Worldcon 75 and The Hobbit panel

Worldcon, that is, The World Science Fiction Convention, was held for the 75th time in August 2017. Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland was the first one to have an academic track, a whole string of panels dedicated to academic research on science fiction and fantasy, arranged by Finfar – The Finnish Socienty for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. Our project had the honor of hosting the first session of the academic track! We were pleased to notice that we had a room full of audience eager to hear results from our Uses of Fantasy project.


Image: Minna Siikilä

The opening presentation was held by our project leader PhD Irma Hirsjärvi, a fandom researcher at the Research Centre for Contemporary Culture at the University of Jyvaskyla. She introduced our project and explored the possible differences between the responses of the  Nordic countries, as well as the dilemma of “Did we pose the right questions in the survey?” PhD Jyrki Korpua, our international Tolkien expert, gave a talk on the audience responses to myth and mythology in The Hobbit films. Doctoral student, MA Tanja Välisalo analysed audience attachment to particular Hobbit characters as following different trajectories through narrative and social contexts of Tolkien’s world and fandom. MA, also a doctoral student Minna Siikilä discussed how fandom and antifandom are intertwined in online discussions of The Hobbit film trilogy.


Irma Hirsjärvi, chairing our panel at Worldcon.
Image: Sanna Pudas

One of the high points of Worldcon for many attendees was most certainly seeing George R.R. Martin. The author of A Song of Ice and Fire, a book series adapted into a television series Game of Thrones, appeared in several programme numbers, for example a panel on the creation of fictional worlds. Martin’s appearances were especially intriguing for our project group because of the on-going global research project on the reception of Game of Thrones. As we have previously advertised in this blog, the data for the project is gathered through an online survey, and there is still time to participate until the end of August!


Worldcon Programme Released!

The programme of the 75th Worldcon (Helsinki, August 9-13) has now been released! Our project members can, of course, be found presenting and discussing in several sessions in the Academic Track. There will also be a panel dedicated for our Hobbit project. Join us there to hear about the latest developments of our project.

See you all at Worldcon!

“Winter is coming” – but what does it mean?

Game of Thrones questionnaire winter we published news of our participation in the Game of Thrones research project – as well as the link to the questionnaire. The survey has already gathered thousands of responses internationally, for which we are very thankful to all who have participated! Still, we have yet to reach our aim of 10,000 responses worldwide. So please, it would mean very much for the success of the research project, if you could take the time to answer the questionnaire at and pass it on to friends, relatives, and colleagues, and/or mention it in blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else where you post.

‘Fantastic Epics’ in Orlando, Florida

The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts took place in Orlando, Florida for the 38th time in March 2017 with the theme of “Fantastic Epics”. Some of our project members also took an epic journey over the Atlantic to represent The World Hobbit Project.


Our very own Jyrki Korpua gave a paper presentation under the title “Divine Mothers and Active Heroines: Female Identity and Roles in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium and Peter Jackson’s Movie Adaptations”. In the same session, Don Riggs (Drexel University) read an interesting paper on Peter Jackson’s videoblogs that build the “epic anticipation” for Jackson’s Hobbit films. A lively discussion around The Hobbit films and their audiences ensued and the ongoing Game of Thrones research project and survey were also mentioned.

Research on fantasy audiences was also represented in several papers on fans and fan cultures, such as Gail Bondi’s presentation on fans learning new literacies through their participation in an online Harry Potter knitting and crocheting community and Nicola Govocek’s presentation on how Supernatural fans approach ethical issues through fan fiction.

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A different view on fan experiences was offered by the natural resource of the Orlando area – theme parks! A visit to Orlando Universal Studios gave an intriguing glimpse on how theme parks based on existing narratives can invite visitors to step into the fictional worlds of their favorite stories.


Overall, the conference offered the great atmosphere and lively discussions for which it is known. While the sessions offered wide array of topics from all walks of speculative fiction, the leisure activities, such as the farewell party by the hotel pool and mingling with people after sessions will remain among the brightest memories of ICFA38.

Literature circle on reception and audience studies

Being a member of a research community continuously offers opportunities for co-learning. Our project team decided to take this opportunity and transform it to a (somewhat) coordinated learning experience in the form of a literature circle!

On Thursday afternoons in April and May, starting on April 13th, we will gather at the University of Jyväskylä campus to discuss select reception studies and audience studies texts, starting with classics, the likes of Stanley Fish and Wolfgang Iser. The participants will decide on the final selection of reading in the first meeting.

We warmly welcome all colleagues with interest in audience and/or reception studies to join! Master’s degree students are most welcome to participate too.

