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(In)Fertility and Media – Bath Spa University

(In)Fertility and Media: a multimedia project

The (In)Fertility and Media project is a highly innovative multimedia project bringing together academic scholarship, practice-based film research, participatory ethnographic methods and serious gaming from across disciplines of Film, Media and Creative Computing.

The project

The project is a collaboration between Dr Rebecca Feasey, Claire Levy, Dr Ruth Farrar and Lee Scott. It manifests as a monograph, a short documentary, and a forthcoming serious game.

The monograph

Infertility and Non-Traditional Family Building: From Assisted Reproduction to Adoption in the Media, by Feasey, examines the representation of infertility, assisted reproduction, miscarriage, adoption and surrogacy in a wide range of media, including blogs, vlogs, social media posts and factual programming. In so doing, it illustrates how pregnancy loss, involuntary childlessness and non-traditional mothering are being depicted across the media landscape. Whilst the topic of motherhood has emerged as a significant area of academic debate, narratives of unsuccessful or unconventional mothering have remained largely absent, even at a time when there is a growing conversation about infertility online. Timely, pertinent and original, the book demonstrates the importance of a broader and more informed cultural discussion about fertility and family building.

The documentary

(In)Fertility, the Media & Me is a short documentary co-produced by Levy and Farrar, growing out of Feasey’s aforementioned monograph. The documentary adopts reflexive practice-based research methods (Sullivan, 2009; McNamara, 2011). It deals with three interrelated research trajectories: one, how documentary filmmaking can develop new ways of engaging with academic themes; two, the role of participatory ethnographic methods in this process; and three, what these aforementioned approaches reveal about the chosen subject matter of representations of (in)fertility in the media.

The documentary was disseminated through test screenings at the Fertility Fest in 2018, an (in)fertility arts festival based in London. Methodologically, the participatory ethnographic methods employed in the making of the documentary offer new ways of opening up the research process, aiming to counter the inevitable compression necessitated in academic writing. Filmmaking emerged as a way of diffusing the role of the researcher in the production of knowledge. The significance of this participatory ethnographic method to arts and humanities research more broadly lies in its ability to subvert the traditional question and answer format of research interviews or focus groups, which have been shown to privilege the researcher over the participants (Jackson, 2015), and instead create a research environment based on reciprocal learning between researcher and participant.

The forthcoming serious game

Based on this work, and augmenting the work of Feasey, Levy and Farrar even further, Scott has partnered with My Fertility Matters, a social enterprise devoted to raising awareness for infertility. The partnership will result in an app-based serious game that promotes fertility awareness to children approaching puberty. Read more about the proposed app.

Learn more about the entire (In)Fertility and Media project in this special issue of In Media Res.

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