"The Online Piracy Act will take us back to the Dark Ages": Politics, Medievalism and Online Participatory Culture

Lecture Room 8 - Arts Building
Arts and Law, Research
Wednesday 1st November 2017 (16:00-18:00)
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Despite several notable false starts (such as MySpace, Digg, and Friendster, among others), social media sites have proven to be one of the most striking success stories of the 21st century so far.

Not only did Time magazine famously feature ‘you’, the audience, as its person of the year in 2006—the same year as the first ever uploaded video to YouTube—but the data on social media consumption are genuinely staggering. Ofcom statistics indicate that in the UK, we spend around 45% of our waking hours using media, and given multitasking, almost 9 hours are consumed daily. (2010: 1-2). Meikle and Young suggest that “The media are no longer just what we watch, listen to or read – the media are now what we do.”1At the same time as the growth of these media, the explosion of user-generated content has seen an exponential increase in those instances where medievalisms are deployed in the service of a range of ideologies. While, of course, earlier examples exist, political medievalism in the 21st century has spilled out from the despatch box to below-the-line comments, social networks and blogs across the virtual world, so that seemingly anything can be medieval, from football to religion, from attitudes towards women, same-sex-marriage or the environment. They can even, as the title of this paper suggests, be deployed to describe the Digital Piracy act, a context obviously divorced from the Middle Ages as we know them.So what does the increase in political medievalisms mean for history in general, and medievalism in particular? In this paper I will argue that for the purposes of online discourses surrounding the Middle Ages and medievalism, the recirculation of ideas about the past has changed some of the ways in which the Middle Ages are communicated in public audiences. Beginning with the effects of the so-called Web 2.0 revolution, the paper explores a theory of participatory medievalism which describes how the transfer of ideas about the medieval past to online networks creates a range of ‘uses’ of the past which are more pernicious than traditional one-to-many broadcast of public medievalism.

Andrew B.R. Elliott is a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at the University of Lincoln, UK, where he works on the representation of history in film, television and video games and has published articles and essays on historical film, television and video games, from the classical world to the Middle Ages.. He is the author of Remaking the Middle Ages (2010, analysing medieval cinema), and his recent books include Playing with the Past (2013; co-edited with Matthew Wilhelm Kapell) which examines the depiction, simulation and modding of the past in video games, and The Return of the Epic Film (2014, which examines the return of the sword and sandals epic in the cinema). His recent book, Medievalism, Politics and Mass Media was published in 2017 with Boydell & Brewer. 

  • Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages Seminar series
  • Speaker: Andrew Elliott (Lincoln)

All staff and students are welcome to attend.