First there was a class on Bob Dylan. Then there was a class on Tupac. Now, the University of Oslo will offer a class about the innovative TV series «Skam».
Post-doc Gry Cecilie Rustad came up with the idea, and will teach the course this fall. She started researching «Skam» because of its unique form of distribution, which uses websites and social media as part of the story.
«Is William going to answer Noora? Will Isak’s friends forgive him? A factor in the show’s popularity is the way digital storytelling is used,» said Rustad.
«Every other TV series has the same episode structure we’ve always seen, but ‘Skam’ imitates the way its target audience actually engages with media. Viewers are drawn in because of the way social media is used as an aid.»
The drama series follows the lives of secondary school students at Hartvig Nissens School in Oslo. In between episodes, characters’ fictional Facebook conversations and Instagram photos are uploaded to a homepage run by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). In addition, all the characters have real social media profiles that are updated regularly.
«People are engaged because they refresh social media, waiting to see if characters have posted anything new on their profile. This is the only series I’ve seen that really makes good use of social media,» Rustad said.
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«Students can’t expect to come to class and talk about their favorite characters»
«Skam» is based largely around teenagers’ changing media habits, so the course will consist of seven lectures with different topics, including media history.
«The class will be about ‘Skam,’ but because this is a university course students should expect to read difficult research articles. The TV show will be used as a case. Students will analyze it to see how teen TV shows have developed together with new media habits, and how that resulted in a show like this,» Rustad said.
The class will first and foremost be about academic theory and analysis of media, she reiterated.
«Students can’t expect to come to class and talk about their favorite characters. Or rather, they can do that, but they have to justify their choices based on academic theory and analysis in media studies,» she said.
The class will also take a look at the series’ aesthetic. «The production of «Skam» is very interesting. We’ll have a lecture about web series aesthetics, what characterizes the look, and how the genre is produced,» Rustad said.
Norwegian version: Slik blir det nye Skam-emnet ved Universitetet i Oslo
Students to create their own web series pilot
Rustad says the class will be given like any normal lecture course, with a home exam and lectures for bachelor’s students. The lectures will be three hours long, and students will have the chance to watch TV episodes and discuss them together.
«You can’t watch ‘Skam’ in a vacuum. We have to look at it in relation to other kinds of storytelling and web series,» Rustad said.
Master’s students who take the class will make their own web series pilot.
«It’s a good way to learn how web series work, and how they’re different from traditional forms,» she said.
Popularity among students expected
Rustad wants to hold the course in one of the university’s biggest auditoriums, and she says all who want to attend are welcome. She will also invite other members of the department to come teach, and hopes to have guest lecturers from the production side of the show, like director Julie Andem.
«Just show up, but I can’t guarantee a spot in the class,» said Rustad.
Unfortunately for international fans, the class will be offered in Norwegian.