Life After Graduation

It seems surreal that graduation is just a few months away.  I have been working on this degree for so many years and its been a big part of my life and identity.  Thinking about what the future of this project will be after graduation feels strange.  I definitely want to have the site be public and accessible for a good long time. This project is a big capstone to my whole Temple MSP experience, and I want to make sure that it will be tangibly saved for my portfolio, and be accessible for new audiences. Most likely I will end up buying a domain name for it.  I hope that the site would be visited and viewed by my intended audience and make an impact on new fans’ experiences in getting involved in fan culture and fandom communities.  I think it is something that I would continue to pursue and update as media and technology evolves.  I have told the people who have participated in interviews and posed for photographs that I would make sure to send them links once the project is completed, so there will be a couple dozen people in the audience right away along with friends, family, my committee, and our cohort.  I will post it on my own social media as well as within the fandom communities that I visit.  I haven’t needed to really think about the future much beyond the next semester for 6 years, it feels odd to not have academic plans for the next school year.  This was  definitely a very thought provoking prompt.

Gazing towards Spring

As we are nearing the end of the Fall semester it has been strange to suddenly realize that some constants in my life over the last 5 and a half years are ending.  I have been driving into Philadelphia every week for such a long time that I have no idea what I will do with my budget or time when I am not paying tolls, gas, and parking, let alone tuition. Or what new excuse I can use to avoid awkward social situations when homework was such a good cover story.  But looking back over the years I have really enjoyed all my courses and all the cohorts that I have had the chance to engage with.  Most of all though I appreciate how so many professors have allowed me to develop my interest in fandom and fan culture as an overarching research subject across the semesters.  I know that the encouragement I was met with has put me in possession of a good foundation of research to support this project in so many areas.

Looking back over this semester its amazing how far we have come from that first night! Meeting each other and tentatively throwing out ideas for what we wanted to do with our projects to now when each nascent project inkling has developed into distinct ideas that are able to be articulated clearly for each other and for outsiders as well.  For me fandom and fan culture have been such a passion project research subject, that my initial ideas needed to be reigned in and pruned into more workable pathways.  The semester also started off very quickly for my project, with large events rising up straight away so that I needed to dive in head first right off the bat.  But I think for me that was probably a very good approach, allowing the impetus of urgency to strike right at the beginning and lend itself throughout the workshop assignments over the last 2 months.  I know myself, and I know my penchant for procrastination.  I have been able to.. well not overcome it, but at least mitigate this habit by thorough organization, and self-deception. I think the way this semester began with the convention visits right at the beginning has allowed a good and useful amount of pressure to be applied for the rest of the semester.  One thing that has surprised me about the development of this project this semester are my interview subjects.  I was stressed about asking random strangers at the conventions I visited to do me a huge favor, to the point where I was rather overwhelmed for most of the day at the Supernatural Con I attended, but when I gathered my courage people were happy to help.  I am finding this to also be the case with interview subjects that I am pulling from my own contacts and from networking.  I worried that I would be inconveniencing people, or would be annoying, but so far the people I have spoken to have been excited and very interested in participating!

Looking back over the blog posts I wrote for this workshop and at the assignments we have completed that have acted as stepping stones and building blocks it is really amazing to see how far this project has come.  I have the guts of an actual website framed out, and a nice long first draft for the research essay, and a pre-production binder with detailed interview questions and a subject list.  The biggest thing that I will need to work on over the Winter break and Spring semester is staying on top of the organization that I have created so far.  That will be vital especially as I begin to complete audio and video interviews.  I think establishing a routine communication with my committee should help with maintaining momentum on this project and guiding it to the end stages.

This workshop really has provided the structure and organization tools needed for these projects, and I am very glad that I was still around in the program to be able to participate in this second running of the course!  I think the most valuable part of all is having access to professors and classmates who are able to support me through the development of this project, and who give insight and perspective where I have blind spots!  I truly hope that these relationships and supports will stay in place as we look towards the Spring and graduation!

 

The Beginning of my Lasts

On Tuesday I was registered into my last 2 credits for this degree.  It was kind of a surreal feeling, after 9 semesters of registration it was fitting to stop into the grad office to work with Nicole to complete this final enrollment.  This coming Tuesday is my last night of formal class meetings except for our pizza party in December.  All these last experiences are bittersweet, I have grown so much as a person over the last 5.5 years, and maybe its because it has taken such a long journey to get here, but there is a good dash of melancholy mixed in with the excitement and passion for this project this week.  Last week we submitted our pre-production binders and it was really interesting to see all of our work from over the last 2.5 months pulled together into more concrete and tangible formats.  Many of the ideas that I have been batting around and names that I was thinking of for interview subjects become more solidified in a very encouraging way!  This week we are pulling together a really rough preliminary draft of our final research essay.  There are many parts that we are not able to complete yet because our projects are not completed yet.  But a good introductory literature review should be within reach after all our weeks of research synopses here on the blog! Between these articles and books, and my own 5 year history of studying fan culture and fan fiction, I do feel more confident in my own ability to take this step forward.  I am also looking forward to meetings with my committee both in person and by phone over the next couple weeks as we discuss this semester and ideas about the next deliverable for this course.

