SCSMI2017 Helsinki has ended
The annual conference of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI) welcomes you to the Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, June 11th – 14th, 2017

SCSMI2017 Helsinki program is under construction and changes are to occur. Meanwhile you may complete your personal information with a photo and some tags, so the other attendees and speakers will get to know more of you and your interests, and vice versa.

Go to registration or check practical information about accommodation etc. at http://scsmi2017.aalto.fi/
Back To Schedule
Tuesday, June 13 • 13:00 - 14:00
LP Kathrin Fahlenbrach. Televisual Aesthetics: Audiovisual Spaces, Moods and Symbolic Meanings in Complex TV-Series

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

Limited Capacity seats available

Televisual Aesthetics: Audiovisual Spaces, Moods and Symbolic Meanings in Complex TV-Series  

Since the success of 'complex TV-series' (Mittell 2015) both in popular culture and in academic discourses, a lot has been said about their specificities in creating multifaceted characters (e.g. Bruun 2016), sophisticated plots (e.g. Mittell 2015), and differentiated strategies to involve viewers cognitively and emotionally into their diegetic worlds. Thereby a major focus has been on narrative aspects: complex networks of plot lines on the global scale of a series' and the related dynamics of informing and engaging viewers for TV-characters - to just mention two relevant research issues. Obviously such elements also affect the style of a series: e.g. the connection of different plot lines and different spatio-temporal dimensions in a story by audiovisual blending, editing, flashbacks or flash forwards; or the creation of complex characters by offering different internal and external perspectives of them in vision and sound. Although audiovisual styles are the very medium of a narrative, it has been rather neglected for a long time. It is only for some years, that TV studies began to shed more light on the specificities of audiovisual styles in complex TV series (e.g. Nannicelli 2012; Jacob/Peacock 2013; Cardwell 2013). Instead of just transferring our knowledge of cinematic poetics on television, a new line of research is discovering the very specifics of complex televisual styles.

            The paper intends to follow up on this current line of research. After a short recapitulation of some relevant results and observations in this discourse it will discuss the specific role of spatial aesthetics for complex televisual styles. As has been shown in single case studies (e.g. in Jason/Peacock 2013; Guffey 2014), the stylistic creation of audiovisual spaces is a key element to involve viewers into challenging diegetic worlds. Viewers are confronted with spatio-temporal structures in a TV narrative first of all by perceiving, experiencing and interpreting the spaces that frame a character's actions and expressions. Hence the styles of televisual spaces are the very medium of cognitive, affective and symbolic meanings.

            After a more general outline of this research perspective, a specific focus of the paper will be on the aesthetic interplay of spatial atmospheres, moods, and symbolic meanings in single TV series. Following Plantinga (2014), cinematic moods can imply moral perspectives on a character. As will be shown, also in TV series spatial atmospheres of audiovisual spaces can imply "moral moods" that relevantly guide viewers cognitive and emotional evaluation of a character. This is equally true for other, more symbolic meanings, anchored in the narrative of a storyworld. - The stylistic, emotional and symbolic elements of televisual spaces will be analyzed both on the local scale of single episodes and on the global scale across the serial world. It will be discussed how the global dynamics of televisual spaces can result in varying, contrasting, diverging and ambivalent creations of recurring spaces, relevantly contributing to the viewers experience of complexity.



Bruun, Margrete 2016. The Antihero in American Television. London/New York: Routledge.

Jacobs, Jason, and Steven Peacock (ed.) 2013. Television Aesthetics and Style. London: Bloomsbury.

Mittel, Jason 2015. Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York et al. :New York Univ. Press.

Nannicelli, Ted 2012. "Ontology, intentionality and television, aesthetics", in: Screen 53:2, 164-179.

Plantinga, Carl 2014. "Mood and Ethics in Narrative Film" In Cognitive Media Theory, ed. by Ted Nannicelli, and Paul Taberham, 141-157. New York/London: Routledge.


avatar for Kathrin Fahlenbrach

Kathrin Fahlenbrach

Professor, University of Hamburg
Kathrin Fahlenbrach (Dr. phil.) is professor for film- and media studies at the Department for Media and Communication at the University of Hamburg (Germany). She is author of several publications on embodied metaphors in moving images. In her book on audiovisual metaphors (2010... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 13:00 - 14:00 EEST
A-305 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki