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Dependence in / to TV series

Séries et dépendance / Dépendance aux séries

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Published on Monday, October 26, 2015


Le but de ce colloque est de fonder puis d’analyser le lien entre séries et dépendance, en tenant compte de ces deux aspects corrélés : la surconsommation de séries, et leur production selon des procédés qui favorisent cette surconsommation. Du fait de ce double impératif, ce colloque se veut pluridisciplinaire. Il s’adresse d’une part aux spécialistes de la question des dépendances (psychiatres, psychologues, travailleurs sociaux, etc.), qui disposent des outils d’analyse et des statistiques permettant d’évaluer le degré de réalité du phénomène d’addiction aux séries, d’en jauger les conséquences, mais aussi d’en comprendre les mécanismes. Il s’adresse également aux spécialistes des enfants et adolescents (enseignants, infirmiers et médecins scolaires, animateurs, éducateurs, parents…), public particulièrement touché par le phénomène étudié ici. Il s’adresse enfin aux producteurs et aux scénaristes de séries télévisées, ainsi qu’aux spécialistes de séries, de cinéma, d’études culturelles ou de narratologie, entre autres, dont les outils spécifiques peuvent aider à mieux comprendre ce qui, dans la construction des séries comme dans leur réception, vise à créer, entretenir, amplifier, ou au contraire limiter, les tendances addictives qui en découlent.


A conference organized with the support of CICLAHO, CREA (EA 370), EA 1569 (Paris 8), and CLIPSYD (EA 4430)


It’s like the people who make potato chips. They know how to put the right chemicals in there to make you want to eat the next potato chip. Our goal is to make you want to watch that next episode.

Carlton Cuse

What if it were not Carlton Cuse, who wrote several episode scripts for the renowned series Lost,but a chemical engineer for the tobacco industry who made a similar confession? It’s a mind-boggling thought! Such a statement would amount to acknowledging that not only is tobacco addictive, but that it is also designed to be as habit-forming as possible in order to generate huge profits. By comparison, Carlton Cuse’s revelation does not sound in the least shocking. Nevertheless, it establishes two facts concerning TV series. First, it proves that they are undeniably addictive. Because they rank among consumer goods, they can trigger cravings. Besides, like the food products mentioned in Cuse’s simile, they come with serious side effects in case of overdose. Second, Cuse’s words carry the implicit admission that TV series are intended to cause dependence. Their creators fine-tune a winning formula involving the ingredients and know-how that are most likely to generate and maintain their show’s addictive quality. Does it mean that TV series are the only legal drug society still unrestrictively allows?

This conference purports to establish then analyze the interrelation between series and dependence by focusing on two aspects of their connection: TV series overconsumption, and the production devices that lead to it. Due to this two-sided goal, the conference will bring together specialists from different backgrounds. On the one hand, it may be of interest to people working with addiction (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, etc.), whose analytical tools and statistics will be useful to assess the prevalence of TV series addiction as well as its consequences, in order to make sense of its mechanics. For similar reasons, the conference is also open to people working with children and teenagers (teachers, school doctors and nurses, social mobilizers and educators, parents, etc.), since youths under 18 are largely affected by addictive tendencies. On the other hand, this conference is also intended for TV series specialists, producers or scriptwriters, and for academics in the fields of film and serial studies, cultural studies, or narratology (among others). Their specific perspective on the topic may indeed help better understand what it is about the construction or reception of TV series that aims to create, maintain, amplify, or on the contrary curb their ingrained addictive quality.

The organizers will accept papers on the following key areas.

1. TV series dependence: points of vulnerability, symptoms, consequences, and possible solutions to the problem.

  • Abnormal use, dependence or addiction? What is the place of TV series overconsumption in the field of psychiatry, according to current classifications? What is its relation to other behavioral patterns that are considered problematic (workaholism for instance...)?
  • Characterization. Does TV series dependence mean one is addicted to a product, or to a pattern of behavior related to this product?
  • Quantification problems. Is it possible to evaluate the daily consumption of a group of subjects? What is the impact of binge watching and what motivates it? What do binge watchers derive from the practice? Does competition with other fans play a part in the addictive process? Is watching the show before the others an important incentive to binge watch?
  • Possible similarities with other types of addiction (video games, TV in general, the Internet, social networks...)
  • Character identification and connected issues. Subjectively, what is the point of identifying with a character: escapism, seeking courage to face daily life or to create a new life for oneself, self-criticism through a doppelgänger, whether it be a guardian angel or a demon?  In this respect, do TV series have a different impact than movies?
  • What is the usual sociodemographic profile of TV series addicts, if any? Does it change according to the types of series they prefer? Does it differ with age? With gender?
  • Are there any physical symptoms of TV series dependence (going cold turkey to block oneself off from some addictive practise, sleeplessness, etc.)?
  • Series, the cognitive sciences and the neurosciences. Does it make sense to draw conclusions from extant research in neurocinematics (Uri Hasson)? Does brain imagery reveal TV series dependence, the same as recent studies have shown that using touch-sensitive screens alters our brain’s representation of our fingers? Is there an impact on neurotransmitters? Is there an impact on the reward circuit, or at least on the production of dopamine? What part does TV series’ high demand on memory play in the addiction process (through the repetition of narrative landmarks, locations, characters, types of interaction)? What part does the soundtrack play in the spectators’ identification of characters and places, and to act as a catalyst of specific diegetic moments that recur as leitmotivs?
  • What are the consequences of series addiction? Are they short-term, midterm or long-term? What is their impact on people’s behaviors, on the personal and on the social level?
  • How do spectators speak about their addictive tendencies? Do they see them as a source of pain or pleasure? What do they do to get “clean” or, on the contrary, to feed their addiction? What part of their lives is devoted to it? How much time do they spend organizing their series consumption on a daily basis? Do they consider substitutes as a way of weaning themselves (other TV programs for instance)? Are there any cases of denial? Is TV series addiction taboo, a fault to be concealed, or on the contrary a source of satisfaction to be bragged about in broad daylight? Is there such a thing as “serial memory”, i.e. the serial equivalent of filmic memory? Do the people who consider themselves hooked on series have specific sets of beliefs? Do they behave in similar ways? Do they fall into specific subgroups?
  • What are society’s ways of dealing with this new type of addictive behavior? Are preventive measures being taken, and if such is the case, how do they work? How do departments of public health connect TV series dependence with established forms of addiction?