I selected a fan fiction centered article this week by Abigail DeKosnik.  It was published in 2009 in Cinema Journal and explores the idea gender and politics within fan fiction, as well as the idea of commercialization of fan fiction.  DeKosnik writes about how fan fiction is predominantly written by women who do not seek compensation for their efforts, but that as with any new mode of production eventually it is picked up and commercialized.  In this case she writes of the failed company FanLib, a company that had already left the market by 2008, but who had been run by outsiders, and men at that.  There was backlash that those outside of the fan fiction writing community should profit off of the transformative labor of the writers.  DeKosnik compared this unfair commercialization to the SugarHill Gang, and how that rap group brought rap and hiphop to the main stage by stepping on the backs of the DJ’s and artists who had genuinely developed the new style.  The comparison is apt as both rap and hip hop and fan fiction are derivative in nature, sampling from other texts and songs and transforming into new creative works, but at this point fan fiction writers had protected themselves from excessive copyright claims by steering clear of commodification of their entries.  But she points out that even if fan fiction itself remains free or part of a gifting culture, there is still one group that benefits beyond the writers, the media producers and conglomerates.  Because even when the fan fiction is free, it is also free advertising driving readers back towards the media text, capitalizing on the free labor of these mostly female writers.  The author does suggest that commercialization of fandom is coming, and that the ones who are actually writing it should be included in the compensation rather than having that rug pulled out from underneath their feet.

This article is handy for my research as it provides a bit of history regarding attempted commercialization of fan fiction.  It also brings very valid points to the table about the gender inequity of previous commercialization attempts.  That women’s writing should not be co-opted by men from outside of their fandom communities  It also tangentially brings the idea of the political economy of media and conglomeration. This article mainly focuses on fan fiction commercialization while only briefly addressing copyright concerns, and this is helpful to have a somewhat different perspective on commercialization arguments around fan fiction.

 

De Kosnik, A. (2009). In focus: Fandom and feminism: Gender and the politics of fan production: Should fan fiction be free? Cinema Journal, 48(4), 118-124. Retrieved from http://libproxy.temple.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.temple.edu/docview/1672792?accountid=14270

Planning the Future

This week we have been working on our pre-production binders.  Making plans for the next few months of work on our projects, and putting nebulous ideas into more concrete terms.  Updating my early plans to make room for realities, trimming excess to focus more on the core strengths of my project idea.  This process has been an interesting amalgamation of refreshing/exciting and stressful.  I have found additional people to tap for interviews and I am very excited about adding to my list.  One thing that I love about fandom is how much of a community it truly can be, dropping a pebble in the pond creates ripples and in this case contacts who may be interested in participating! But I do think I will want to reach out online within the fandom communities to get input and answers to questions from the active participants as well.

The research I am highlighting this week is an edited compilation of essays on Fan Fiction called The Fan Fiction Studies Reader, this book was published in 2015.  It was compiled and edited by Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson, and it included essays by Henry Jenkins, Cornel Sandvoss, Sara Gwenllian Jones, and Francesca Coppa among several additional authors.  This book is divided into sections on fan fiction as literature, fan identity  and feminism, fan communities and affect, and fan creativity and performance.  The essays in each section build out why the study of fan fiction is important, and highlights how it affects the fandom in varying ways.  The section on fandom and feminism and on communities bring other aspects of fannish activities into the conversation about fan fiction.  It does analyse and dive into the NSFW/sexualized aspects of fan fiction that can be prevalent.  These fan fictions can be important engagement in othering of identity and rewriting media to be inclusive of more than hetero-normative perspectives of love, relationships, and away from restrictive puritanical phobia of pleasures.

This book is important for my project research as it gathers ideas and writings from many academics that I admire, around a topic that is very important for my project.  Fan Fiction is a very large segment of this project as it is a huge area of fannish activity with many paths available to discuss it and display it!  Having the sounding board of earlier research to step up to this topic with.  I will be enabled to engage with the topic in my paper, but also to engage with it more educationally and entertainingly for my audience with the website.  Kristina Busse is also a prolific writer in the topic of Fan Fiction.

