The future of media consumption

Featuring Senior Professor Sue Turnbull

“The Future Of…” series asks a variety of UOW experts and researchers the same five questions, to provide insight into the potential future states of our lives, communities and world.

The way we absorb entertainment, news and media varies over time as technology advances. In this "future of', Sue Turnbull, Senior Professor of Communication and Media Studies and Discipline Leader for the Creative Industries, and Co-Director of the Research Centre for Critical Creative Practice (C3P), discusses her take on the future of media consumption. She explores the opportunities and challenges of the media landscape from a community, professional and personal perspective. Her research interests include media education, audiences and television studies, particularly crime and comedy.

What are you researching or working on in 2019/2020?

I am currently on a research trip to Iceland where I am investigating the value of the television crime drama series to the creative industries. One of my case studies is the Icelandic television crime drama, Ófærð/Trapped (2015 and 2018), which Australian viewers may have caught on SBS OnDemand. This was the most expensive television series ever made in Iceland and it has galvanised the Icelandic film and television industry into even more activity. The director and creator, Baltasar Kormákur, is now establishing a creative precinct in the capital city, Reykjavik, to foster Icelandic creative talent and projects.

This Icelandic investigation is part of a larger project, exploring the value of a number of recent television crime dramas from the perspective not just of the creative personnel involved, but also of the community at large. This would include global audiences who are discovering more about different cultures around the world, and the challenges they face, through the genre of the television crime drama.

One of the more interesting themes to emerge in recent globally distributed television crime dramas series is the concern they express about the environment, global politics, and the impact of industrial development on fragile ecologies of human and non-human species. The geo-politics of the television crime drama is one of the more compelling aspects of this study.

The fandom and tourism connected to television crime drama is also part of our research. I have just returned from the town of Siglufjörður in the North of Iceland where the series is mostly shot, following in the footsteps of the central character, Chief of Police Andri Olafsson (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), to see how tourism has affected this very small remote community.

In regards to your field of study or expertise what are some of the most innovative or exciting things emerging over the next few years?

The exciting developments in my field are related to the creative industries in general, with Wollongong being identified as a creative hot spot, as well as the changes that are occurring across the screen industries globally as audiences move online to find the content they want to consume, whether this is locally produced or not. This has presented new challenges to media audience research, as we try to make sense of the ways in which people self-curate their media environments.

Other developments would include the emergence of the short form web series as a form of online entertainment with their low entry level costs that have given young writers, directors and creative talent opportunities to get their vision up on screen. Along with Dr Steinar Ellingsen and Dr Nicola Evans at UOW, I have another project in the pipeline that will investigate the emergence of the Australian web series, the impact these series have had on the careers of those involved, as well as the global popularity of these productions, their distribution and their monetisation.

One example that people might have seen is The Katering Show, a spoof cooking show, that started out as a web series, was picked up for ABC i-View before the creative talent involved, Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney, went on to make their next series for the ABC, Get Krack!n, an often savage parody of a breakfast lifestyle programme.

In regards to your field of study or expertise what are some of the things readers should be cautious/wary of over the next few years?

The media are often blamed for a lot. However, we all use media every day to do different things, whether this be banking, checking on the weather or calling family and friends. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘the media’ – only ways of using different kinds of media technologies to do different things. And while the media may be evolving, people aren’t so much. We still all have the same basic wants and needs, and we may well use different kinds of media to fulfil these.

What is also worth thinking about are the ways in which the various protocols around media use are changing. I used to sit in meetings where people were looking at their mobile phones or checking their email all their time. However, I think there is a dawning recognition that this may actually be quite counter-productive. The attention needs to be on what is happening in the room. At the same time, there is no doubt that a great deal of paper has been saved by circulating minutes and meeting notes online.

It’s therefore important to reflect on how and why we are using the new technologies that are available for us for a range of different purposes and to what effect.

Where do opportunities lie for people thinking about a career in this field?

Because media technologies and platforms are evolving at such a rapid rate, there are tremendous opportunities opening up all the time for students to use them creatively. Whether this involves simply saving paper, or finding new ways to distribute valuable content, or helping people improve the ways in which they communicate what matters to them at home or at work, the possibilities are endless.

What’s the best piece of advice you can offer our readers based on your expertise?

It’s tempting to suggest that they watch more television crime drama from around the world! But I think I would also ask people to think carefully about the ways in which they use the media technologies that are available to them, and to reflect on how best these might be employed in the management of their lives. Instant connectivity is wonderful, but being ‘always on’ can be exhausting.

For more from Senior Professor Sue Turnbull you can visit her UOW Scholars profile, which links to her papers and publications.