If you wish to join us in discussing, wondering and debating, please contact Tanja Välisalo, to receive more information.

Our project in ICFA38 – and other news

You may have thought that our project members have been laying it low, since our web page and Facebook have not been updated so often – but think again!  Our project funding for one year from The Finnish Cultural Foundation has almost ran its course, and therefore we have been actively applying for more funding for both The World Hobbit Project, and following The Game of Thrones Project. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Also, our members have been busy with conference presentation preparation, as some of our team members have traveled to the sunny Florida in order to attend the wonderful International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA38). If you happen to be in Florida, go and meet our team members! You can download the conference programme here. You can also expect a full blog post on the conference shortly.

Later in the spring, our team will be presenting our results also at Kirjallisuudentutkijain Seuran vuosiseminaari & Kulttuurintutkimuksen päivät (Finnish conference for research on literature and culture).

In addition, we are currently preparing publications on our project’s results – stay tuned for more information!

First research results published

We are very happy to announce the publication of the first articles presenting our research results. In the current issue of Participations – Journal of Audience & Reception Studies (volume 13, issue 2) there are no less than three articles based on the Finnish and Nordic research data written by our team members:

This issue of Participations has a whole themed section of articles based on The World Hobbit Project – intriguing reading for Christmas time!

A Visit to the Library: Lokacon 2016

Ten o’clock in the morning after the Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape seminar had finished, a delegation of its organizers had another chance to present the results of The World Hobbit Project. However, instead of the classrooms at the University of Jyväskylä, the venue was a public hall inside the Jyväskylä City Library, which hosted the annual Lokacon on October 22.

Lokacon is a traditional event organized by the local Jyväskylä Science Fiction Society 42 on the 42nd week of each year. This year the one-day affair hosted presentations by SF authors, experts, and scholars with the Uses of Fantasy project having the first slot. Unfortunately, being first sometimes comes with its own problems. This time a lack of a simple adapter meant that the audience was denied the visual aids planned for the show — among them pictures of the hot dwarves, or rather their fan art depictions, so often mentioned in The World Hobbit Project’s survey answers.

The delegation’s Irma Hirsjärvi and Tanja Välisalo did, however, verbally and on a flip board review some of the results. The audience was introduced, for instance, to the many ways in which the audience had reacted to the different characters in the film from the dwarves to the additional elf Tauriel. They also received information about the possible societal implications of the results and, of course, on details and results specific to the Finnish answers, such as the especially strong participation in fan activity connected to the films.

The audience was active in asking questions. They were, for example, critical about the comparability of the Finnish data. They questioned whether the data, which apparently has a high degree of fans, can be used for making broader interpretations about the audiences in general. However, our research team explained that this is an interesting result in itself and more in-depth research on the Finnish audience in particular  is underway, so they can expect more results on this topic in the future.

By Jani Ylönen

The Varied World of Fantastic: Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape Seminar


On the 20 – 21 October our project held a seminar called Uses of Fantasy in Changing Media Landscape at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. The speeches, presentations and discussions ranged from the reception to medium and genre specific uses of speculative fiction. In the end, the seminar’s participants argued for more research on the growing significance and variety of fantastic in the contemporary world.

The seminar was opened by Professor Raine Koskimaa of the University of Jyväskylä, who in his brief address reminded the audience that fantasy offers vast universes to explore, but also that one should not forget the many levels on which technology is a part of this world building. Prof. Koskimaa was followed by the first keynote speaker of the day, Emerita professor Liisa Rantalaiho of the University of Tampere, who concentrated on the first words in the name of the seminar in her speech concisely titled Using Fantasy. Her speech keyed on the issue of use, first discussing how fantasy has been seen as useless or useful from different perspectives, for example, citing Tolkien’s thoughts on the matter. She further discussed the age old tension between escapism and estrangement that has influenced the discussion about the role of fantasy.


Emerita professor Liisa Rantalaiho giving her keynote titled “Uses of Fantasy”.

Prof. Rantalaiho’s address was followed by the second keynote by Emeritus professor Martin Barker of the Aberystwyth University titled On Being Disappointed with The Hobbit: Indications of the Changing Significance of Fantasy . Prof. Barker took the conversation to the ending of the seminar’s name, i.e. the changing media landscape and the disappointment expressed in the reception of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Through examining the feeling of disappointment that was strongly expressed in some of the answers to The World Hobbit Projects’ survey, he argued that there has been a change in how fantasy is received and what functions it performs in the contemporary society. He, furthermore, called for more research on this topic; this shared, varied world of fantasy that is a growing in significance.


