PhD Oral Exam - Kalervo Sinervo, Humanities
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Batland: Transmedia Strategy & Videogame Spatiality in Gotham City is an interdisciplinary study of how transmedia strategy (the construction and management of massively collaborative popular culture franchises) has impacted digital gameworlds, and what these gameworlds can tell us about transmedia protocols. It builds a foundation for critiquing and reshaping transmedia theory through frameworks of political economy, game studies, and philosophies of urban geography. To elaborate this argument, the dissertation focuses on Gotham City. As the hometown of pop culture icon Batman, Gotham has appeared consistently across every conceivable medium and venue for franchising for nearly 80 years. By examining its history of representation across media (particularly videogames) and reading Batman media texts as an assemblage produced in a networked transmedia complex, I argue that narrative analysis must expand beyond auteur theory to account for dispersed authorship. A focus on narrative as assemblage will cut through the dialectical tension between transmedia as a narrative storytelling mode, and transmedia as a strategic and tactical business model.
The case studies comprise a historical overview of the commercial and narrative functions Gotham City serves in a range of media including comics, film, and merchandise; an examination of the Arkham games series’ geographical qualities; and an interrogation of the licensing structures and transmedial techniques of the Lego Batman franchise. By examining environment and spatial considerations in the context of transmedia protocol, the thesis demonstrates that transmedia dictates the construction of fictional and virtual spaces by dealing with them in terms of the functions they serve commercially within specific media. It also introduces urban geography theory into the conversation to construct an interdisciplinary argument that transmedia cities form a key structure of interpellation in constructing consumers. In developing its larger argument, the dissertation finds that the political economy of transmedia authorship demands that we reshape our consideration of the author-function in broader discourse.