Web Television: the Lizzie Bennett Diaries

So many more young people today are spending their free time watching youtubes rather than watching TV. There are countless youtube channels with a vast array of things to watch, get addicted to and waste time on (From DIY, to stunts, to trailers, how-to’s, home video sharing, viral clips, booktubers, gamers, etc — whole communities of people engaged in the participatory culture of youtubing). I am only familiar with a teeny tiny small pocket and I wanted to highlight a channel that I intend to share with young people who love Jane Austin, adaptions, or just really good, addictive TV series.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries Image Credit

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries is an Emmy award-winning American drama web series adapted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Web series are scripted videos that are released in episodes (often called webisodes) over the internet — to watch on mobile devices (or your PC). Increasing in popularity, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries is a much loved addition to a growing genre. You can see a list of Web TV Series here on wikipedia.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries is told entirely in the form of vlogs. (Lizzie being a vlogger) — and is the first attempt at modernising Pride and Prejudice with an internet based retelling of the story. In addition to Lizzie’s vlogging, there are spin-offs from the series from other characters (bringing different perspectives). The series won awards for:

It has a fantastic website (where you can watch the entire series), buy merchandise and pretty much find out anything you need to know. I love that the episodes are only a few minutes long — easy to digest. It’s creative and fresh and innovative and funny, completely grin-worthy stuff. Although, be warned, it’s seriously addictive and you may find yourself glued to your device for a few hours…

What is popular with young people? A Pinterest Board

This week’s blogging task was to investigate ‘what is popular with young people’ and present our findings visually on a pinterest board. To do that, I had to first join pinterest…

I have stayed blissfully ignorant about Pinterest. My impression of it has come from my (addicted) facebook mum-friends who use the site to pin gourmet lunchbox snack ideas (the mums who make these lunches are a whole different breed of species to me), 1001 ways a piece of string and cotton ball can amuse toddlers, and how to blitz-clean your house in an hour flat. Not really my scene, tbh :).

I (briefly) lamented on twitter that I was having to join the Pinterest crowd — and had a swift number of replies from authors telling me I would love it (nay, even become addicted!) and that they use it for writing inspiration (replacing old school magazines cut and paste jobs).

It took two minutes to join. Two more minutes to figure out how to make a board. Pinning was ridiculously easy. I downloaded the toolbar. Downloaded the free app. And then I found some author boards…

On the Jellicoe Road Book Cover by paigereader. (Flickr image, CC BY-NC 2.0)

SERIOUSLY once I found some of my favourite authors were on there I was in heaven. Melina Marchetta pins about the shows she’s been watching (my to-watch list has significantly grown), gorgeous location inspiration for the upcoming Jellicoe Road move (major squee!), favourite actors and all kinds of novel/character writing inspiration. All of a sudden, Pinterest has become my kind of place.

Once semester finishes I plan lose myself in there (I feel sheepish for my earlier Pinterest snobbery) and I am excited for such a great resource to collect so many favourite places and things — and for a place to be inspired by those who inspire me. But for now, I have created the board for this task.

 The board I created focuses on boys and girls in primary school (grades 3-7).

Popular culture is constantly changing and evolving and then flipping back on itself, reincarnating or borrowing from retro times. Marsh and Millard (2000) talk about how children’s popular culture has so many diverse artefacts, such as: toys, games, comics, stickers, cards, jokes, word play and accessories. “The list is not prescriptive: children’s popular culture forms are constantly emerging and disappearing (p.20)”

I found it really interesting to spot patterns with my pins and have roughly grouped them into four kinds of popular culture…

Popular in 2013: popular culture that’s survived (or morphed) for decades. Image: my collage from pinterest collection

1) Popular culture that has survived, morphed or reincarnated from years ago

Star Wars, Lego, Superman, Super Mario Bros, Marvel comic characters and Doctor Who are all popular now. These were all around in my childhood, a generation ago. Though superman didn’t look as sleek, and Marvel have boosted their franchise with the Avengers. Lego is a childhood staple, but it also mirrors popular culture, creating sets that match popular movies and books (like Harry Potter and The Hobbit Lego). The original trilogy Star Wars movies are just as loved today, as is George Lucas’s new animated series The Clone Wars (a Star Wars spin-off).

