How JK Rowling uses the social web to keep the magic of Harry Potter alive


Catherine Butler, Cardiff University

The poem is not the critic’s own and not the author’s (it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it). The poem belongs to the public – The Intentional Fallacy, 1954.

With these stirring words the American critics, W. K. Wimsatt Jr and Monroe C. Beardsley, established a principle still maintained by many: namely that once a book is published its author relinquishes authority over it and becomes, in effect, a reader like any other, with no special power to determine meanings or control interpretations. Any intentions not realised in the book itself cannot be shoehorned in by post-facto pronouncements, even by the author.

It was always more complicated than that, but the relationship of JK Rowling to the world of the Harry Potter series shows the serious limitations of this view.

Alohamora

The series was published over a ten-year period, during which it was the subject of vast amounts of comment and criticism, as well as forming the basis of innumerable online fan fictions.

Millions of readers had firm ideas about the way that the series ought to progress. For example, when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) revealed that Hermione Granger was romantically destined for Ron Weasley rather than Harry himself, so-called Harmonians who had “shipped” Harry and Hermione felt hugely aggrieved.

Of course, there have always been readers who felt satisfied or disappointed by fictional developments of this kind, but Rowling was one of the first authors whose readers were keen to discuss the books in real time on social media. Her readers increasingly viewed their fandom as a collective activity, from the queues outside book shops on publication day to the immediate internet discussions afterwards.

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As the critic Ebony Elizabeth Thomas pointed out on Rutgers’ Child Lit discussion list, this reflected a profound shift in the self-conception of readers: “It’s not enough for me to read a novel anymore. I have to run straight to the ‘net to find out what people are saying about it.”

That’s changed since my childhood. I also have to post my opinion on the book on Facebook. But as a child who treasured my books more than anything else in the world, I learned to let it sit in my head like a great secret between me, the page, and the misty author ‘somewhere out there.’ It was like I had this private world that was a protective force field against the woes and mundanity of everyday life … a place just for me.

Homenum revelio

While the Harry Potter series was still being published, Rowling remained relatively aloof from her readers’ passionate engagement – or replied largely indirectly, through the medium of the books themselves.

Once the series was complete, however, the question arose of how to (and whether she should) control the ways they were read.

The story of Harry Potter is no longer limited to the pages of a book.
pictures.reuters.com

An early and famous intervention was her suggestion that Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay. Predictably, many welcomed the intervention while others were horrified, and some complained that it would have been more liberating had Rowling not kept Dumbledore closeted until after publication was complete.

The revelation also had a more subtle effect on the numerous fan fictions that had explored Dumbledore’s sexuality prior to Rowling’s statement. Much of that fiction had aimed to “queer” what had seemed a notably mainstream heterosexual set of texts; Rowling’s post-facto attempt to establish the headmaster’s gay sexuality as canonical simultaneously endorsed that attempt and undermined its position as a resistant reading of her books.

The ultimate fan

Since then, Rowling has made extensive use of the internet in the form of her Pottermore website and Twitter. On Twitter, she has developed an impressive following – 6.86m – who regard her as an authoritative and influential figure on all matters – not just magical. She was one of the loudest voices during the Scottish independence referendum, for example, and has shown support more recently for junior doctors.

Pottermore, on the other hand, allows users to “enrol” at Hogwarts, and rewards those who work through its various challenges with insights into the Potterverse and its history not present in the published texts.

Like much fan fiction, these additions to the lore of Harry Potter work by elaborating back-stories and filling gaps in our knowledge – but because their ultimate origin is Rowling herself they carry an authority that other fan speculations lack.

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Arguably, that authority derives from their date as much as from their source. Just as Rowling insists that she had always known Dumbledore to be gay, we are told that Pottermore’s revelations are based on her original notes rather than being post-2007 invention.

By contrast, her 2014 admission to Emma Watson, that not linking Harry and Hermione romantically was a poor artistic decision, dramatically – if belatedly – endorsed the Harmonians’s viewpoint. But because it postdated the books it remains a speculative, indeed spectral, vision, despite coming from Rowling herself. In the end, even Rowling’s powers to reshape and expand her universe are limited.

If she had access to a Time-Turner, now, it might be a different story.

The Conversation

Catherine Butler, Senior lecturer, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How I audited my daily media habits and improved the way I read


Gigaom

Creating web content is incredibly easy — but filtering content is really hard. In late 2014, I realized I was reading too much bad content. I felt enraged by some of the articles I clicked on, because they were such a thoughtless waste of my time.

I got so frustrated that I decided to invest serious effort in fixing the problem on my end, instead of fruitlessly swearing at my laptop. I hoped to determine what what was non-optimal about my media habits, and how I could improve them.  So I audited my habits (with a spreadsheet and everything!) — and what I learned might surprise you.

Current clickbait solutions

I’m not alone in my anger about clickbait and my desire for a better media diet.  There’s plenty of mocking commentary about this, like The Onion’s satirical site ClickHole, or the amazing Twitter feed Saved You A Click by…

View original post 2,368 more words

Article: Pressure Reading


The link below is to an article that considers pressure reading – that is reading while feeling pressure from reading social networks such as Goodreads. I can’t say that I feel any pressure like this – what about you? Share your experiences in the comments.

For more visit:
http://www.themillions.com/2010/08/bats-in-the-bookshelves-the-perils-of-literary-social-networking.html

From My Armchair: 11 August 2012


I really didn’t think I’d get too much read this week, but as you will see from the list below I have been able to read a fair bit.

I was able to get The Hunger Games trilogy completed, which is good given the DVD of the first movie will be out in a week or so here in Australia. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so getting the books read prior to the movie was something I wanted to do.

This coming week I’d like to get a few more books read – I’ll see how I go.

 

Social Networks, Web Applications & Other Tools

Not a lot done on social networks or web applications this week. I have added a few books to Goodreads, that is about all really.

 

Currently Reading:

Currently, I am reading the following books:

Discipline of GraceDiscipline of Grace, by Jerry Bridges

I’m hoping to actually make some good progress on this book today and tomorrow. I read it once or twice before, but not in a while. Looking forward to getting into it. Jerry Bridges is usually very good to read.

 

CollapseCollapse, by Richard Stephenson

I’m just over halfway through this one, but it is a fairly long novel so it will take another day or two to complete at least.

 

Finished Reading:

This week I have been able to read the following books:

Phantoms on the BookshelvesPhantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet

I completed this book very early in the week and have written a review which can be found via the link below. Probably only really appeal to those of us who are really into books and have a library of our own. I quite enjoyed the read.

See also:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/book-review-phantoms-on-the-bookshelves-by-jacques-bonnet/

 

Killing CalvinismKilling Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher

This was a great book and one I should read on a regular basis – perhaps once a year. A very challenging book, with many lessons for the church today (thinking of reformed churches).

See also:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/book-review-killing-calvinism-how-to-destroy-a-perfectly-good-theology-from-the-inside-by-greg-dutcher/

 

Catching FireCatching Fire: The Hunger Games Books 2, by Suzanne Collins

I haven’t as of yet wrote a review on this one – will do soon hopefully.

 

MockingjayMockingjay: The Hunger Games Book 3, by Suzanne Collins

I haven’t as of yet wrote a review on this one – will do so soon hopefully.

 

Purchased & Added to Library:

I again grabbed a heap of free ebooks from Amazon. These are all of the books I’ve posted on my Blog ‘The Book Stand,’ so all posted there I also downloaded for myself. I’ll certainly have more books than I can ever read that’s for sure, but certainly never wanting for choice. No harm in grabbing them while there free and in digital format – if I don’t read them all, what does it matter? At least I’ll have them if I want to read them.

