Dr. Mariann Hardey

Digitally on.

Speaker, Writer, Academic.

Durham University Lecturer.

I do stuff for the BBC.

Feminist & lovely.

Slanguage of social media

Consuming Crime

June 2015

One of the defining moments of 2014 aurally, for your ears, was the popularlity of the podcast Serial. At the end of this month - ie. now - along with Professor Simon James of Durham University's fine English Department we will be presenting at the Consuming Crime conference in Limerick. Those of you familiar to this blog will know James's* work and indeed voice, not only on Victorian text, narrative and Gissing, but also his presence at the most marvellous of events reaching much further than Durham. From Palace Green, you will enjoy his reading out loud The Wind in the Willows. 

Our paper is titled - Tamed Narrative and Serial Consumption

We want to consider the contemporary consumptive practices and their effect when narrative meaning/s are enclosed within the strict temporal and medium conditions of serialised dissemination. Our argument is that Serial provides a collective and ‘tamed’ narrative. In a world of almost limitless content, when digital dissemination allows the consumption of millions of different narratives all the time at any time, this production of episodic content amongst the contradictions and fluidity of ‘digital’ and ‘network life’ both promise and defers resolution.

The narrator, producer and writer, Sarah Koenig’s weekly instalments give the audience clues; but like a good crime writer, these clues are both internally consistent with what actually takes place but at the same time potentially misleading - urging their listener to ‘tune in’ and download the next episode.

At risk of giving away the close, Serial’s plot is never fully uncovered (sorry). As a digitally encoded text, Serial is both a manifestation of a very new medium but also a performance of some much older ones: the serialised Victorian novel as well as the detective story.

What to make of this? Perhaps, that the consumption of Serial is thus a jolted return to traditional narrative form of pre-digital knowledge. Serial presents a narratological challenge to the reading of its audience. It promotes debate - moral, intellectual, cultural and even political - issues that go to the heart of contemporary consumer activity.

We are still fleshing out our ideas and I am enjoying the flourish of heightened near-to-lliterary critical thinking. With such a flourish, then like all good academics we will make good on our promoise of the full paper as ready for pulbication very shortly... 

*You may resent this use of the possessive apostrophe, but the 50th anniversary edition of Strunk and White ([1979] 2000:1-2) The Elements of Style, informs me this composition is enitrely correct.