Film Websites: a Transmedia Archaeology
Walden, Kim Louise
Websites have become a familiar feature of contemporary cinema and they contribute to the overall audience experience. Yet as a hybrid of storytelling and marketing, they have often been seen as little more than promotional ephemera, and they have rarely been critically examined. Film websites are fragile, and their presence as artefacts to study is threatened by a range of commercial and cultural factors. Consequently, film websites have not been well preserved, and many disappear before they have been appraised. Through the development of a transmedia archaeological approach, this thesis establishes that film websites are worthy of consideration as a form of entertainment and as cultural artefacts in their own right. This thesis critically evaluates the film website and its cultural conditions from several perspectives. As a form of transmedia - a term, an academic concept and a production practice that has evolved since the early twentieth century and this thesis sets out a way to understand the development of this important concept and draws on recent scholarship in the field to critically evaluate key ideas. Through media archaeology, which is an emergent historiographical perspective. Some media archaeological propositions are developed into practical tools for the analysis of film websites. Whilst those propositions tend to draw on a tradition of materialist and technological viewpoints, in this thesis they are extended to include approaches that examine the audience experience. As film website design has developed, formats have standardised and one convention to emerge is the in-movie story world website. A particular narrative trope (or, in media archaeological terms, topoi) is the ‘evil corporation’, which is common in science-fiction, western, and social commentary films, but takes on specific significance when the film website enables ludic and interactive forms of what has been described as ‘extended cinema’ (Atkinson, 2014a:16). Using ideas gleaned from world-building the ‘evil corporation’ topoi is analysed in some detail. In archival settings where film websites are preserved, partially held, or lost. Through case studies where archival presence yields insight into the development of the film website form. Online awards provide a case in point as they valorise website design, and through their archives of annual winners, can be understood as a ‘shaper’ of practices, defining what film websites are, and may be in the future. Importantly, it is found that archives don’t simply preserve artefacts. Embedded in film website fan bulletin boards are ‘traces’ of audience encounters with promotional campaigns. Qualitative analysis techniques are used to 'scrape' these locations and interpret the 'conversations' in an analytic manner to examine audience experiences of nostalgia for the future.
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