“We’re not there”

Fans, Fan Studies, and the Participatory Continuum

Authored by: Rhiannon Bury

The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138638921
eBook ISBN: 9781315637518
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315637518.ch13

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Abstract

Thirty years have passed since Saturday Night Live aired a sketch in which William Shatner tells the nerdy, obsessive Trekkies to “get a life.” Thanks in part to the work of “founding” fan scholars such as Henry Jenkins (whose 1992 book Textual Poachers recounts that sketch) and Camille Bacon-Smith, participatory fans have gained some degree of respect; fan studies has become a formal area of study in media and communications studies and a sizable body of literature has developed as a result. Unfortunately, constituting participatory culture as a legitimate object of study has resulted in only certain fans being constituted as legitimate subjects of study. By focusing on fandom and fan communities, scholars including myself have operationalized, even if unintentionally, a binary between those fans who interact with other fans and are involved in community, and those who are not. This chapter sets out not simply to include “non-participatory fans” and examine their practices, but to deconstruct the participatory/non-participatory binary. Drawing on survey and interview data collected as part of a larger project on television viewing and fan practices in the Web 2.0 era, I map out a continuum of practices to argue that the majority of fans are participatory but are not involved in fan communities, or likely to become so, despite the increased visibility and accessibility of fandom afforded by new media/social media platforms and mobile technologies. I will start by providing a brief overview of fan studies scholarship and then present statistical and qualitative findings that explore the complexities and meanings of two participatory practices: information seeking and collective criticism/interpretation.

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