Popular Crime and Populist Investigation: The CSI Franchise and Multimedia Participation

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    The worldwide success of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS, 2000-2015) has
    attracted a number of publications which aim to understand the series’
    popularity (Allen 2007, Byers and Johnson 2009, Cohan 2008, Kompare
    2010). As a defining US series of the 2000s which had a significant impact on
    the representation of crime on television, it opens up several avenues of
    investigation, and I am here particularly interested in understanding CSI as
    paradigmatic for the ways the US television industries have come to engage
    with their audience. Television in the United States changed dramatically
    from the 1970s onwards when a combination of regulation—the FinSyn
    Rules (1972)—and a development in delivery technologies—in particular
    cable— brought a sense of economic crisis to the until then burgeoning
    industry. As John T. Caldwell (1995, 5) chronicles, this economic crisis,
    combined with changes in programming practices, the industry’s mode of
    production, and audience expectations affected the look of US television, but
    also had ideological implications. Caldwell emphasizes that the 1980s’
    “televisuality” was a historically situated effect, though much of what he
    describes continues well beyond the decade, including the sense of crisis.
    Indeed, the US television industries continue to experience similar issues as
    they did in the 1980s, particularly as a result of audience fragmentation, which
    in the era of digitization, if anything, has become more exacerbated. My
    interest in CSI, then, is driven by the wish to understand how this sense of
    crisis has affected the relationship between the industry and its audience, and
    in particular how the attempts by the industry to harness popularity through
    merchandising and franchising has led to the creation of additional texts that
    engage the audience in particular ways.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCrime and Detection in Contemporary Culture
    EditorsMartina Vránová, Zénó Vernyik, Dávid Levente Palatinus
    Place of PublicationSzeged, Hungary
    PublisherAmericana Books
    Number of pages21
    ISBN (Electronic)978-615-5423-52-9
    ISBN (Print)978-615-5423-51-2
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2019


    • CSI
    • transmediality
    • Television
    • branding
    • Audience Interactivity


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