Edit: it has come to my attention that when I started drafting this post on my Android tablet, it apparently defaulted to publishing the post, instead of saving as a draft. I apologize for what might look like a double post.
For the uninitiated, Welcome to Sanditon is a web series on YouTube that is attempting to adapt Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Sanditon. This is supposed to tide fans of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, another Austen web series adaptation, until the next big Austen web series project is announced. Unfortunately, the Sanditon adaptation has run into some problems with its viewership, myself among the disgruntled viewers.
Firstly, the writers are dealing with an incomplete manuscript. We don’t really know much about where Sanditon may have been headed plot-wise because all we have is what looks like just an introduction to the actual story. It’s largely agreed that Sanditon has a good deal to do with communication and how the town is perceived through communication. However that’s just a broad statement about maybe a few chapters of rough draft. There’s no clear direction on where Jane intended to take this concept in terms of plot, so the web series writers are left with either a lot of guess-work, or latitude to write their own interpretation. This has also left the four episodes dedicated to the “plot” feeling disappointingly plot-less, and has left more viewers, like myself, more frustrated than endeared with the direction of the series so far.
Secondly, when Sanditon was announced, creators announced that they would be experimenting with something. This is all fine and good, but by keeping fans in the dark until the first episode about what the said experiment is might not have been in their best interest.
When Welcome to Sanditon creators launched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, they embraced a mode of storytelling they called ‘transmedia storytelling’. You may or may not have heard of it, but it’s basically when you use different forms of social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter together to tell the whole story, rather than just strictly one medium. For Sanditon, it turns out that the great experiment was to encourage viewers to join in the narrative by taking on a Sanditon persona and becoming a part of the action on twitter, and submitting videos recorded using Domino, the fictional app that, in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, was still in development.
This was a moment of rejoicing for the RP community. However, for the majority of viewers who are not actively involved in the RP, and transmedia, aspect, the experience has been nothing short of frustration, and in many cases, confusing. Many fans have complained about how story character twitter accounts have become indistinguishable from RP accounts, the creators slapping together montages of RP videos and then calling them ‘episodes’ when they do nothing to advance the plot, and feeling lied to because the creators said that people who strictly watched the videos would get all the necessary story information without having to join the RP, but then the show turns around and mentions something from the RP, and viewers are left confused because they’re not following the RP, or even the transmedia, so the RP shoutout doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Thirdly, the Welcome to Sanditon writers were not up front that only the Monday videos would be dedicated to the actual plot. Fans of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries will tell you that this breaks what they had grown accustomed to with the LBD series, where Mondays and Thursdays were dedicated to plot, Saturday’s to in world Q&A videos, and Wednesdays to videos from other characters other than Lizzie.
I tried giving the videos a second shot today, but frankly I’m done with this series, and I’ll just sit out and wait to see what Austen novel they’ll come up with next.