Among the books I actually purchased this week:

The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games – Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
In Christ Alone – Living the Gospel Centered Life, by Sinclair Ferguson
Set Apart – Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life, by Kent R. Hughes

 

From My Armchair: 4 August 2012


I am into my last days of annual leave, so it is doubtful I’ll be able to read anywhere near as much as I have this last week. I’ll probably have the Kindle out at lunch for a bit, so I’ll still be getting some reading in even while I’m at work. The Kindle has certainly made it a lot easier to have good reading material available no matter where I am. Loving the Kindle.

 

Social Networks, Web Applications & Other Tools

Not a lot has happened with the social networks in the book/reading niche over this last week, except that I have been updating Goodreads on a regular basis as to what I am reading, progress and cataloguing the books as I go.

I did do a quick addition to Quotista, which has a lot of potential but doesn’t appear to be being developed any further, which is quite disappointing. It could really be something good if it was improved from time to time. It looks so good. So, I have also been using a personal WordPress.com blog for filing quotes. This will be able to be searched and catalogued as I go and will make a very good tool down the track, curating my reading over the years, while still being able to use my books as valuable tools for further research and study. I think it works OK.

 

Currently Reading:

Currently, I am reading two books – well one actually, but about to start another. These are listed below:

Killing Calvinism– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher

I have started reading this twice – it is an excellent read and I wanted to absorb what I had read, so I thought why not start again. Highly recommend this one.

See also:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/book-review-killing-calvinism-how-to-destroy-a-perfectly-good-theology-from-the-inside-by-greg-dutcher/

 

– Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet

I haven’t really started this book as I finish this post, but it will be one I’ll be starting some time today.

 

Finished Reading:

Treasure IslandI have managed to get a couple of books read this week (and even reviewed).

– One of these book was ‘Treasure Island,’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read this on the Kindle and it was a very quick read, finishing it in two days. My book review is linked to below.

For more visit:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/book-review-treasure-island-by-robert-louis-stevenson/

 

The Bourne Identity– I also managed to complete ‘The Bourne Identity,’ by Robert Ludlum. This is the first of 10 books in the Jason Bourne series.

I haven’t yet completed a book review on this one, it will be coming soon.

 

The Hunger Games– I both purchased and read the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy, ‘The Hunger Games,’ by Suzzane Collins this week.

I haven’t yet completed a book review on this one either, but it will come this week sometime hopefully.

 

Purchased & Added to Library:

I again grabbed a heap of free ebooks from Amazon. These are all of the books I’ve posted on my Blog ‘The Book Stand,’ so all posted there I also downloaded for myself. I’ll certainly have more books than I can ever read that’s for sure, but certainly never wanting for choice. No harm in grabbing them while there free and in digital format – if I don’t read them all, what does it matter? At least I’ll have them if I want to read them.

Among the books I actually purchased this week:

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet

 

From My Armchair: 28 July 2012


I am doing a little experimenting here, just trying to get a good format together for a new post I’ll be doing here on a regular basis (I hope). I thought I might start to do a regular reading progress type post, or something like that. It will probably be a weekly summary of what I’m reading and other book news ‘From My Armchair.’ There you go, that can be the title of the regular post. That is, book news from my own reading experience and exposure to books on a personal level, including updates from my personal library – that sort of thing.

Now to work out just what I’ll include in the post – it could be something like a newsletter I suppose. So straight up, there can be this sort of preamble blurb thing going on. Just a bit of a ramble about book stuff from a personal perspective. Then I can put down a few sub-headings with some structured content, relevant information and comments. Sounds like a plan I think. It will probably take a couple of weeks to come together and look presentable, at least to me anyhow. So it will be a work in progress for a while.

Something else I’m going to do is clear my reading list at Goodreads and have a new start there also. That way I can tie everything together and have a continuous and consistent story as far as my experience with books is concerned. That way, when I do this weekly post, ‘From My Armchair,’ I’ll be able to pass on a summary of my reading activity as recorded at Goodreads.

