Ending Seriality. Continuing Serially.

The last couple of days, I’ve been sharing the final moments of the popular seriality research unit with some wonderful people in Berlin. Academically, I grew up in that group. When I studied in Hannover University’s MA program, the seriality group was based in Göttingen – close enough to encounter and learn from much of the group’s output in the first funding period (2010-13). The second time over, I was lucky to be a part of the group.

Far from being a mere recap, the conference rather served as a cliffhanger. Many old and new friends of the group opened up interesting new perspectives, both on seriality as a concept and on objects of research that hadn’t been addressed throughout the years. In some ways, the conference thus ‘minded the gaps’ left during the years of research, to quote Jason Mittell’s statement from the opening panel (which he uploaded to his blog). Although we’ve come far in the ways we think about, conceptualize, and theorize seriality, new thoughts and objects of study emerge and provide new insights. The study of seriality, like seriality itself, is „contradictory and incoherent, open and closed, centered and without a center, retrograde and progressive, always ending but never concluding“ – those are Scott Higgins’ words from his statement on the closing panel (you can read them on his blog).

For me personally, the conference has been an occasion to re-think how we talk and theorize about seriality. And these thoughts were not only partially instantiated by Julika Griem’s presentation. She routed for a meta-perspective that reflects the metaphors we use to talk about seriality (the game and the machine), not to argue for them to be left alone, but to ask why we use them and have the answers feed back into how we conceptualize seriality. That meta-perspective is something we maybe inherently do for jokes, and have been doing with our  during the last couple of days.

We’ve been creating paratextual networks around the talks, creating content that in many cases probably registered more with the people who were there as with twitter-only followers, whom we may have left a little confused. And, partially due to the lack of wi-fi in the conference room, we’ve used twitter to transcend the linear succession of talk after talk and panel after panel.

If seriality is the holy ghost of agency (as Sven Grampp put it), then twitter is the holy ghost of the conference. It kept the conference going, but it also works against its end. Obviously, the serial journey is far from concluded. Plenty of theses, books, articles, and edited volumes are still forthcoming. I could list things, but you could just as well copy-paste everyone’s names from the  research unit’s website into google, if you’re interested. Also, some of us will be speaking at the Paris seriality conference in September (Scott Higgins, Kathleen Loock, Felix Brinker, Peter Stanfield, Frank Krutnik, Phyll Smith and Ellen Wright). I know we’ll keep talking seriality, but more than that, I hope that we – despite „the alleged ‚post-everything‘ status of our larger media landscape“ (to quote Dan Hassler-Forest’s ‚final‘ statement) continue to read different serial forms and formats against each other, to reflect about not only popular seriality, but how we think about seriality.


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