2) Popular activities/fads

Girls love the clapping hands games, with rhymes and multi-player rhymes. At the moment magic tricks are the “in thing” at my local primary school – in particular, card tricks. The difference this time is that many students are learning card tricks by following youtube channels. So much easier to watch and perfect than deciphering a book. Elastics are a game I played as a girl and I am happy to see them on the cusp of making a comeback. And I think handball is a childhood staple 🙂

3) Popular culture that involves current technology

Popular culture that involves technology image credit: my collage created from my pinterest board

Gaming and iOs devices are such a thriving market and kids are loving it. Not many kids are into social networking (yet) but instagram and skype are the popular recurring ones. In fact, most kids prefer to Skype than to call on the phone. My childhood version of these iOS games was my hand-held Tetris game. Mate, how I wracked up major high scores on that thing, lying in bed at night listening to Blur and Oasis 🙂

4) Things that are unique to this generation

Popular culture unique to this generation Image credit: my collage from pinterest board

TV shows, movies, books, singers, bands and merchandise that kids are unique to this era: Bajo and Hex on Good Game SP, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Adventure Time, Andy Griffiths (I think his books are perfectly pitched at kids to be timeless :)), Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Minions and ABC3 (I remember when KRudd “pushed the button” to launch the channel in 2009) These may last for a generation (or beyond? I hope Smiggle does! That shop is way too addictive!)

One thing on my board which I have not put in a collage is ZOMBIES and THE APOCALYPSE. Zombies have always been around (haha) but now they are pretty huge. I witnessed an adult friend being tackled on the weekend by a herd of kids, who jumped on him, chanting “brains! brains! brains!’ – even toddlers know what’s up…

ALSO: Classroom teachers who may be interested: One year nine art teacher blogs about her classroom experience with Pinterest. Worth your while ()if you end up becoming a Pinner — (is that the lingo?)

Marsh, J & Millard, E. (2000) Literacy and Popular Culture: Using children’s culture in the classroom. London: SAGE.

Chatting about Texts and Popular Culture with four young people

This week’s CLN647 blogging task was to interview a young person about the texts they like to read watch and engage with. I interviewed four (articulate, funny and happy) primary school students: two girls, aged 9 and 10 and two boys aged 11 and 12. Interviews were conducted in person and over Skype. I prepared the questions beforehand (I did a pilot test with Sam then tweaked it a little) and typed their answers in their own words while the interview was being conducted.

photo (14)

Some of interviewee Sam’s book collection. Used with permission

The interviewees:

Carissa: 9 years old

Chloe: 10 years old

Reuben: 11 years old

Sam: 12 years old

 

What book are you currently reading?

Carissa: Treasure fever by Andy Griffiths

Chloe: After by Morris Gleitzman

Reuben: The Abdominal Snowman (a Choose Your Own Adventure book)

Sam: Eric Vale by Michal Gerard Bauer.

 

Who is your favourite author? Why? How did you find out about them?

Carissa: Megan McDonald. My cousin reads the books. Andy Griffiths. Because my brothers have the books.

Chloe: Morris Gleitzman and I found out about him from the school library — everybody was reading his books and I just started reading it and I found it really good. Lauren Child. She does these really good Ruby Redford books. I found out about that series because my friend was into them. I started reading it at the book shop and it was really good. Carole Wilkinson — my friend was reading the books and I got this voucher for the book shop and it stood out to me because my friend said it was really good. I started reading it and I just couldn’t stop reading. The Dragon Keeper series.

Reuben: Paul Jennings, I randomly picked an audio book from the library and it was Paul Jennings. It was really funny. Andy Griffiths: Everyone was reading his books at school.

Sam: Andy Griffiths. Because he is really funny. In grade 5 the teacher was reading the series to the class.

 

How do you choose books?

Carissa: From my favourite authors. I like looking at books with cool covers. I like to choose chapter books.

Chloe: I either get them from my friends are reading them or the cover looks cool and it pops out on the book shelf at the library.

Reuben: I usually read my favourite authors books. I look at the cover and look inside and try it out.

Sam: Kids section in library and shops. If they look good I read the blurb, flick through it. I like comics and books with pictures in it like Paul Jennings’ books. They make the book really good. I always get the next books in a series that I like. Sometimes my parents get me a book and I end up liking it.