 

Social Networks, Web Applications & Other Tools

Under this head I think I can provide a summary of what I’m involved in as far as social networks and web applications are concerned. I use quite a number of social networks, web applications and tools in the area of books and reading, with a variety of applications and functions. All useful in their own way I believe. I think they provide a good means to not only glean useful information, but to also maximise the benefits of my books and reading for a whole range of activities that I am involved in. I like to see my books not only as entertainment and an escape from the world for a while, but also as tools for accomplishing many things within the world.

I currently use Goodreads as my social network for books/ebooks. I once also used Shelfari, being torn between the two, but now that Shelfari has closed the better of the two networks has continued as far as I am concerned. I am trying to use Goodreads as my online catalogue for books, so slowly I am adding them all to it. I also use a database on my own PC, which I am trying to sync with Goodreads, though I enter the information to both manually. It will take some time to get all of that done as I do have a large number of books.

 

Currently Reading:

I like to read and prefer reading to television viewing. I don’t like to waste my time and prefer to use my time in worthwhile pursuits. I do watch a small amount of television, but that is usually to further my intellectual development, so I watch documentaries, news programs and the like. I do watch the occasional program to wind down from time to time, but prefer to watch a DVD for that purpose as most of the stuff on the Idiot Box is just a lot of rubbish lol.

I usually have several books on the go at one time, but have found in recent years that I tend to not finish a lot of books also. That hasn’t always been the case, but it seems increasingly so now. I’ll be cutting down on the number of books I’m reading at any one time in the future, to try and ensure I finish what I start more often than not.

Currently, I am reading two books – well one actually, but about to start another. These are listed below:

– The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher

 

Finished Reading:

The Hunt for Red October, by Tom ClancyI did have a few books underway and these were all listed at Goodreads, but I cleared these a little while ago and gave myself a fresh start. One book I completed recently was ‘The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy. I read the Jack Ryan series of books by Clancy some time ago and recently decided I’d read them again. I also watched the film again to see how close to each other they were – there was quite a difference between the book and the film. I have a post about this which I’ll link to below.

For more visit:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/1614/

 

Purchased & Added to Library:

I have recently acquired a large number of ebooks, many for free from Amazon, including the following books:

– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher
– The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges
– Beyond Belief – The Real Life of Daniel Defoe, by John Martin

 

Article: Goodreads & Digital Book Reviewing


As the book world continues its march towards the digital world, book reviewing is also going digital. One of the big social networks for books and book reviewing is Goodreads. The link below is to an article that Looks at both Goodreads and digital book reviewing. 

For more visit:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/foz-meadows/goodreads-and-the-rise-of_b_1700171.html

Website: Booki.sh


Social networks and web applications are rapidly multiplying all over the web and it should come as no surprise that a large number of such sites are dedicated to books in one way or another – as well as being useful to those that read books, offering ways to save and share quotes, words, etc. At the BookShelf will be bringing these types of sites to the notice of its readers, as I think they can be of tremendous use and benefit. Some will be useful to most and maybe others to very few, but they are all useful to someone, with the possible odd exception of course.

Booki.sh is a site that allows you to store your ebook library in the cloud, meaning that you can access it wherever you are, provided you have Internet access and the necessary device to do so. Your device only needs a modern web browser in order to use Booki.sh. Booki.sh provides it own software, so it will work in your device in a similar way to an ebook reader (the website explains how to use the software when reading a book).

Do you really need Booki.sh? Well that is another question – if you have a Kindle for example, you probably do not as you already have your library handy (or a very large selection of it on your device) and an ebook reader. However, if you do not have an ebook reader as such on your device (lap top, etc), Booki.sh could be very handy and useful. Either way, it won’t hurt to have a look and decide for yourself.

For more, visit:
https://booki.sh/