Busse, K., and Hellekson, K.,  (2014). The fan fiction studies reader. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Pivoting to Fan Fiction

This week I have pivoted my research focus into the area of fan fiction.  The article I read was from a law journal published in 2014, written by Jane Becker.  Her article puts forth the argument that fan fiction should be afforded protection under the first amendment as it provides important cultural dialogue and and freedom of imagination, it gives space for criticism and even political discussion.  Her argument about the role fan culture and fan fiction plays in creating valuable spaces where speech occurs is related to the vastness of the media and its over arching incursion into most aspects of modern life.  The media texts that develop fandoms tend to be very popular overall and help shape discourse moving forward.  Becker touches on political economy of the media, referencing conglomeration and the control that big media corporations can exert over the entertainment industry and the texts we consume.  She also touches on how lack of diversity in media conglomerate board rooms can affect what is pictured on screen as well.  Her point here being that the overwhelming control of copyright holdings and the media by conglomerates affects the free speech of marginalized communities like persons of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women. That fan fiction should be protected because it is an arena where these marginalized voices and points of view can be brought out and shared and to engage in the discourse begun by the major media players, but in their own ways.  That fan fiction should be protected because it creates agency in its audience and participants rather than passive consumption.  She brings up the term Archontic writing as a better term than derivative or appropriative, as it leaves out the somewhat negative connotation in favor of a term that means building upon, expanding, and existing next to the original, not replacing it.  I want to dig further into this term and perhaps use it on the website to help describe fan fiction.  Becker also dives into the more legal bricks of fan fiction, copyright, and free speech.  How the arguments of transformative nature, and how generally fan fiction is non competitive with original works on an economic front, provide some but not complete defense for fan fiction writers.

Becker’s article is very helpful for my research and project as I begin to bring together my ideas for the fan fiction portion of my website.  I want to include a small crash course on things to think about to protect oneself from copyright infringement claims and how to be proactive about fan fiction and the law.  I like the idea of archontic writing, and want to dig into that as well.  This section of  my project is one of the largest areas of fan activity so I want to be suited up provide an entertaining and informative guide.  This would be for both readers and writers of fan fiction stories.

This week I have been thinking about my proof of concept and trying to figure out exactly what I want to bring as my proof.  I am working on a few different angles in developing a good homepage for the site, but also some examples for design and “mood” of some pillars on the site, and designing visualized data.  In the digital storytelling workshop we went over graphic design for data visualization so I think that I have some good options for tools to create graphics, and I also have good data sources for inputs.  I have continued reading and researching, and have been looking at the fan fiction and copyright sources this week more as I have been working somewhat more on that section of the project with the data visualization work!

Becker, J. M. (2014). Stories around the digital campfire: Fan fiction and copyright law in the age of the internet. Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal, 14(1), 133-156.

Initial Media Feedback

This week we focused on the initial media we have collected and created.  I think that all of our class brought really great media to the class!  I was very impressed and am very excited to see these projects come to fruition together!

The feedback that I received for my initial media was very constructive and helpful!  My media included a bunch of pictures from my Supernatural convention visit and one 7 minute audio interview.  I was very lucky with the interview subject Heidi, she was amazing and did such a great job bringing life to the questions I presented and painting a mental picture of the scene!  Much of the positive feedback that I had was related to her as the interview subject, and the great job she did!  Specifically, how well she painted the scene and the many places were pull quotes for text could be taken and how the interview applies to many areas of my project.  My interview questions were positively received, and I hope to be able to customize them for other interviews that will be done in the future.  Other positive feedback related to the photos of the cosplayers, and that these will be good additions for the website content.

Some feedback about room for improvement included getting tech issues with a microphone sorted out (one that will work WITH my camcorder), making sure that I am on top of copyright issues and permits for shooting, reminders about my desire to have both audio and video, and to get B roll for background to audio segments.  Also, that some interview questions could be developed to be more focused rather than wide exploration, and to have more subjects for interviews.  There were some concerns that the pictures from my phone were a bit too blurry, I am hoping that some of editing will help alleviate part of that issue.  I received questions about how I will keep people engaged with the website, and a concern that having a lot of components could make the audience overwhelmed.  I am hoping that having a lot of components will work towards extended engagement.  I had a reminder to request to have the interview subject repeat the question in case I don’t want to use my own voice , and the suggestion to create an online vision board to help with photography framing.

Both the positive feedback and the advice for improvement will help me in the coming months as I am gathering more data, and conducting more interviews in both video and audio formats.

