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Abstracts 31 May

Global Distribution, Local Content: From Page to Screen for Australian Animation Bottersnikes and Gumbles

Anna Potter, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia

In many countries children’s television is believed to play an important role in national cultural representation. Children, it is understood, benefit from watching television made especially for them that tells stories set in recognisable locations spoken in familiar accents. As part of this small screen story-telling, many children’s books have been made into television series, including animations such as Thomas the Tank Engine, the Little Prince and Baba the Elephant and live action dramas like Heidi, The Demon Headmaster and The New Adventures of Black Beauty. Thus the transition from page to screen has always been part of an important tradition of culturally specific storytelling.

Notwithstanding these traditions, the production, distribution and consumption of children’s television now occurs within a globalised media environment characterised by convergence, concentrated ownership and the multi-platform delivery of screen content to an audience of digital natives. Public service broadcasters face significant funding pressures, while global brands such as Disney, Nickelodeon, YouTube and Netflix are increasingly influential in the spaces of children’s television. Their activities are part of the unstoppable pattern of globalisation that is transforming the production of culturally specific television for children.

This paper examines an apparent paradox, using the case study of Bottersnikes and Gumbles, an Australian animated series that was the very first Netflix original children’s commission in the world. The CGI animation is based on the classic Australian books by SA Wakefield, which its Australian creative director and producer both loved as children. Although Bottersnikes and Gumbles was always intended for global distribution, and was released in forty countries on the same day, it remains identifiably Australian, with Australian flora, fauna and accents. Thus a global provider, Netflix, financed and distributed a distinctly local production as its first children’s commission. Drawing on interviews with the series’ creative director, the creative, economic and cultural influence that shape the creation of identifiably local children’s television in global media markets are analysed here.


Dr Anna Potter is an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Screen and Media studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia. Her book Creativity, Culture and Commerce: Producing Australian Children’s Television with Public Value was published in 2015.  She is currently undertaking a three-year ARC-funded research project 'International Transformation in Children's Television 2013–2018', examining key trends in the production and distribution of children’s television for global media markets.

Environmental Awareness through Children’s Literature

Nina Goga, Bergen University College, Norway

One of the main objectives of the research project on Nature in Children’s Literature: Fostering Ecocitizens is to map out and analyse the representations of nature in children’s and young adult literature and explore how interaction with literary texts may shape children and young adults environmental awareness. My contribution to this project is to undertake an eco-critical examination of Frida Nilsson’s illustrated children book Ishavspirater (2015, Pirates of the frozen seas). In addition to eco-critical theory, the analytical tools of the examination are grounded in theory on interspecies ethics, and studies in environmental literature.

The novel, which may be described as ecofantasy, was nominated for the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize in 2016. In many respects Ishavspirater echoes Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series (1968–2001) when depicting a wintry archipelago where the pirate Vithuvud (White head) terrorises the population and abducts their children to work in his mine, and when questioning human greed and exploitation of nature in the pursuit of wealth. The story is a first person narrative told by Siri, a girl living at an eastern island together with her father and her little sister Miki. One day the pirates kidnap Miki, and Siri sets out to find Vithuvud’s mine and her sister. During her journey, she learns to read and reflect upon various landscapes and various human attitudes towards different forms of life. The journey may be read as an exercise in ecological thinking.

The book is provided with illustrations throughout the book and a map of the frozen sea at the books endpapers. In accordance with the theme of the conference, my paper will focuses on the importance of the interplay between map, illustrations and some crucial verbal reflections to evoke the reader’s ecological thinking and environmental awareness.

Primary references

Nilsson, F. (2015). Ishavspirater. Stockholm: Natur & Kultur.

Secondary references

Massey, G. & C. Bradford (2011). Children as Ecocitizens: Ecocriticism and Environmental Texts. In K.
Mallan & C. Bradford (eds). Contemporary Children’s Literature and Film. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
McDowell, M. J. (1996). The Bakhtinian Road to Ecological Insight. In Glotfelty, C. & H. Fromm (Eds.), The Ecocriticism Reader. Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens/London: The University of Georgia Press. pp. 371-391.
Le Guin, U. K. (1996). The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction. In Glotfelty, C. & H. Fromm (Eds.), The Ecocriticism Reader. Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens/London: The University of Georgia Press. pp. 149-154.
Willett, C. (2014). Interspecies Ethics. New York: Columbia University Press

