Thursday 21 November – Lunchtime Seminar with Dr Ruth Deller (Reader in Media and Communication)

Images provided by Dr Ruth Deller

Title: Reality TV in the age of social media
Speaker: Dr Ruth Deller (Reader in Media and Communication)

Reality TV and social media are two of the biggest media phenomena of recent years. Both have been endlessly written about, commented on, celebrated and criticised in both academic and ‘popular’ discourse – not least for the potential they offer ‘ordinary’ people to interact with, and stake a claim in, the media environment. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the two have become increasingly – but not always comfortably – interlinked.

A social media presence is no longer just an ‘added extra’ to broadcast shows, but an integral part of them. In this talk, Dr Deller will explore the strategies adopted by reality participants and programme makers to maintain the audience’s attention in a cluttered media environment where viewers can be increasingly tempted away from traditional TV.

Dr Deller will also argue that this leads to interesting tensions, where reality shows both capitalise on social media and treat it with some suspicion – only social media stars with ‘genuine’ talent or charisma will shine through on Drag Race or Strictly Come Dancing, whilst Catfish and The Circle play upon the idea that people can ‘be anyone’ online, but reality shows will uncover the ‘truth’. In this way, reality TV is trying to transfer previous criticisms made of it as fake and exploitative to these newer media, thus reinforcing the role of traditional media as ‘gatekeepers’ of truth and validity, even whilst they are fostering an apparently democratic and interactive environment.

This talk is based on a chapter from Dr Deller’s book ‘Reality TV: The Television Phenomenon that Changed the World (Emerald)‘, released this month.

Ruth Deller is a Reader in Media and Communication at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), UK and an entertainment critic for outlets including Radio Sheffield and Broadway World. She has published widely on areas including factual TV, media representations and audience and fan studies and is on the editorial board of Celebrity Studies journal. Within SHU she is a member of the Faculty Research Ethics Committee, CCRC Steering Committee and Creating Knowledge conference team.


See here for details of other seminars in the series.

All SHU staff and students are welcome to attend the C3RI Lunchtime Research Seminars. If you are from outside of the University and would like to attend a seminar, please email the C3RI Administrator to arrange entry.