Library Visit and the Second Convention

This week has been fairly busy! I met with Kristina De Voe in the new library, (just an aside but that building is amazing!), I attended the first meeting of the Digital Storytelling workshop at the library, and went to the Children’s Comic Con on Saturday.  It was really nice to meet with Kristina again, and to explore the new library building.  I had not seen Kristina for a couple school years, and this was my first chance to spend a good couple hours at the new library building.  Kristina has such an amazing depth of knowledge in the topics around media studies, and knows all the best ways to tweak search terms and pull up the best databases to utilize!  I had asked for some help in researching cultural studies, as it is a little bit further abroad than the research in media and communication have taken me so far.  She had very helpful suggestions to search in Sage Knowledge, and a few more reference style materials to get a good basis on the theory before diving into more in-depth options.  The digital storytelling workshop seems like it will be helping me to learn some great creative tools for visual and audio storytelling including Adobe Spark, which is the new Adobe software I believe I had spoken to Laura about a few weeks ago.  I am hoping to work on some of the Fan-Fiction segment of my project through this workshop and hopefully develop some good visual content to illustrate some of the details of this category.

I had my ticket for the Children’s Comic-Con on Saturday, and while I am glad I went, this event was not quite what I was hoping it would be in terms of getting photos or interviews for the project.  In terms of experience with a much more well attended and busy event it was definitely good, there were thousands of kids and parents at this event.  The event itself was “busier” there were many panels, Q&A sessions, costume contests, dance contests, creative workshops, and educational sessions.  There were multiple stages that these activities were conducted from, and there were hundreds of vendors.  But the event was tilted pretty heavily towards video gaming and social media stars.  With all the children that were around, all the video gaming noise, and the chaotic energy that can ensue, I quite promptly began developing a migraine.  I ended up leaving after about 1.5 hours, but this event ticket was only about $20, so my budget was not pinched leaving early.  I did have valuable experiences, and it is good to compare to the Supernatural convention from September.

The book that I reviewed this week for my research is Fan CULTure: Essays on participatory fandom in the 21st century.  This is a collection of essays edited by Kristin Barton and Jonathan Lampley, featuring essays by Jeff Thompson, Don Tresca, Kathleen Williams,  Susan Orenstein, Owain Gwynne, Bethan Jones, Kent Aardse, Jennifer Garlen, Anissa Graham, Mayrav Koren-Kuik, Michael Graves, in addition to the editors.  It is organized into 3 sections, fan productions, social media, and fan influenced content.  The essays cover topics ranging from fan-fiction and fan videos in the fan productions section, the Tim Tebow internet meme phenomenon and The X-Files online communities in the social media section, and looping back around to fan-fiction and fan activism in the fan influenced content section.

This book has been a constant companion each semester as I developed my research focus and passion for fandom and fan culture.  It is a few years old, but is new enough to be relevant to many of the fandoms that are current and can give insight to older ones as well.  It also does a great job of highlighting the ways that fandom has become much more interactive, especially in how fans can exert tremendous influence with the creators of their fannish content.  But can also turn around to become creators of content themselves.  It is nice to have an anthology of collected essays like this one to bring many points of view into conversation.

In Barton, K. M., & In Lampley, J. M. (2014). Fan CULTure: Essays on participatory fandom in the 21st century.

The Week Between

This week I connected over the phone with my committee chair, Jan Fernback.  I filled her in on my experiences at the Supernatural Convention the previous weekend and about the interviews and conversations I had and participated in with attendees.  We discussed what goals I should be aiming for in terms of a how many interviews I should try and get to make sure that I am covering my topics fully.  We also discussed a timeline related to the both the project and the accompanying paper for upcoming check-in points.  I have my meeting with Kristina De Voe scheduled for Tuesday the 8th, so I don’t have any updates from that meeting yet, other than confirmation that it is on my calendar!  I did also sign up for the digital storytelling workshop that Stanley tipped me off about at the library on Tuesday mornings, so I am very excited to join in with this program!  I tried to schedule a tour and observation of my local NBC news station WGAL but did not hear back from them, so I have been observing video and photography shoots for the marketing department of Webstaurant Store, they do their video and photography for most of the items on their site and their marketing initiatives in house, as well as filming training classes for their employees.  It has been interesting to see the process of bringing in an object, creating text content, image and video content, and then for it to “go live” on the site!  I have also been working on a few of the LinkedIn Learning courses over the last weeks!  On this coming Saturday I have the Children’s Comic Con near Philly, I am not planning on getting too many photos, but am hoping for an interview or two with adults, and to soak in a bit more of the experience!

