Portsmouth academics ask: What can The Archers tell us about real-life crime?

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Two Portsmouth University experts are to take part in a clinical examination of The Archers.

They will speak at a conference of academics called to discuss a variety of topics and issues related to the long-running BBC Radio 4 soap.

Professor Debi Ashenden and Anna-Marie O’Connor are among 32 academics from across the world attending the two-day gathering in Lincoln tomorrow and on Sunday.

Organisers say the overall study, titled The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire will ‘take an academic perspective on life in Ambridge and Borsetshire, whilst also throwing an interdisciplinary light on wider social issues’.

A University of Portsmouth spokesman said: ‘It will feature papers from across various academic disciplines, including social media, education, religion, the negative aspects of competing at flower and produce shows, birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge, eating disorders and dietary health, flood resilience, social status and perceptions of physicality, and family dysfunctionality.’

The conference will dedicate a whole strand of study to the Helen and Rob storyline, which involved domestic abuse and an attempted murder trial.

Anna-Marie O’Connor, senior lecturer and forensic co-ordinator at the University of Portsmouth, will present a talk on the forensic blood pattern analysis process, which may have taken place at Blossom Hill Cottage following Helen’s stabbing of Rob.

And Prof Ashenden, professor of cybersecurity at the university’s School of Computing, will discuss the absence of stories related to social media, such as cybercrime and identity theft.

She said she would explore ‘what the virtual world of The Archers might tell audiences about the enmeshed nature of social media, rural communities, and relationships in early 21st Century Britain’.

Prof Ashenden added: ‘While The Archers is fictional, it reaches out into the real world, and its storylines impact on real lives. As our use of technology evolves, we think The Archers hints at an important aspect of community resilience to online danger.’

The symposium has been organised this year on a voluntary basis by long-time fans of the programme, Dr Cara Courage and Dr Nicola Headlam.

News on all things related to academic explorations of The Archers can be found on a dedicated Facebook page.

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