When I was first envisioning the RoCCET Lab, I couldn’t have possibly foreseen that we would be rolling it out in the midst of a global pandemic with the University’s campus mostly closed. Running a “virtual” lab this semester was sometimes surreal—at one point, I realized that, despite being all spread around the same city, many of us had never met in person, so I had no idea how tall people were—but I’m really proud of the intellectual community we’ve begun to develop, even if it’s been localized in a Microsoft Teams space thus far.
The inaugural cohort of RoCCET Fellows comprised one doctoral candidate, a continuing Master’s student, and four new graduate students in the Communication & Media Studies program. We were also joined by Kalervo Sinervo, affiliated researcher who is also a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary.
We initiated a new project to collect and archive comic and fan conventions’ policy statements (codes of conduct and policies pertaining to harassment, assault, accessibility, and the like) for future research and started laying the groundwork for an exciting project on comics reading. However, this was very much a semester of building relationships and culture as we tried to figure out what it meant to be a lab and how we wanted to work together. So, quite sensibly, we began by reading chapters from The Lab Book, an in-progress book on “hybrid media labs” by Darren Weshler, Lori Emerson, and Jussi Parikka, in our first seminar meeting of the term.
One silver lining to converting to a remote, all-digital research group was that it was much easier to bring visitors to us. Funding from the Communication & Media Studies program allowed us to host three visiting speakers this term:
- Rukmini Pande (OP Jindal Global University), author of Squee from the Margins and editor of the forthcoming Fandom, Now in Color, presented on fandom and fan studies’ difficulties in accounting for race;
- Derek Johnson (University of Wisconsin-Madison), author of Media Franchising and Transgenerational Media Industries and coeditor of Point of Sale, talked to us about how media companies manage risk in relation to mortality; and
- friend of the lab Erin Hanna (University of Oregon) spoke about her recent book, Only at Comic-Con, and the changing value of “exclusivity.”
The RoCCET Lab will be continuing the visiting speaker series in the new year, along with our ongoing discussions about how to research the shifting relations between producers, intermediaries, and audiences in the entertainment industries. We’ll also be rolling out a call for the next cohort of Fellows soon.