Craig Norris is a lecturer and a faculty member of English, Journalism and European Languages at University of Tasmania, Australia. His research in media studies focuses on popular culture, audiences and fandom. Several articles in the area of global media and the dissemination of Japanese popular culture (particularly anime, manga, video games and cosplay) have been published. Dr. Norris's current research explores the relationship between media and place through global media tourism and fan pilgrimages to media locations. He teaches courses on youth media, media flows and spaces, as well as honours level seminars in media theory and methods.
To find out more about Craig Norris, please take a look at his blog!
1) What are some of the classes that you are teaching that involves popular culture and how do you conduct those classes?
The two main classes I teach which involve popular culture are Youth Media (2nd year class) and Cult Media (3rd year class). Classes are delivered through weekly lectures (approx 2 hrs) and tutorials (approx 1 hr).
2) What are some of the challenges that you have faced while conducting a lecture or seminar on popular culture? Who are your students? (Local or foreign students)
One of the main challenges I have faced is the questions of how best to use popular culture as a space for all students to participate in. While popular culture may afford a playful and engaging way for some students to become involved, there will be students who do not share an interest in a particular popular culture. As a consequence I have found they can quickly feel excluded or become disinterested in the material (and class). This requires me to ensure I provide a broader rationale of including a case study looking at popular culture (eg: Pokemon) and relate it back to broader debates issues.Most of the students are local students, with a very small number of foreign students.
3) In recent years, there is a growing interest in the study of popular culture. What are some of the trends that you would foresee in Japanese popular culture studies in general and in Australia?
Some of the key trends I see occurring around the study of Japanese popular culture are related to how it intersects in teaching debates around digital media practices (eg: the manga industry shifting to online
methods of content delivery, its ubiquity in online communities - internet memes based around Japanese popular culture, the influence of communities like 2chan and 4chan, the phenomenon of online scanlations of manga, etc), social issues (how manga/anime distorts or not representations of Japan, debates around the representation of negative body images, links to violent behaviour or hyper-sexualised content, etc) and its links to politics and policy (soft power theories, etc), amongst many other issues.
4) This question is regarding your paper "What media pilgrimages and anime fan culture can teach us about new media literacies". What are the methodology used for your research paper and what are some of the challenges that you have faced during your research?
The analysis presented in my paper is based on a discourse analysis of student feedback comments for the classes. The feedback spans the years 2010 and 2011. The paper draws upon key comments from these feedback forms to show the students experiences of my classes where aspects of Japanese popular culture were taught. In addition to these close readings of the feedback forms my observation of the class dynamics and teaching material involved further discussion with colleagues and peers at the University. This analysis uses approaches common to ethnographic studies of interviews, observations and close readings of participant comments and texts. My teaching practices and use of Japanese popular culture were analysed in terms of two questions. First, how did students describe their experience of these classes? Second, what were the challenges that brought these practices and examples under some scrutiny. As I will show in my paper, the feedback comments and assessment work provide a useful way of seeing the positive and negatives of using popular culture to teach ideas and knowledge through. My paper reveals a spectrum of student efforts to negotiate the class material, from playful to cynical. A challenge of conducting this research has been the need to familiarise myself with the growing research in the area of new media literacies and digital humanities teaching. As the only scholar in my School using Japanese (or even Asian) case studies for their teaching it is also challenging to locate this work within dominant western frameworks and assumptions.
5) What are some of the reasons that led you to embark on this research topic?
It was to further develop our understanding of how popular culture can provide a really rich scaffold for understanding complex ideas like globalisation, representation, methods of industry production and changing audience consumption patterns. As Henry Jenkins points out "not everything that kids learn from popular culture is bad for them: some of the best writing instruction takes place outside the classroom".
6) How would you envision teaching this research topic to your students?
A core learning outcome for my class most closely related to this, Cult Media, is for students to demonstrate learning through applying theoretical knowledge and research about the consumption and production of cult media content to analyse a case study (assessment: media presentation 40% and exegesis 40%). The media presentation will involve students Œpitching a cult media franchise development to their fellow class
members. The pitch will include an exegesis and multimedia component (eg: short AV clip) outlining the core features of the franchise, intended audience, media platform strategies, and examples of other related
properties. Within this context my work around Japanese media franchises (Ghibli¹s anime, Pokemon, Yugioh, etc) will provide an important case-study template for students to consider.