Immersion, authenticity and the theme park as social space: Experiencing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Abby Waysdorf*, Stijn Reijnders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)
256 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This article examines the visitor experience of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWOHP) theme park at Universal Studios Orlando. The park is hugely popular and has been embraced by the series’ devoted but critical fanbase. Prior research on theme parks has generally focused on critiques of their form, leading to a limited understanding of their appeal. This article asks how fan-visitors interpret this simulated environment, and what leads them to embrace it. It does this with an ethnographic approach, utilizing in-depth interviews with 15 visitors combined with participant observation. We show how WWOHP is understood by its visitors as an adaptation of the series into physical space, via the medium of the theme park, and how the visitor’s experience is shaped through use of ironic imagination. In doing so, we present a new understanding of the immersive media experience of theme parks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-188
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was made possible by a research grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (GW, PR-11-77)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.

Research programs

  • ESHCC M&C

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