 

How often do you read?

Carissa: I read every school day and also sometimes after school.

Chloe: I pretty much read every day at school and after school.

Reuben: A couple of times a week.

Sam: About 20 minutes every day, sometimes more if I have a new book. I like to read in bed at night.

 

Do you listen to audio books?

Carissa: Yes. I listen to Andy Griffiths once a week.

Chloe: Yes. I used to listen to them more often but now not as much. I prefer to read them now, unless I am sick, then I like listening to them.

Reuben: Yes. Every night. I like to listen to an audio book and then sometimes I read the Same book after. I like listening to Stig Wiems (narrator) and listening to my favourite author’s book.

Sam: Yes. I listen to them every night. I prefer audio books because you can relax and fall asleep to it and the narration can be really good.

 

Do you tell your friends about books you like?

Carissa: Sometimes

Chloe: Yes, most of the time.

Reuben: Yeah, a little bit.

Sam: Yes. I got nearly my whole class into the Big Nate series.

 

Do you know what books your friends read?

Carissa: I know what my friend’s favourite books are. They bring them in to school.

Chloe: Not really. Some of them.

Reuben: I know that my friend Gil is reading a Samurai book. My friend Jake is reading The Hunger Games at the moment.

Sam: Not really.

What is your favourite TV show?

Carissa: H2O Just Add Water, Dani’s Castle, Life With Boys, Adventure Time, Spongebob Squarepants,

Chloe:  iCarly, Get Smart.

Reuben: Doctor Who, Star Wars The Clone Wars, Spongebob Squarepants.

Sam: Doctor Who and Star Wars The Clone Wars and Adventure Time. I like watching documentaries.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Carissa: In Dani’s castle I like Esme because she usually pranks other people and scares them. In H20 I like Rikki because I like her personality.

Chloe: (skipped this question – doesn’t really have one)

Reuben: From Doctor Who, The Doctor. He is different and he can regenerate and he has two hearts and he is really smart. In the Clone Wars I like Obi Wan Kenobi just because I like his personality. In Spongebob I like Patrick the most because he is really funny.

Sam: I like characters that are funny like Patrick in Spongebob Squarepants and Jake in Adventure Time

How do you find out about your favourite TV shows?

Carissa: I see them on TV. I like watching ABC iview. And kids talk about TV shows at school.

Chloe: With iCarly, I was on a plane and there were TVs and one of the shows on there was iCarly. I just flick the TV channel and if it’s interesting I keep on watching it.

Reuben: With Doctor Who, my parents used to watch it. With Star Wars The Clone Wars I really liked The Star wars movies so I checked it out. Spongebob I saw it on TV once and I found it really funny and then I started getting into it.

Sam: My brother got Series one and two for his birthday (Star wars). My friends told me about Adventure Time. My mum and dad were watching Doctor Who. I discovered Spongebob myself.

 

Do you talk about TV shows with your friends at school?

Carissa: Sometimes. Stuff from ABC3.

Chloe: Sometimes.

Reuben: No, not really.

Sam: Almost once a day I hear someone talk about TV shows. Most of the time they are shows I don’t know.

 

What is your favourite movie?

Carissa: Scooby Doo, The Parent Trap (the new one), Judy moody and the Not Bummer Summer.

Chloe: Spy Kids movies.

Reuben: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies, because they are really funny. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. I like the storylines and the characters.

Sam: Diary of a Wimpy kid movies and the marvel movies (Iron man, Spiderman, The Avengers, stuff like that.)

Do you buy or collect merchandise of your favourite books/shows/characters?

Carissa: Yes — posters and calendars,

Chloe: Yes — Little figurines or T-shirts with a character on it.

Reuben: Yes. Doctor Who: sonic screwdrivers, posters, books, few versions of the tardis. I like Minecraft vinyl figurines and posters. And t-shirts and I have a Minecraft hat.

Sam: I got a quilt cover of Star Wars. I like collecting character encyclopedias, sonic screwdrivers,

Do you go on Youtube? Favourite channels you follow?

Carissa: No.

Chloe: No.