Nature in children’s literature, research blog: http://blogg.hib.no/nachilit/theoretical-framework/approaches-hypotheses-and-choice-of-method/


Nina Goga is professor at Bergen University College, Norway and head of the MA study in children’s literature. Latest books are Kart i barnelitteraturen (2015) and Gå til mauren. Om maur og danning i barnelitteraturen (2013). She has written numerous articles, including in English, for instance  “Children and Childhood in Scandinavian Children’s Literature over the Last Fifty Year”. In Fifty Years of Children's Books from Around the World. She is currently the leader of the research project on Nature in children’s literature at Bergen University College.

Interactivity & Touch Design in Picture Book Apps: A Social Semiotic Approach to Digital Story Telling

Sumin Zhao, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

In the design of mobile book apps for young children, interactivity is often seen as a desirable, if not the defining feature. However, a review of the literature (e.g. Chiong, 2012; Friedlander, 2013; Hutchison, 2012; Moms with Apps, 2012; Verenikina, 2010; Simpson, et al, 2013) suggests that what constitutes interactivity in a touch-based user interface is often not straightforward. In this paper, I propose a notion of interactivity from a social semiotic perspective (Halliday, 1978; Kress, 2010; Van Leeuwen, 2005). From this perspective, touch design deployed in the mobile devices can be seen as meaning-making resources. The interaction with multi-gesture interface thus can be understood as the interaction with meaning-making resources, which in turn facilitates various meaning-making processes. To demonstrate this argument, I will use a detailed multimodal analysis of the touch design in The Heart and the Bottle (Oliver, 2009, 2010) as an example. I will show that multi-gesture affordances enable meaning-making in the app in two ways: 1) allowing readers to engage with the characters (carry out actions on or as a character); 2) creating a new type of “authorship”, where the reader facilitates story telling. I should argue that the choices made in touch design are ultimately choices of meaning, and impact considerably on how a picture book will be potentially interpreted by the reader (Zhao & Unsworth, 2016)


Chiong, C., et al. (2012). Print books vs. e-books: Comparing parent–child cop-reading on print, basic, and enhanced e-book platforms. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. 15: 2012.
Friedlander, A. (2013). Storybook app creation demystified Atlanta, Georgia Wasabi Productions 12.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1978). Language as Social Semiotic. London, Arnold.
Hutchison, A., et al. (2012). "Exploring The Use of the Ipad for Literacy Learning." The Reading Teacher.
Jeffers, O. (2009). The heart and the bottle. London, HarperCollins Children's Books.
Jeffers, O. (2010). The hart and the bottle (the App). ITune Store, Haper Collins.
Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. Oxon/ New York, Routledge
Moms with Apps (July 10, 2012). Is there a "right" amount of interactivity in children's book apps? . Moms with apps. Retrievable at http://blog.momswithapps.com/2012/07/10/is-there-a-right-amount-of-interactivity-in-childrens-book-apps/
Simpson, A., Walsh, M. & Rowsell, J. (2013). "The digital reading path: researching modes and multidirectionality with iPads." Literacy 47(3): 123-130.
Van Leeuwen, T. (2005). Introducing Social Semiotics. London/New York, Routledge.
Verenikina, I., Herrington, J., Peterson, R., & Mantei, J. (2010). "Computers and play in early childhood: Affordances and limitations." Journal of Interactive Learning Research 21(1): 139-159.
Zhao, S & Unsworth, L. (2016) Touch design and narrative interpretation : A social semiotic approach to picture book apps in N. Kurciukova & G. Fallon eds. Apps technology and young learners: International evidence for learning (pp. 87-98), London: Routledge


Sumin Zhao is currently a Carlsberg distinguished postdoctoral fellow at University of Southern Denmark. Her research looks at how young children learn to make meaning in different languages, mixing various semiotic modes, and across different technological platforms. She is also interested in the textual and visual practices of “indie” culture, focusing on lifestyle magazines and blogs. She publishes in the area of (critical) multimodal discourse analysis, systemic functional linguistics and early literacy.