Emeritus professor Martin Barker giving his keynote titled “On Being Disappointed with The Hobbit: Indications of the Changing Significance of Fantasy

After the keynotes and a lunch break the seminar divided into two parallel sessions. Session I concentrated on the television serie Game of Thrones and the need to move away from the question of fidelity that has traditionally haunted adaptation studies to a more transmedial view as well as how reactions to the fate of the serie’s character Hodor can be used to discuss questions of mourning and carnivalization of death. Meanwhile, Session II moved in a varied fashion through speculative fiction with looks into gene technology and parenthood to the phenomenon of zombilution in the contemporary society and, finally, to anthropological points of view into writing speculative fiction.

After a coffee break parallel session number three discussed people using toys and social networks to create fantasies of adult life as well as how Pablo Escobar created a dark fantasy of himself through an intertextual zoo. Simultaneously, in the fourth session the discussion concentrated on questions of transmedia and intertextuality three papers discussing the reception of the films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and fantasy novels influenced by them. After a heavy dose of speculative fiction, the participants retired for the conference dinner at the nearby Sohwi to discuss topics related and unrelated to the day’s event.  

Friday was started by Associate Professor Susana Tosca of IT University of Copenhagen, whose keynote lecture, Fantasy Transmediations: the Art of Making It Real,  focused on transmedial objects such as clothes, figures, and amusement parks that have incarnated into our “real world” from the immaterial, non-existent fantasy world. She stated that the items can, in a manner of speaking, mimic or represent the fantasy world and carry meanings for their possessors, just as the religious objects can be taken as transubstantiated items rather than only symbols of what they represent. In addition, the fantasy stories may also offer a new kind of alternative spiritual tale for the fans. Assoc. Prof. Tosca also pointed out that despite the negative dimensions of our consumer society, the consumption of this kind of material stuff can have its positive effects due to the empowering nature of spirituality the fans  experience.


Associate professor Susana Tosca giving her keynote titled “Fantasy Transmediations: the Art of Making It Real”

After the keynote, Professor Raine Koskimaa presented some of the results of our project Uses of Fantasy – The World Hobbit Project in Finland. For more on the results, see below:

After the keynote session and the results from the Hobbit project the crowd divided into the final parallel sessions. One session discussed the changes occurring in the adaptation process from one media to another as well as the more transmedial approaches when a product is made simultaneously onto two different media platforms. In the meantime, the other session examined comics by concentrating on how authors experiment with medium-specific possibilities transgressing boundaries between stories and story-worlds.

When the sessions ended, the keynote lecturers Barker and Tosca joined with the representatives of the University of Jyväskylä, Senior Researcher Urpo Kovala, Professor Raine Koskimaa and Researcher Irma Hirsjärvi, to discuss the future of fantasy research. According to them, it is quite apparent that the fantasy landscape is chancing and has changed during the recent years: now instead of being a genre appealing only few, it reaches large audiences, and, as someone noted from the crowd, has got rid of the nerd stigma it once had. Hirsjärvi also commented the appliances the fantasy research may have in the future, by depicting the unfortunate recent events in Finland with the refugee center attacks. Could the fantasy research help to explain why and how some of us see the world in such a different way? All in all, the field of fantasy research was agreed to be off to a running start but at the same time, in need of many new researchers and studies.


Our keynotes Martin Barker, Susana Tosca, and Liisa Rantalaiho.

By Jani Ylönen and Mari Koskela


Make your views on Game of Thrones known – Game of Thrones Research Project has started!

Questeros Advertising Image 1.jpgWhile our “Uses of fantasy”-research project on the reception of the Hobbit-trilogy is moving onwards with full force, we have not been idle about the future neither.

As part of group of over 40 researchers from all over the world, led by Professor Martin Barker from Aberystwyth University in the UK, we are now conducting an international project to gather thousands of people’s views on Game of Thrones.

The research project is entirely self-funded, and is not connected with HBO or George R. R. Martin in any way. It is being conducted by a group of university researchers with a large interest in fantasy films and television. Some of the researchers involved also worked on The World Star Wars Project, The World Hobbit Project, and the Watching The Lord of the Rings Project.

The researchers for the Game of Thrones Research Project have very recently launched an online survey, which should take around 20 minutes to complete, on the project’s website at We want to gather thousands of people’s views on the series, and we are depending on people’s willingness to spread the word about the project, telling their friends and relatives and mentioning it online on their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else that they post.

The results and findings of the project will be made publicly available, and the survey will be open well into 2017 after the much-anticipated Season 7 finally airs. If you have any questions about the Game of Thrones Research Project, you can read more information about it here.

In the meantime, you can take the survey, spread the word, and stay up-to-date with the Game of Thrones Research Project on their Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook profiles.