Reuben: Yes. I watch Minecraft youtubes (Biffa, Monkeyfarm, Xisumavoid, Minecraft for dummies). I follow certain Minecraft channels. A lot of channels I watch play lots of other games, too. They make me want to play a lot more games.

Sam: I go on youtube all the time. Well, when my parents let me. I follow magic trick channels, and Minecraft video channels. Also other random links my friends send me, just usually funny stuff.

Do you know what popular culture is?

Carissa: It means heaps of people are into it.

Chloe: Culture that’s popular.

Reuben: Probably like the movies and TV shows that a lot of people watch and the books that a lot of people read.

Sam: Popular culture means things that are popular that people like (watch, read, do stuff).

What do you think is popular right now with kids your age?

Carissa: ABC 3

Chloe: handball.

Reuben: Well, mostly Minecraft. Like literally almost everyone in my class plays it. Computer games. Doctor Who is popular too. XFactor and The Voice (but I don’t watch them).

Sam: Zombie movies, After Earth (scifi movies) Man of Steel, Marvel movies, gaming (like Xbox, PS3,) Apple products, Magic tricks are really popular at school now, like card tricks. Adventure time.


It was really fun interviewing these four students (they were animated and loved talking about their favourite texts) – and while four little interviews is not enough data to make any sweeping statements there are some interesting things that I noted.

They all found new authors and series from seeing someone else reading them. (cousins, siblings, friends and “everybody at school was reading them”). They all tell their friends about books they like. I love that reading is not a private activity, squirreled away in a room – but that these young people take their books with them to school, and watch what their peers bring with them to school as well.

In contrast to how they discovered their favourite books/series/authors, they found their favourite shows themselves. Maybe this is because TV is already in their homes, with advertising in between shows to hook viewers into other shows. With books you have to go out and actively bring them back into the house – and this requires more thought. Which books should I get? How do I pick them? This is how my interviewees picked books: authors they already know and like, a cool/interesting cover, books they know their friends like, looking in the kids section of the library for a favourite genre (eg. comic books).

Only once did an interviewee mention a teacher as a book referrer (Andy Griffiths was being read to the class – perfect classroom reading material, in my opinionJ). While a recommendation from a librarian was never mentioned – finding books in the library was. A librarian might not actually engage one-on-one with a student and discuss books but they can recommend books by making them visible and prominent to students. Students are looking for great reading material. It’s not just going to appear out of thin air into their homes. Chloe said books “pop out on the shelves”. All four of them like roaming the library and looking at (cool) covers. They check out the blurbs and then take a chance if it sounds interesting. The library has a really exciting and important role in promoting books and enticing students with books pitched at their age. Eye-catching library displays, posters, genre-shelving, recently returned shelves and recommendation cards* are all great ways for librarians to capitalise on capturing students attention with good books.

I love how half of the favourite movies mentioned began as books. I love that once enough people love a book, a fandom can grow around it. That a whole franchise can be born out of it (including merchandise – which kids love). In turn, the movie can bring people back to reading the original story.  Speaking of merchandise, my interviewees love being surrounded by their favourite text-y things: posters and figurines, bedspreads, replica gadget and wearing tshirts and hats. All this becomes a part of their identity, their fashion statement and the unique stamping on their bedroom’s personality.

Chloe had the most delightfully earnest answer in regard to how she found one of her favourite authors: Carole Wilkinson – “my friend was reading the books (The Dragon Keeper series) and I got this voucher for the book shop and it stood out to me because my friend said it was really good. I started reading it and I just couldn’t stop reading.” Those are the magic words!

A short note on youtubes. Both girls (aged 9 and 10) do not follow anything or even go on there. Both boys (aged 11 and 12) were very animated and enthusiastic, chatting about their favourite channels. The main channels they were following were to with popular culture at the moment: Minecraft and magic tricks. I wonder if when the girls get older they’ll find their own channels for things that they are interested in? I am guessing when new games and trends come along, the boys will find youtube channels to engage online to be a part of their favourite pop culture fandoms/groups online.

*recommendation cards – if you liked Diary of a Wimpy kid you may love Big Nate (or Tom Gates). Or a personal note from other students who have read and returned the book: This was addictive! I recommend it to boys and girls who love suspense and stories with a twist!