The article I am summarizing this week is Henry Jenkins’ Superpowered Fans published in the journal Boom in 2012.  This article is about Jenkins’ experiences with Comic-Con in San Diego which is THE location for the big one.  This article relates to the many ways that fans and the utilize the convention.  He organizes his article by dividing the convention into categories: an invasion, a homecoming party, a publicity event, as a jury, as a consciousness raising session, a costume party, a networking event, a marketplace, life support, classroom, and as a ritual.  Each of these categories means something different depending upon whether you are a media producer or a fan, or somewhere in between.  As fandom and fan culture has risen in social stature over the last decades, Comic-Con has also risen in prominence and desirability for both producers and fans.  It is the golden grail, to have a ticket is special, and to introduce a film or show there successfully generally means very good things for a media text.  But beyond the glitz and glamour of the convention it is a meeting place for people of diverse backgrounds and interests to connect and build relationships, and to potentially help shape the media offerings of the future.

This article is helpful for my project because Jenkins is one of the prominent academic authors in Fan Culture, and these couple weeks I have been focusing on the conventions and cosplaying portions of my plans.  His insights into the experience and observations of conventions as a fan and academic are helpful to bolster my own experiences.  His background in transmedia and convergence culture/convergence media help inform his understanding of the inner workings of media producers, but also allow connections to fans directly.   I will be reading many articles by Jenkins, but wanted to highlight this one in light of my recent project activities attending and related to fan conventions.

Jenkins, H. (2012). Superpowered fans. Boom, 2(2), 22. doi:10.1525/boom.2012.2.2.22

 

Aca-Fans and some fangirling of my own!

This week I worked through some of the book Fandom at the Crossroads by Lynn Zubernis and Katherine Larsen.  Zubernis and Larsen are self-described Aca-fans of the CW television show Supernatural.  An aca-fan is an academic who is a fan of a media text.  This book was their deep dive into their own relationship with the TV show as a media text but also as an active production, with the fandom, and with their academic interests.  The show Supernatural is a bit of a unique media text and fandom.  It just started its 15th season this fall, so it “grew up” so to speak alongside the dawn of the internet and social media, and the producers and actors have really adopted the fandom and are more involved and interactive with their fandom than any other media text I have seen.  There are plot lines in this show involving fan-fiction and fan conventions, as well as 4th wall breaks and occasional fan service.

This book is very important for my research goals around my project.  Zubernis and Larsen write about how difficult it can be to be an academic with a passionate interest in a somewhat stigmatized area or topic.  They write about embracing the duality and convergence of their roles as researcher and fan rather than trying to compartmentalize.  They write about the difficulty of inhabiting the role of ethnographer and self-ethnographer at the same time and the reticence of fans and academics to accept their positions, but have found enthusiasm of participation to generally wipe away any reluctance.  They also cover the role of pleasure and sexuality in fandom and the negotiation of identity and safe spaces within fandom.  This book and their work beyond it are incredibly helpful to me in my research and in soothing the anxieties of my own aca-fandom.  There are women who have come before me on this trail who are passionate and dedicated to the study of fandom, and who have worked incredibly hard to make the idea of an aca-fan less stigmatized!   AND OH MY GOD!  I MET LYNN ZUBERNIS AT THE CONVENTION!!!!

That brings me to what I have worked on for my project this week.  I attended the Supernatural Convention in NJ on Saturday and met one of my academic idols.  I have no shame in stating that I was a little awestruck and may have fangirled a little when I realized who she was!  I definitely purchased her latest book, and got it signed, and got a photo, and a selfie together, you know… for the project…  The convention itself was a little over and underwhelming.  I would guesstimate about 500 people were in attendance, and it was held in basically 3 spaces.  The expo center lobby, a basket ball court sized vendor area, and a larger stage area with a bout 26 rows of seating for the audience to sit and experience the panels of Q&A sessions, the costume contest, auction, and band.  I think I expected a bit more glitz and glamour and was a little let down by how little there was of that.  I was also very nervous to ask people to get pictures and to be interviewed.  I did end up with about 5 photos of cosplayers and Lynn, as well as one good longer interview subject that was recorded on my phone with the label microphones I had purchased.  This was because I was trying to be unobtrusive with pulling out the camera, but also because the mics I bought apparently do not work with my camera because they do not have their own power source.  I enjoyed the experience of the con as a fan of the show, but it was stressful and draining and it was expensive to do in any meaningful way other than sitting in the general audience events.

Larsen, K., & Zubernis, L. S. (2012). Fandom at the crossroads: Celebration, shame and fan/producer relationships. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.