The Textbook as Medium: Instructing Dutch Youth about the Dutch Indies, Then and Now

Lies Wesseling, Maastricht University, Netherlands

The aim of this presentation is to put ongoing discussions of older and newer media into historical perspective. Children have always lived in a mediatized world, albeit that they used to have less options to choose from in the past than they do now. For the (three-dimensional) toy is a medium too, as is the printed book, or the board game, or oral story-telling, or the theatre, etc. To put it even more strongly, only now that newer digital media have entered our life world, are we finally in a position to develop a keen awareness of the medium specificity of older media.

My paper will analyze the medium specificity of a medium that is rarely perceived as such, i.e. the primary school textbook. Content-wise, I will discuss Dutch textbooks on the (former) Dutch Indies, the contemporary Republic of Indonesia, comparing a set of geography books produced during the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, to a contemporary digital learning device for Dutch primary and secondary school children, the so-called “Canon of the Netherlands”, which is to sum up Dutch cultural identity for primary and secondary school children. I will focus on the items dealing with Dutch colonial history, i.e. one on the East-India Company (1602-1799), one on the first Dutch novel to critique the Dutch colonial regime in the Indies (Max Havelaar, 1860), and one on this colony’s struggle for independence (1945-1949) (www.entoen.nu). Employing an imagological perspective, this paper analyzes how the indigenous population of the Dutch Indies was presented to Dutch school children then, and how we now inscribe our efforts to ‘elevate’ and ‘re-educate’ the indigenous population along the lines of the so-called “ethische politiek” (“ethical politics”, 1892) into contemporary Dutch identity.  It investigates how the new colonial policy tied in with the notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’ defining Dutch national identity at the time and how our colonial past is now presented in this digital resumé of Dutch identity.  More specifically, it analyzes if and how the media affordances of respectively the printed illustrated textbook and the online learning resource prefigure specific notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’.


Lies Wesseling is Professor of Gender Studies at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) at Maastricht University, and the director of the Centre for Gender and Diversity, also at FASoS. She works on the intersections between age (childhood) and gender, focusing on the cultural remembrance of colonial practices of forcible child removal in contemporary postcolonial societies, with a particular interest in the Dutch Indies and memorial practices in the contemporary Netherlands. She is the editor of two recent volumes on childhood studies , i.e. The Child Savage: From Comics to Games (Ashgate, 2016) and Reinventing Childhood Nostalgia in Contemporary Convergence Culture (forthcoming at Taylor & Francis).

Children Filming Everyday Life: “Making-do” in The Chatter Group of Moms and Grandmas

Andrea Mei-Ying Wu, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan

The Chatter Group of Moms and Grandmas (2016), a documentary film produced by a group of children in a Gifted Class in Yi-Lan Elementary School in Taiwan, is the award-winner of several international children’s film festivals, including Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Seoul International Youth Film Festival, and Ukraine International Children’s Television Festival. In the film, a spring fountain beside a village temple is presented as a unique place where local women, young and old, will gather around to wash clothes at the break of dawn. The spring fountain is deemed by the adult locals not only as an ideal place to do everyday chores, but also a convenient site to exchange information, as well as to build up relationships.

Given that modern technology and automation have become indispensable, and almost invasive, in our daily life, this child-made documentary offers a critical investigation of a disappearing landscape in the local community and, in so doing, brings a new light to the traditional way of life exemplified by female adults to discard modern technologies and to embrace the joy and fun of physical work and personal interactions. Through the child’s lens, those adult women are represented not as outmoded but innovatively and economically productive.

If children, as Maria Nikolajeva argues, are “oppressed and powerless” in modern societies and they are paradoxically allowed in the fictional texts (written by adults) “to become strong, brave, rich, powerful, and independent” (10), the documentary film produced by children can serve as an alternative and/or an ideal medium to allow children the autonomy to voice their own ideas. Most importantly, the children as film-makers-and-actors ultimately learn to (re)appropriate the spring fountain and re-employ it for a variety of functions—a lively evidence of the “inventiveness” and “‘making-do’ with a ready-made culture” of de Certeau’s theory on the practice of everyday life. 

Works Cited

Nikolajeva, Maria. Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers. New York: 2010.


Andrea Mei-Ying Wu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Taiwanese Literature at National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan. Her research interests include children’s and young adult literature, boyhood studies, childhood studies, and cross-cultural/ transcultural studies. Her recent publications include “Toward a (Re)signification of Cultural Hybridity: Guji Guji and Master Mason” (IRCL 2013) and “Model Children, Little Rebels, and Moral Transgressors: Virtuous Childhood Images in Taiwanese Juvenile Fiction in the 1960s” (Ethics and Children's Literature 2014). She was awarded a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar fellowship in the year of 2014-15 and is currently an Executive Board member of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature.

