University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 28.10.2017 M.A. Sérgio Tavares (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Digital culture)

Start date: Oct 28, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Oct 28, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, H320

M.A. Sérgio Tavares defends his doctoral dissertation in Digital culture ”Paramedia: thresholds of the social text”. Opponent Associate Professor Rui Torres (University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal) and custos Professor Raine Koskimaa (University of Jyväskylä).

Sérgio Tavares Picture: Noora Tavares
M.A. Sérgio Tavares defends his doctoral dissertation in Digital culture ”Paramedia: thresholds of the social text”. Opponent Associate Professor Rui Torres (University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal) and custos Professor Raine Koskimaa (University of Jyväskylä).

The University of Jyväskylä releases on October 28th a doctoral thesis exclusively dedicated to digital content production and analysis. Paramedia, by Brazilian researcher Sérgio Tavares, combines interface, authorship and audience studies with literary theory, to create a framework that can help us to understand how we choose what content to consume in social media.

- Content production and content strategy are one of the pillars of marketing and communication activities, the author states.

- But this area is so new that mostly professional books are written about it. 

Tavares, who also works as a consultant and researcher in the private sector, had noticed that theoretical frameworks are still fragmented when it comes to content.

- They focus on interface or design studies, social and sharing culture, technology protocols, internet video studies, critical discourse analysis and so on. I thought of going back to the root of content and perceiving it as texts.

Tavares has brought to the field of content the works of French theorist Gerard Genette, who has developed a framework to study books. Genette’s theory of the paratext became known in literary circles for breaking down books and publications into small elements. When put together, these elements could help readers to make decisions about how to classify (and whether to read or not) a book. The book cover, the author’s name, the promotional posters or television interviews were all part of what the Genette has classified “paratexts”.

Paramedia, on the other hand, takes the paratextual theory to the dynamic landscape of social media. Authors are also readers, users are also authors, editors are also publishers and the surroundings of texts are populated by authors, advertising and algorithms.

- The first challenge was to assess if print media and digital content are even remotely comparable, Tavares says.

- But some of the most successful content examples, like the New York Times story ‘Snowfall', was a hit exactly because it successfully brought print media elements to the digital screen.

The root difference is in authorship
One of the main differences between print and digital media is the ease of publishing, where anyone is an author.

- It may not be obvious, but authorship is an activity that started to exist because someone had to be held responsible of a certain piece of content. Texts has always been a dangerous thing, Tavares states.

- No wonder my first article was a provocation asking if Yoko Ono’s breakfast photo on. Twitter is part of her body of work. It was presented at the MIT. I think it was chosen because we need to rethink how we write. Many people are conscious writers, but not conscious authors in social media.

- Nowadays, a text and its paratexts — or for that matter, content and its paramedia — are written by authors, users, by usage and by the machine algorithms. A YouTube video is the video, the descriptions, the tags and metadata, the comments, the number of views, the related videos on the sidebar.

Tavares’ framework breaks down all these elements into three main categories: authorial paramedia, audience paramedia and machine paramedia.

- I truly believe this can be an useful tool to, in the least, bridge the market of content professionals and scholars interested in media and digital textuality. It’s impossible to ignore the social nature of texts today, and the more Academia and the market work together in developing new ways of studying how we produce and consume content, the better.

Paramedia is being published by the University of Jyväskylä on October 2017, fully available online, and in print at the University Library’s Publications Unit, tel. +358 (0)40 805 3825,
ISBN 978-951-39-7194-6 (nid.) ISSN 1459-4323

The dissertation includes articles presented in conferences in various venues, including Catalunya Open University and at the MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the USA.

Sérgio Tavares holds a bachelor degree in Marketing and Communication from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a Master of Arts in Digital Culture from the University of Jyväskylä. He also works as a research consultant at Nordic Morning, one of the biggest communication groups in the Nordics. In recent years, the researcher has become a trusted name in consumer and digital research, trusted by some of the biggest companies in Finland, such as VR, Posti, Metsä Group, Reima and more.

For more information, the author can be contacted on or through his blog, active at


This work is an adaptation of Gerard Genette’s theory of paratexts to social media. Paratexts are information surrounding texts, and usually helping the user to decide whether or not to consume a text.

In social media, a plurality of new information surrounds texts we read every day. They are dynamic by nature and have different authors: the social platforms, like Facebook or YouTube; the authors of texts, and the users who comment and share them.

This collection of four articles will debate the ethos in social media, what is an author in social media, what are the identified paratexts in selected social media websites and the limits of interpretation of paratexts in contemporary Brazilian literature cases.

The relation between text and paratext is more complex than it seems, as paratexts can be charged with information that sparks controversy, such as debates on race, gender, social class, territorialism and others.

The work opens the discussion on how paratextual elements can influence what we write and consume in social media, by analyzing how this surrounding information can be attached to texts by authors, by other users, by algorithms and other actors.

In addition to the analysis, the work proposes a framework that breaks down paratexts into three main categories: the author’s paratexts, the audience’s paratexts and the network’s paratexts. Those unfold in numerous subcategories, based on the interfaces of numerous user-generated content websites.

Lastly, the research analyzes the main differences between the original paratext concept by Gerard Genette, conceived with print media in mind, and the new landscape of digital media. By careful comparison and contrast, the work proposes a new term, paramedia, to define the information that surrounds user-generated texts in social media.

One of the conclusions, as well, is that readers now have a new role in creating text affiliations. Social media users are logs of “watched videos” or “liked posts”, and those influence which paratexts will be shown when they navigate these networks. Paramedia is heavily based on user data and textual data, and this new way of reading, writing and existing in media must be observed closely.

More information

Sergio Tavares
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