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If You Liked That, You Will Love This. The Aesthetic of Sameness and Repetition in Contemporary Media Culture

Carlsberg Foundation Monograph Fellowships

What

Repetition is everywhere in our contemporary media culture. On the one hand we are bombarded with repetitive products: adaptations, sequels, prequels... where the same content gets rehashed in a cycle of eternal returns and derivative formats based on serial templates are the rule. On the other, algorithms push more of the same kind of content we liked through recommendations of news, books, music, games, films and series. The goal of this book project is to scrutinize repetition and sameness in a media cultural context, as an overarching category that constitutes a fusion of aesthetic and market strategies. The project will propose a theory of repetition and sameness in media, based on a history of repetitive formats and a collection of contemporary empirical cases across media.

Why

In Western culture, we have an uneasy relationship with repetition and sameness. While familiarity can be pleasurable and soothing,we also crave novelty and long for a sense of discovery. This project theorizes and historically grounds the idea of repetition in relation to media, not exclusively as a product of big data or late capitalism, but as something that has long roots in our storytelling tradition. It explores the genuinely joyful aesthetic pleasures offered by new and old repetitive formats, but also adopts a critical perspective that questions excess consumption habits and sameness-maximizing recommendation systems. What does taste, originality or literacy mean in our repetitive media landscape? Are we subjected to an anaesthetic uniformity with no place for divergent voices?

How

This project is a natural culmination of my previous research in media reception processes, from where I draw for some of the case studies and empirical approach to audiences. Over the years, I have gradually become more aware of the theme of repetition, as it always turned up as a factor when studying the transformations of traditional audiences into digital readers/players/users both in relation to literature, computer games and transmedial communication. The monograph will be written during the period 1 September 2020 to 30 August 2021. I will be collecting more empirical data with audiences during the spring of 2020, so that the grant time can be used to concentrate on producing the manuscript.

SSR

Media are an inescapable element in framing our experience and helping us making sense of the world. In our hyperconnected society, entertainment media fill more and more room and time in our lives. There is a general feeeling of panic about how dependent we are on our screens and our entertainment. This project addresses some of these worries and how they intersect with our sense of being human: are contemporary media devoid of originality and purpose? Are we trapped in an endless loop of ever more mediocre imitations destined to keep us connected, distracted from what really is at a stake? We need to know what is going on, what are we entertained with and what it means, for we otherwise cannot understand ourselves and the aspirations and values we foster as a society.