Why Do Fans Love Kingdom Hearts – A Short Ethnographic Video Essay

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


A short digital ethnographic video essay project exploring why Kingdom Hearts fans love the video game franchise.

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Why do Kingdom Hearts fans love the franchise? – An ethnographic project pitch pt.2

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


This blog post is the second of two blog posts pitching an ethnographic research project I will be undertaking. The first blog post covered the research topic itself, as well as the key media theory underpinning the project. This second blog post will cover data collection, ethical considerations, and how the project will be presented. It is strongly recommended you read the first blog post before continuing on to this one.Read More »

Why do Kingdom Hearts fans love the franchise? – An ethnographic project pitch pt.1

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


As part of my studies, I will be undertaking a small ethnographic research project relating to media and media use. I have written a research pitch on this project, which is split across two blog posts. This first blog post will cover my research topic itself, as well as the key media theory which will underpin this project. The second blog post will cover data collection, ethical considerations, and how the project will be presented.


What is Kingdom Hearts?

The Kingdom Hearts video game franchise is an odd one.

This almost 20-year old franchise is developed and published by Japanese video game company Square Enix (formerly SquareSoft) in collaboration with Disney. It is known for being a bizarre crossover franchise featuring characters from various Disney properties (such as Beauty and the BeastPirates of the Caribbean, and Toy Story), alongside characters from the Final Fantasy franchise (one of Square Enix’s other bestselling video game franchises). These Final Fantasy characters have largely been replaced with an extensive cast of original Kingdom Hearts characters, although the Disney elements have remained a prominent element of the franchise.Read More »

Spitballing an upcoming ethnographic project

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


In the process of completing this particular university subject, I am required to conduct an ethnographic project, relating to media use. The project pitch for this is due in a couple week (October 13th), with the project to be completed a month after that, on November 10th.

I’ve decided to use this blog platform to spitball a couple of idea before settling on one of them later.

From the start I’ve been considering conducting a project related to the area of fan studies. As someone who has been hanging out in online fandom spaces since I was around 11 or 12 years old, fan studies is something that deeply fascinates me – both in its connection to my own experiences, but also how it explains fans with very different experiences to my own.Read More »

A fleeting friendship with a fellow Eurovision fan from half a world away

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


“Tell a story of a past relationship with a person that you met online.”

I am a longtime fan of the Eurovision Song Contest. The mix between the glamorous, the adequate, and the outright bizarre acts that make it to the stage have fascinated me for years.

But, I am also an Australian.

To Europeans, the Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast live at a rather reasonable time in the evenings. At worst, the finale might run a bit late and finish towards midnight. But as someone living in the Sydney area, Eurovision starts at 5am.

Without any real incentive to watch the show live, for years I contented myself with watching the evening rebroadcasts.

But that changed in 2015 when Australia was permitted to participate as a contestant for the first time, with Guy Sebastian performing “Tonight Again”.

More importantly, this gave me an incentive to watch the show during the live broadcast, since I was now able to submit my own votes during the televoting period.

So at 5am AEST on Wednesday the 20th of May, 2015, I blearily dragged myself out of bed, stumbled to the television set, and watched Eurovision live for the first time.

It was rather lonely being awake that early in the morning to watch the show. Rather than continuing to watch the show in my isolation, I started to liveblog my thoughts and reactions.

That’s when something curious happened.

Another user on the site I was blogging on started responding to my posts; and then I started responding to theirs. We traded reactions on parts that delighted us, and scathing criticisms on that which didn’t.

Two complete strangers found each other on the internet, and started a conversation on something we shared a common interest in. Suddenly my lonely morning viewing wasn’t so lonely any more.

Later I would find out that this user was an Italian woman who was quite a few years older than me, and she learnt that I was an Australian teenager. We never shared any more information about each other – not even each other’s names. From 2015 to 2018 we would log-in a day or two before Eurovision to greet each other, only calling each other by our countries (“Hello Italy!”, “Hello Australia!”) and talked to each other during the competition, before parting ways after the finale and not interacting again until the following year. Ours was a kind of friendship that came and went with Eurovision.

This year, for the first time since we started our correspondence, ‘Italy’ was not there for me to talk with. In the year since the last competition she seemed to have deleted her account. I had no way of contacting her or knowing what has become of her.

Ours was a fleeting friendship that had some to an end.


This year, at 5am AEST in the morning on the 14th of May, 2019, I blearily dragged myself out of bed, stumbled to the television set, and watched Eurovision live for what was certainly not the first time.

It was rather lonely being awake that early in the morning to watch the show. Rather than continuing to watch the show in my isolation, I started to liveblog my thoughts and reactions.

That’s when something curious happened.

I started interacting with a complete stranger – an English college student. We talked about the things we loved and hated on the stage. Suddenly my early morning viewing wasn’t as lonely as before.

