Tune in HPV

an early transmedia project about the Human Papilloma Virus


What was Tune in HPV?

Tune in HPV (www.tuneinhpv.com) was created by Giovanna Chesler, web developer Zulma Aguiar, and students at American University as an early transmedia project. Tune in HPV launched as a web channel developed to collect users' stories surrounding Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Built in partnership with the Center for Social Media at American University (now CSMI) and the Washington D.C Department of Health, TUNE IN HPV provided space for users to write and upload a story about their HPV experiences which was then turned into a quirky but informative video that helped generate more critical awareness of the virus, its strains, and its transmission patterns. Representations of HPV in the media at the time were dominated by the Gardasil vaccine PR and Merck advertising which eliminated the sexual component of the virus. As an early intervention in this public discourse, TUNE IN HPV presented alternative images of HPV awareness.

How TUNE IN HPV worked?

Users were invited to submit personal stories on their HPV experiences. Common themes emerged from users' stories such as concerns regarding exposure to HPV, treatment options, and costs of the vaccine. Our storytellers were highly varied depending on factors such as race, sexuality, age, and geographic location. Then, students in the AU class called Communication and Social Change made videos inspired by these stories. The videos includes sexual health messages. They worked with information provided by the Washington DC Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control. Giovanna took this participatory production model to a Social Change conference at Northwestern University and then to a class she developed at Marymount Manhattan College called Web Video Activism. Ultimately, students at three universities participated in developing web videos for the project that are still live on the Tune in HPV youtube page.

How it began

In Fall 2006, when recovering from an HPV surgery she had been told would be minor, Giovanna produced three videos from her laptop while confined to her bed. HPV Boredom 1, HPV Boredom 2 (below) and HPV Boredom 3. As an early youtube video, when uploaded, comments and videos appeared rapidly and viewers were sharing their own stories. This activity inspired the idea of creating a web portal to collect and publish stories.

The Scholarship

"Re-Presenting Choice: TUNE IN HPV" by Giovanna Chesler and Bree Kessler. This chapter on the project appeared in Three Shots at Prevention: The HPV Vaccine and the Politics of Medicine's Simple Solutions. Edited by edited by Keith Wailoo, Julie Livingston, Steven Epstein, Robert Aronowitz and published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Imagining Illness: Public Health and Visual Culture by David Serlin (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) opens with a discussion of TUNE IN HPV.

"Scholar at forefront of Women's Sexual Health issue" in Diverse Education http://diverseeducation.com/article/11178/

David Serlin's discussion of the project at U. of Minnesota press blog http://www.uminnpressblog.com/2011/03/hpv-boredom-2-and-future-of-public.html