Research on a Norwegian television show earned Mr Warwick Jones a cum laude for his masters in arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Jones, who recently graduated, taught English in China. It was where he was introduced to the TV show by a roommate.
‘Moving to China allowed me to meet a myriad of different people from all over the world. During one of the mornings, a Norwegian roommate of mine introduced me to the television show that would become the focus of my dissertation.
‘Essentially, I studied a very popular Norwegian television show called Skam. The show is about a group of teenagers living in Oslo, the difficulties each of them face, and the ‘shame’ they experience (Skam means ‘shame’ in Norwegian). The interesting thing about the show is that it created profiles for its characters on Instagram and Facebook to try and convince audiences that the characters were real, which they weren’t,’ said Jones.
He looked at how this ‘reality’ was constructed by the show and discussed the issues that could spring from an audience relying on fictional characters for emotional and psychological support.
The study found that while the show mimicked reality to draw in its audience, it was incapable of fulfilling the role of social interaction. ‘Even though kids were seeing a very well researched representation of themselves (of how it really is to be a Norwegian teenager) they were not getting the emotional support they so desperately needed from their friends and family.’
Jones plans on expanding this research for his PhD, but was thrilled that he managed to complete his research on time and was glad to have graduated with one of his best friends, Kate Wilkinson.
He expressed gratitude to his family, friends and supervisor saying, ‘To my family and friends, thank you for the incredible support I’ve received, particularly to Kate. I don’t think we’d have finished if we didn’t have each other to lean on when the work piled up. Thanks to my supervisor, Dr Sandra Pitcher, who put up with my last-minute hand-ins and my terrible spelling errors. This is as much her success as it is mine.’
Based on his experience, Jones offered wise words of encouragement to other students: ‘Just sit down and write – it might be awful at first but at least you’ll have something. Also, don’t drink too much Red Bull in one go – it’s hard to work when your head is racing.’