that the term has gained some currency, especially after Henry referenced it in his talk at Futures of Entertainment 4.
A piece called “Serial Boxes: The Cultural Values of Long Form American Television” started as a keynote address at the Serial Forms conference at University of Zurich, and evolved into this essay exploring how TV-on-DVD changes the storytelling and consumption possibilities of serial narrative. The essay will be published in German, but the English version remains on the blog.
Another piece called “Previously On: Prime Time Serials and the Mechanics of Memory” was published in Intermediality and Storytelling, ed. Marina Grishakova and Marie-Laure Ryan (Walter de Gruyter, 2010).
I’ve written two lengthy posts about the relationship between prime time serials and daytime soap operas – the first features deleted scenes from the initial narrative complexity essay, and the second is included as “The Ties Between Daytime and Primetime Serials,” interview in The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era, edited by Sam Ford, Abigail de Kosnik, and C. Lee Harrington (University of Mississippi Press, 2010), 133-39.
And of course you can weed through my more immediate thoughts from blog posts focused on narrative – while less fully fleshed out, they tend to be more immediately applied to specific shows or issues, including real-time reactions to narratives like The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, Harry Potter, and of course, Lost.