Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Committee Director

David Metzger

Committee Member

Rochelle Rodrigo

Committee Member

Kevin DePew

Committee Member

Avi Santo

Abstract

With the interconnectivity of the Internet, and the availability of affordable media compositional tools, the proliferation of online media continues to grow exponentially. However, each day is still comprised of a fixed 24 hours, with far fewer hours spent in active media consumption. Considering the global potential for content to be found (Moreville), discovered (Cormier) or spread (Jenkins), content providers are looking for ways to attract, cultivate and hopefully expand their audiences amid all this digital clutter. In the field of entertainment, this challenge is complicated when small content providers are not aligned with an online, curated network such as Netflix or Hulu. Online education has developed practices designed to communicate expectations/objectives and increase engagement. Although the outcomes/objectives between the entertainment industry and those of online education are quite different, it is possible that both industries could find commonality and share mutually beneficial approaches. Conceptualizing the audience as students might offer content providers a quicker path to assessing what their “work” is online and following a cyclical process of evaluation, as in education, offers a logical and almost narrative approach to data collection and assessment.

Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, this project examines several phases of audience activities surrounding three versions of an online animated comedy series on YouTube and a related official web page: (a) the original version created before an eLearning framework was employed; (b) a second version six months later, where some practices were implemented; and (c) a third version six months after the second phase, which employed more changes. Examination phases before and after the series had ended provide additional opportunities for study. The data suggest that modifying entertainment content with an educational framework helped increase audience engagement in that more viewers consumed content and participated in related creative acts. Viewership jumped after the original episode formats and webpage had been modified. However, after the main phases ended, other Internet activities also impacted viewership. This cyclical, educational framework could be useful to other small entertainment providers who struggle with social media and seek to enhance audience engagement in a cluttered social space.