In some small ways we continue to interact to each others’ posts (turns out we’re both fans of batman comics), but we largely don’t talk to each other.

I wonder if we’ll talk again during Eurovision 2020?

Digital Spaces as Primary Social Spaces – escaping the confines of parent supervision

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


Think about your use of networked media in your home. What do you discover?”

I’ve been spending some time thinking about my use of the internet as my primary social space. While I do still prefer in-person interactions, there is little doubt in my mind that much of my social interactions occur through online spaces.

With me and all my friends’ conflicting schedules and the distance between each of us, it makes sense to me that we’d use digital spaces to communicate. We aren’t really able to go out of our way to meet up for coffee or hang out very often, but we are able to send updates about our lives or chat about the topic of the hour via Facebook Messenger (or any other digital platform).

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Sitting in the dark, by Alice Bartlett, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

But then in the realization that all my friends live a fair distance from me, I started to wonder:

“Why don’t I have a single friend within a half hour drive from me?”

There must be other people around my age living in my neighbourhood. There must be people I would share interests with and get along with. Heck, I still live in a 5 minute walk from my primary school, there must still be some of my former classmates and peers around.

Why do I not have any connections with the people within my own neighbourhood?

After thinking about it, I think I’ve thought of a possible reason. I wasn’t really allowed outside when I was in primary school – at least not without the hawk-like supervision of an adult – and I’m not the only child who was kept on a safe short leash like this.

There have been several articles published on how children are no longer given the same amount of freedom that their parent were able to enjoy.

When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years. (src)

In her book “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens,” technology and social media scholar danah boyd (her name is stylized in all lower-case) argues that teenagers have turned to digital spaces in order to engage with their peers without any adult or parental supervision, since they are unable to do so physically. Teenagers want to forge their own independence, and online spaces allow teens to circumvent these constraints. In thinking about this with my own experiences, I think boyd is exactly correct in her argument.

I remember being quite young and seeing some neighbourhood kids playing on the streets in front of my house. I asked my mother if I could go out and join them, before having all my desire to play just disappear when she wanted to come with to keep an eye on me. Afterwards, I just stopped asking because I knew I wasn’t going to get the answer I wanted. It’s not surprising that I took to digital social spaces with the same enthusiasm as a child in a candy store.

In a way, I think I was implicitly taught to see digital spaces as my primary social space and this is still true to this day, despite being an adult now and no longer facing the same restrictions I did as a child and teenager.

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References

Boyd, D., 2014. It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale University Press.

Television Memories – rituals and colourless figure skating

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


Have a conversation with someone older than you about their memories of television in their childhood, and reflect on the conversation.”

For this week’s blog post on television memories, I have interviewed a woman in her 50s who has elected to remain anonymous. This woman grew up in a small apartment with her family in Europe and has kindly shared some of her memories of television with me.


Rituals

One thing that pops up when talking about television with someone, are their rituals of using it. For example, a couple of the television rituals that I’ve participated in include sitting down with the family and watching The Simpsons, on Channel 10, at 6pm, almost every weekday for several years.

My interviewee had several rituals she shared with her own family. At 7:15 p.m. every evening she would sit with her family and watch the cartoons that were playing, such as Bugs Bunny and The Pink Panther. When the cartoons finished airing and news reports started playing, that was a sign that is was time for her to start getting ready for bed. Part of her daily routine was structured around her television use.

Another ritual that she participated in, was watching the annual broadcast of the Vienna New Year’s Concert (which still continues to this day). This symphonic concert was part of a communal experience she participated in to welcome in the new year. The annual concert continues to remind her of the experiences she shared with her family. This shared experience was part of her family identity.


What Colour is a Figure Skater’s Costume?

Every now and then (usually during big competitions) I like to drop into the world of ice figure skating and see what the hot new routines are. Figure skating is part performance, and part technical skill display (although the general viewer is likely to care only for the performance aspect). Every part of the act is important – from the music, to the move-set, to the colours of one’s costume.

But what if you were watching figure skating on a black and white television set? The colours of the skaters’ costumes would be completely lost to you. As someone who grew up with coloured television this is never an issue that I’ve even had to think about, but to my interviewee this was very much a reality when she was growing up.

My interviewee has fond memories of watching broadcasts of figure skating competitions, but she doesn’t remember very much about the performances themselves. Rather, what she does remember is the commentator.

Milka Babović (yes, my interviewee can still recall the commentator’s name) was a sports commentator and former athlete. According to my interviewee, when commentating on figure skating, Babović she would provide vivid descriptions of the colours and patterns on the athlete’s costumes. To my interviewee watching this on her black and white television set, this was a special little attention to detail that somewhat removed one of the layers of abstraction created by colourless television, and made the performances a bit closer to feeling real and immediate.

Personally, this is one little detail I find fascinating, since I’ve never had to deal with that abstraction.