“This Girl is Half His Age”: Snape/Hermione Fanfiction and the Refusal of Reproductive Futurism

Amanda K. Allen, Eastern Michigan University, USA

In No Future, Lee Edelman posits queerness as the refusal of “reproductive futurism,” or the drive to live into the future (by reproducing). He suggests that our society fetishizes a cult of the Child, the symbol of the future who must be protected. The “fanon” of Severus Snape/Hermione Granger (SS/HG) fanfiction supports and negates this cult of the Child. At the heart of SS/HG fanfiction is the symbolic violence inherent to the taboo of the student/teacher relationship. That SS/HG fanfiction writers recognize this violence is obvious in their attempts to normalize the power imbalance between the characters by changing their ages, incorporating authority figures to sanction the relationship, and legalizing sexual relations under Ministry of Magic-approved marriage laws.

A subgroup of these stories—“darkfics”— celebrates the potential destruction of the Child inherent to the student/teacher taboo. They portray alternative realities in which Voldemort wins the war, and in which “Evil!Snape” abuses student-age Hermione. While the Snape of Rowling’s texts is the ultimate worshipper at the cult of the Child (in that his love for Lily Potter forces him to protect her reproductive future, Harry), Evil!Snape refuses to protect young Hermione.

The ultimate queering, however, is performed by the SS/HG darkfics themselves, in that they take the most powerful aspect of Rowling’s texts—reproductive futurity, demonstrated in the Deathly Hallows epilogue children—and repudiate it. In doing so, the darkfics’ relentless celebration of negativity forces us to recognize the hopeful reproductive futurism of Harry Potter—and children’s literature generally—as a construct. It is a construct, moreover, that traps child characters, in that they are tyrannized by the same Future that their presence represents. The power of the SS/HG darkfics, then, is their ability to queer: to radically challenge and ultimately refuse the cult of the Child that pervades children’s literature. 


Amanda K. Allen is an Associate Professor of Children’s Literature at Eastern Michigan University. She has published on the history of YA, popular romance, and fandom studies. Her most recent publications include an analysis of fan letters to Maureen Daly, and an historical overview of scholarship on YA romance. She is currently working on a revised history of postwar young adult literature, in which she argues that the shift between pre-1967 “junior novels” and post-1967 “young adult fiction” was predicated on a conflict between librarians’ and academics’ differing value systems and institutions.

Early Literacy as Big Data: Configuring the Quantified Child Reader

Eric Meyers, University of British Columbia, Canada

This paper will explore an emerging educational platform we term children’s literacy groupware, cloud-based reading management systems that combine digital reading collections with behavior tracking and analysis, communication tools, and reader incentives. Children's literacy groupware extends the notion of a digital library for children by providing value-added tools for teaching, monitoring, evaluating and encouraging young readers. The systems enable adult stakeholders (e.g., teachers, parents, caregivers) to manage the reading activities of one to dozens of children. In this paper I will report on our conceptual and empirical inquiry into two for-profit app-based systems that provide reading content and instruction for elementary age children in the United States and internationally. This study is part of a larger investigation of “child labour in the cloud” that is exploring how the use of networked, digital information systems that document the daily activities of children are shifting children’s practices in school and home environments, including reading, play, exploration, and socialization. We ask: How do systems for managing engagement with digital texts frame reading practice--the what, where, when and how of reading, including behaviors, attitudes and dispositions toward the practice itself? Literacy groupware generates a wealth of data about reading behavior that has the potential to radically change the way we teach and assess beginning readers. However, I will also point out the pitfalls of “quantifying” the reading experience, which may isolate and objectify the reader, decontextualizing reading practice through a “one size fits most” approach. My paper will include several suggestions, generated through our content analysis and interviews, that will help redevelop these systems, as well as propose alternative deployment strategies to help reconfigure networked reading practice.


Dr. Eric Meyers is an Associate Professor in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies and Chair of the uniquely interdisciplinary Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia. His research in children’s digital media explores how human values (e.g., privacy, autonomy, agency, and sustainability) are reflected and instantiated in children’s immersive technologies and their related textual ecosystems. In doing so, he explores the philosophical middle ground between technological instrumentalism and technological determinism. His work can be found in a range of venues, including Jeunesse, the International Journal of Learning and Media, numerous book chapters and conference proceedings.