2. Series and addiction: addictive strategies v. social analysis.

  • Do TV series foster dependence and, if such is the case, in what ways? Commercial strategies (advertising, teasers, transmedia broadcasting, “previously on” reminders, marketing, derivatives, spin-offs …), and narrative strategies (duration of the narrative, cliffhangers, inclusion of news events, constructing a sense of belonging to a community, resurrecting / evicting characters due to fans’ demand, Internet broadcast of alternative endings, taking into account the views expressed on forums, etc.).
  • In some cases, do TV series or channels fight addiction, thereby expressing their awareness that it comes with adverse consequences? To what extent can we consider that some of the specific features of TV series are natural blockers of addictive processes (division into seasons, episode length and frequency of broadcast, alienation effects preventing identification, spoilers, etc.)?
  • How do series represent the issues of the addictive tendencies they generate, as well as dependence in general (junkie or addict characters, sequences involving support groups, mirroring the inevitable separation that occurs after the final episode, mirroring relapses, withdrawal syndromes, weaning, addiction to a fictional universe, creative processes, the series’ reception, etc.)?
  • What is the place of the addiction to TV series in cultural history? How does it relate to the traditional criticism against fiction, according to which it distracts human beings from reality? Is it possible to make up a genealogy of addiction to serial narratives, from the oral or literary origins up to film serials, pre-“New Golden Age” TV series, and the latest serial formats?

Selective bibliography

Ang, I., Watching Dallas, Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination, London, Routledge, 1985.

Billieux, J. et al., “Internet Gaming Addiction: the Case of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games.” Current Pharmaceutical Design 20 (2015), 4026-4052.

Couteron J-P., « Addiction au quotidien, ou l’ordinaire des addictions », Psychotropes, 2008 /3 Vol. 14, p. 79-89.

Darras, E. « Les limites de la distance. Réflexions sur les modes d’appropriation des produits culturels. » In Donnat, O. (dir.), Regards croisés sur les pratiques culturelles, Paris, La documentation française, 2003.

Hasson U. et al., “Neurocinematics: The neuroscience of film” Projections 2(1) (2008):1-26

Jenkins, H. (1992), Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, New-York, Routledge.

Johnson, S., Tout ce qui est mauvais est bon pour vous: Pourquoi les séries télé et les jeux vidéos rendent intelligent. Trad. J. Antoine. Paris: Privé, 2009.

Le Guern, P.  (dir.), Les cultes médiatiques. Culture fan et œuvres cultes, Rennes, PUR, 2002.

Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D., Positive Psychology at the Movies: Using Films to Build Character Strengths and Well-Being. Toronto: Hogrefe Publishing, 2014.

Shimamura, A. P. (dir.) Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Tan, S-L., A J. Cohen, S D. Lipscomb, and R. A. Kendall. The Psychology of Music in Multimedia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Tisseron, S. Enfants sous influence : Les écrans rendent-ils les jeunes violents ? Paris: A. Colin, 2000.

Valleur M., Matysiak J.-C., Sexe, Passion et Jeux Vidéo. Les nouvelles formes d’addiction, Paris, Flammarion, 2003.

Valleur M., Velea D. «Les addictions sans drogues»  Toxibase, n ° 6 (juin 2002).

Wellenstein A., « Qu’est-ce qu’une addiction ? (sélection bibliographique) », Psychotropes, 2008 /3 Vol. 14, p. 73-77.

Young, S. D. Psychology at the Movies. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

Zachs, J. Your brain at the movies. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Conference languages

French and English.

Submission guidelines

The organizers strongly consider publishing a selection of conference papers. If it is the case, final versions of papers should be submitted during the conference in order for an edited volume to be released shortly thereafter.

Please send paper proposals (paper title and 300-word abstract + 4/5 keywords) along with a short biographical notice

before 18 Nov. 2015

to all the organizers’ e-mail addresses:

nathalie_camart@hotmail.com ; seb.lefait@libertysurf.fr ; paquet.deyris@yahoo.fr ; romodesprez@gmail.com.

Practical informations

Paris Ouest Nanterre University

Friday 5 February 2016

Organizing committee

  • Nathalie Camart (CLIPSYD – EA 4430, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
  • Sébastien Lefait (EA 1569, Université Paris 8)
  • Anne-Marie Paquet-Deyris (CICLAHO / CREA – EA 370, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
  • Lucia Romo-Desprez (CLIPSYD – EA 4430, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense) 


  • Université Paris Ouest
    Nanterre, France (92)


  • Wednesday, November 18, 2015


  • série télévisée, dépendance, addiction

Information source

  • Sébastien Lefait
    courriel : sebastien [dot] lefait [at] univ-paris8 [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Dependence in / to TV series », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, October 26, 2015, https://calenda.org/342162

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