The Public Screen – on campus and in the pub

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


“Consider how smart phones, public screens, and digital signage are being used around your university campus and neighbourhood.”

Dafna Lemish’s 1982 paper “The rules of viewing television in public places” found that when people encountered television screens out in public, they would orient themselves to face the screen, try not to block other people’s view of the screen, and would often engage with what was on the screen.

But that was almost 40 years ago. Is this still applicable today?

There are several screens located around the University of Wollongong campus, including the one in the right-hand side of the photograph I took below. Many of these screens do not seem to have a purpose. They’re just simply there.

People do not orient themselves towards the screen, and they certainly do not engage with whatever is being shown. At most someone might give it the occasional glance. If something particularly strange or perplexing was on screen they might notice and comment on it to someone in their company, before promptly going back to ignoring it.

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Inside University of Wollongong, building 11 (UniHall)

What is being looked at instead? Laptops, phones, and tablets.

Students across UOW campus are more preoccupied with whatever is on their private screens – whether that be studying, browsing the internet, or watching cute cat videos – than they are with whatever is on the public screen.

So, have the rules around public screens changed in the near 40 years since Lemish’s paper? What if we moved away from the university campus? What about sports bars?

With a quick and easy search online you can find plenty of recommendations for the best bars and pubs to watch the footy in. Here’s a 2019 one for Dallas. Here’s a 2018 one for Melbourne. Notice the years? These are recent recommendations. The public screen might be dying in many other places, but they’re still quite successful for sports fans.

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“footy watchers” by deepwarren (src CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Unlike the seemingly purposeless screens littered across the UOW campus, these screens have a clear and obvious purpose. Is that why these public screens are enduring while so many others are not? Or is it the community around it? Since there’s already people paying attention to the screens would we be more inclined to follow Lemish’s rules of public screens?

If no one is watching the screen, why would anyone bother checking that no views are obstructed? But if there’s a clear group paying attention I wouldn’t want to be rude and step on anyone’s toes, so to speak. Would I perhaps even orient myself towards the screen so as not to be the “odd one out”?

Is it then, that the use of personal screens are reducing the communal viewing experience, and without that communal experience we are even less likely to engage?

Well… I’ll just have to leave you to think about it for yourself.

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Dafna Lemish (1982) The rules of viewing television in public places, Journal of Broadcasting, 26:4, 757-781, DOI: 10.1080/08838158209364046

The Nostalgia of Dumaresq St Cinema

This blog post was written as part of the BCM 241 – Media Ethnographies subject, studied as part of my Global Media and Communication major at the University of Wollongong.


I don’t often go to the cinemas. Cinemas are expensive, I can be quite picky with the media I consume, and I’m usually perfectly happy to wait a couple of months and then get a hold of a copy I can watch it in the comfort of my own home.

But this week I was challenged with going to a cinema and writing about it. Alright, challenge accepted. I decided that I would drop into Dumaresq Street Cinemas and see if anything’s changed.

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Dumaresq St. Cinema lobby

The thing about Dumaresq Street Cinemas, is that it’s been around for as long as I can remember (the cinema opened in 1981). I remember going to watch Star Wars: Episode II with my family (and then sleeping through half of). That movie came when I was still in preschool.

After completing my work shift on Saturday morning, I walked to Dumaresq St (it was only a five minute walk), intending to watch the first movie they had available. Turns out, they had two movies starting in the next ten minutes; Late Night, and Palm Beach. I hadn’t heard of either of them, but a quick look on Rotten Tomatoes revealed that Late Night was apparently the more enjoyable of the two. So I slammed a $10 note onto the counter, bought a ticket (and nothing else), and made my way into the theatre.

Yes that’s right, I spent less than $10 at the cinema. Dumaresq St tickets are cheap. Every ticket is available for $7.50 (they’ve slowly increased from $5 over the last 20 years). It’s made the cinema a very affordable place for families and even school excursions (I remember watching The Polar Express there with my kindergarten classmates).

My relationship with Dumaresq St is very different from my relationship with say, Event Cinemas just a five or so minute drive away. To me, Dumaresq St is a place of affordability, familiarity and nostalgia. They used to always play the same advertisements for local Campbelltown businesses, to the point that I was genuinely really disappointed that they didn’t play them this time (it’s the end of an era!). You know someone’s a real Campbelltowner if they can recite the end line of the Ballard’s Butchery ad.

I made my way into the dimly lit theatre. I listened to the small audience chatting to each other before the movie and during the advertisements and previews for things that no one was interested in. During the movie (which I admittedly did not enjoy very much) I listened to the crunch of popcorn, the slurping of drinks, everyone’s reactions to events on the screen, and then every little group’s post-movie discussion.

I might have gone alone to the cinema, and watched a movie that I didn’t particularly care for and have already forgotten much of, but I think to me there’s a special kind of joy in the communal experience of the cinema.