Myths and Facts about Digital Reading: Mexican Teenagers’ Responses to “Books in the Computer”

Evelyn Arizpe, University of Glasgow, UK

In 2015, the first survey in Mexico on reading and use of digital media among young people took place, sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Mexico and the National Bank of Mexico (BANAMEX) (Primera Encuesta Nacional sobre Consumo de Medios Digitales y Lectura).  It confirmed the increasing use of digital media for information and entertainment but it also confirmed that young people continue to read and to prefer printed books. In a small-scale, qualitative study on YA literature and the changing reading habits of Mexican adolescents between 13 and 15 years of age, we discussed reading and general use of digital media in more depth and observed that while a few of the participants were sophisticated users of technology in terms of finding and making reading choices, the majority were either not aware of the possible links to fiction texts or were unable to access apps or digital devices. We found that these teenagers’ ‘acquired baggage as analogue readers’ (Manresa, M., 2015, Traditional Readers and Electronic Literature in Digital Literature for Children, Brussels: Peter Lang, p. 116) led to a confusion between myths and facts about use and abuse of reading online. Among their teachers, there was also a confusion about how students interacted with digital media and the possibilities of using it to encourage the reading of literary texts. This paper will discuss some of the conflicting ideas around reading, digital media and young people in Mexico, most of which are relevant to other international contexts where new technologies and internet access are still limited. It will highlight the ways in which interaction between the teenager and the text invoke bodily, affective and cognitive responses that reflected both excitement and distrust of digital media. Finally, it will consider the challenges and potential of reading printed YA literature when readers are on the threshold of a new media landscape.


Dr Evelyn Arizpe is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Glasgow, where she leads the MEd Programme in Children’s Literature and Literacies and supervises doctoral students working in these fields. Her teaching and research attempt to bridge the gap between children’s literature and literacy and she has taught and published widely in both these areas. Evelyn has worked on a number of studies related to reading and response, involving both children and adolescents in various international contexts.

inWünderland: Using Threshold Architecture to Design and Create Immersive, Transmedia Experiences for Literature & Learning

Jill McGuire, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia

Literary and educational publishers have long played a critical role in providing a mirror to young adult culture, reflecting readers’ inner world while providing a safe space for the discovery of individual truths and expansion of essential knowledge.

The emergence of new media and digital platforms presents an enormous opportunity for publishers to expand their curatorial role, providing an even greater forum for cultural representation and collaborative interaction with children and young adult audiences. The convergence of print and digital media, coupled with the proliferation of digital devices has produced, however, a kind of ‘Frankenstein’ phenomenon whereby publications continue to follow a traditional linear (print-based) pedagogy, but with digital ‘add ons’ bolted onto the predominantly linear artefact.

In the technologically-mediated world of young adults, this approach has largely failed to engage readers, evidenced by the rapid decline in young adult readership of print and/or digital publications.

In order to understand why current approaches to cross-platform publishing are not working and to establish new frameworks needed to produce engaging, immersive, transmedia publications, this paper explores two case studies from the frontier of the young adult publishing industry. The first is learnON – a 2017 digital adaptation of secondary school textbooks by educational publisher Wiley. The second is a young adult, transmedia, novel inWünderland – a practice-led creative artefact currently in production as part of the Author’s doctoral dissertation.

These case studies reveal the opportunities gained, and lost, in current approaches being explored by independent authors and contemporary publishing practitioners within an Australian content. It investigates the barriers preventing further innovation within the industry and argues that a new ‘threshold’ authoring architecture is required if publishers, as cultural facilitators for children and young adults, are to fully realise the opportunities inherent in these new modes of interaction.


Jill McGuire is a senior publishing professional with more than 20 years of industry experience. Up until 2016, Jill was the director of digital publishing at global publishing house Wiley. She is now on sabbatical, and is in the final year of her Doctoral studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). Jill has had an enduring interest in media convergence – in 2004 she completed her masters research at USC, investigating models for combining print and digital technologies. Her Doctoral studies are a continuation of these investigations, with a focus on authoring innovations and alternative approaches to transmedia publishing.