In Memoriam of Lars Elleström
IMS open, online lecture

Meeting Media Minds: Marie-Laure Ryan, On the problematics of building a formal media system, or, why media drive me crazy

'Meeting Media Minds – Critical Legacies of Lars Elleström' is an open, online lecture series, commemorating the life and work of Lars Elleström. The series is organised by IMS.

In this eight open lecture in our Meeting Media Minds series, Marie-Laure Ryan will give a presentation titled On the problematics of building a formal media system, or, why media drive me crazy


The ambition of Lars Elleström was to endow intermedia studies and transmedia narratology with a solid and rigorous theoretical model. But to this date there is no widely accepted formal system that can play the same role for media studies as the periodic table of elements does for chemistry or Linnaeus’ taxonomies for botany or zoology. Why is that? One reason is that “medium” is a word of natural language, and like most words it is polysemic: the Webster dictionary defines it as (a) channel of transmission; (b) means of expression. Should a formal theory of media rely on culturally recognized categories, or on precisely defined analytical concepts that do not correspond to intuitive ideas of media? How can the basic units of a media system be established?  Are all media truly transmedia? Is the metaphor of “crossing boundaries” an adequate way of describing intermedial relations? Is a tree-shaped taxonomy feasible, or should other configurations be preferred? What is the relation of media to genres? These are the kinds of questions I will address in this presentation, and that I will ask of Elleström’s contributions to media theory.


Maria-Laure Ryan is an independent scholar working on (transmedial) narration, fiction and cyberculture. Recent publications include the articles “Playing Games with the Truth: Tabloid Stories, Urban Legends, Tall Tales and Bullshit.” Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory. Eds. Maria Mäkelä and Paul Dawson. Routledge 2022, 205-17 and “Four Types of Textual Space and their Manifestations in Digital Narrative.” Digital Narrative Spaces: An Interdisciplinary Examination. Ed. Dan Punday. Routledge 2022, 1-19, as well as the book What Is, What If, As If: A New Anatomy of Storyworlds.Columbus: Ohio State University Press 2022.

Read more about Marie-Laure Ryan on her personal website:

How to attend

You are welcome to attend the seminar via zoom. Email us at if you need the zoom number.


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