Date of Award

8-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Ted Friedman

Second Advisor

Sharon Shahaf

Third Advisor

Ethan Tussey

Fourth Advisor

Alison Trope

Abstract

This dissertation explores popular culture-related themed space exhibitions and immersive museum pedagogy through the emerging post-museum, media convergence culture, and Deborah L. Perry’s museum-oriented “What Makes Learning Fun” framework. These exhibitions utilize popular media like Star Wars, Doctor Who, and the films of Hayao Miyazaki as a means of engaging audiences with brand and subject-specific pedagogy. By bringing fictional worlds to life through environmental stimuli (sets, sounds, objects, media segments), these exhibitions use popular texts as a means of facilitating the educational goals of the institution by having visitors engage in “work as play.” Learning becomes encompassed in the “fun” and “play” that is experienced with theme parks and games. Oftentimes educational programs are developed for these exhibitions that are frequently tied to specific national and regional educational requirements. In the post-museum, visitors are assigned interpretive powers where meaning is produced through their own personal experience. As Eilean Hooper-Greenhill argues, the use of visual media helps transcend usual classifications of high and low culture. This study argues that fandom within a themed space exhibition enhances this aspect, and the act of play enhances visitor interpretation. These key issues are examined through three main examples: The Doctor Who Experience (addressing public service vs. corporate profits), Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition (roleplaying as pedagogy and Alberta, Canada’s CALM program), and the Ghibli Museum (Japanese history, national identity, and self-discovery). These exhibits act as sites where the tension between branding and pedagogy operate, and illustrate how popular texts and education are localized for different audiences. The close examination of these themed spaces leads to a better understanding of contemporary media culture and its social/cultural applications on an international scale.

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