Category Archives: Fandom, Subcultures and Cult Media

Auto-Ethnography: Digital Fandom

According to Lucy Bennett (2004), fandom has been impacted by digital age in five ways: communication, creativity, knowledge, organisation and civic power. When it comes to my engagement, communication and knowledge are the most relevant. My main activity online is on social media, particularly Twitter more so than Facebook and Instagram, this is because twitter is more public and free to start connecting with band members, public figures and other fans as well as finding out new information on tours, releases and news on my favourite artists. For myself, this is my main use of digital fandom, rather than creating or making fan made creations.

The internet is an extension of fan/producer relationships, it allows for fans to connect with their idols, celeb crushes and identify themselves as however they want on a different platform to real life. As a fan of Drenge, it’s nice to tweet them photos of the gig I’ve just been to, or tweet them about something they’ve said whether that be online or at a gig or a previous time you met them to remind them in a more accessible way, where they are likely to see it.

In the past, I’ve created an online fan identity through multiple ways; username, profile photo, profile background as well as the obvious content that I share and who I interact with. For example, when I was younger it was more distinguished that I was a You Me At Six fan; on Twitter my username was “hazmeatsix”, my background and header was the band, I repeatedly tweeted them on my birthday to get a “happy birthday” tweet from them. This identity has shifted, my music taste has changed and the way I interact and portray myself has changed more to my offline identity as a fan of ‘indie’, being more part of the subculture rather than a fan of a band. It’s more about interaction with other fans of similar interests, arranging to meet up for gigs, it creates a sense of belonging and creates a community online and offline (Jenkins, H. 1992). An example of this is replying to the band, Slaves; when they tweet something funny or relatable, I’ll reply with a witty response to be seen in a more equal light to them; sharing interests and being the same ‘type’ of person rather than ‘just a fan’.

Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience (Jenkins, H. 2010). While my digital fan engagement is more about music and artists rather than a fictional story, this definition can still be useful here. Slaves integrate into branding rather than narrative to create more of an entertaining experience with the band and to feel more involved. They produce external work such as art which they sell and distribute solely online which also supports Bennett’s ‘knowledge’ category of easier/quicker distribution.

 

Bibliography

Bennett, L. (2004) Tracing Textual Poachers: Reflections of the development of fan studies and digital fandom in The Journal of Fandom Studies. Intellect

Jenkins, H. (1992) “Get a Life! Fans, Poachers, Nomads” in Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. London: Routledge

Jenkins, H. (2010) On anti-fans and paratexts: An interview with Jonathan Gray (part two) [Weblog]. Available at: http://henryjenkins.org/2010/03/on_anti-fans_and_paratexts_an_1.html (Accessed: 24 March 2017).

Auto-Ethnography: Gender Identity intersects Fan Identity

Gender refers to how a person identifies themselves, not based on their biological sex. As I identify as a female, I’ve grown up with the expectations of being a female, these can be considered as regulations of the body (Foucault, M. 1975). As a female, I was taught the ‘female expectations’ and how to act in terms of mannerisms and attitude and how to present myself such as through my appearance. These aspects form an identity that through time changes, particularly when it comes to fandom and fan practices and even how I identify as a fan.

One way where my own gender identity has intersected with my fan identity can relate to my association within the One Direction fandom four years ago. The expectations of young girls aged from as young as five to sixteen is to be a fan of the popular boy band, One Direction. Within this expectation, there’s further presumptions of their discourses as to how they behave, dress, communicate which therefore, mostly reflects females and disregards the male fans. This refers to term, ‘hysterical’, young teenage girl fans are mostly associated with hysteria in terms of their reaction to a fan object, it’s been seen with The Beatles and now with One Direction. In the height of my involvement in this fandom, I was never as extreme as the media portrayed One Direction fans to be, the fanbase is primarily female and so the reports on One Direction fans always generalised young females, being a part of that group summary was frustrating as it isn’t relevant to everyone. It’s the extreme fans that create these connotations and it becomes generalised. For myself, I’ve been categorised at this type of hysterical female fan when them practices and behaviours aren’t how I respond to the fan object. I appreciate the creativity and music made by One Direction but don’t get as invested in the fan identity. However, in terms of having a favourite member which is what most people assume about fans in the One Direction, I did participate in this which shows my conformation to the gender and fan identity cross over.

Women are portrayed as fans and readers, which I can relate to in terms of my own practices and identity, girls are present but invisible (McRobbie, A. & Garber, J. 1978) in a way this is relevant in that personally, I don’t go to the extremes and remain more reserved about most of my fan identities, I don’t create things for people to be a fan of, I like to engage as a fan and enthuse over fan objects such as bands and books and TV shows rather than be a producer. On the other hand, the female majority of the One Direction fan base refutes the idea of girls being ‘invisible’ as they go to the opposite extreme to make themselves seen.

 

Bibliography

Foucault, M. (1975) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Random House

McRobbie, A. & Garber, J. (1978) “Girls and subcultures”, in McRobbie, Angela, Feminism and youth culture (2nd ed.), Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press, pp. 12–25

Auto-Ethnography: My Levels of Fan Cultural and Fan Social Capital

The ideas of cultural and social capital link closely to the ideas about taste and how it creates an identity.

My own fan cultural capital developed from a variety of reasons, textual knowledge, impressive catalogues and interaction with a fan object/community. Textual knowledge is knowing a vast amount of about a fan object, for example with me, my fan cultural capital is greatened by knowing the message behind certain lyrics or music videos because I know the context of that band. With impressive catalogues, my cultural capital is heightened by accumulating records and collectors’ items such as exclusive versions of CD’s and vinyls, these objects related to my favourite bands and artists increases my cultural capital and starts to develop an identity for myself as to what I like and how I express it. The final key aspect to my fan cultural capital is what I consider to be the most distinctive area that shows a greater capital for fans, not just myself – interaction with fan object/community. Having the best interacting with an object or a fan community can create a sense of cultural capital, the battle between fandoms as to who’s is better is seen all over, particularly with Directioners. Cultural capital works with economic capital to produce social privilege and distinction (Fiske, J. 1992), from this, we can say cultural capital leads to social capital.

Drawing on my own experiences of fan capital, I believe fan social capital cements a person’s taste and identity. Social capital is developed through having direct contact with important figures attached to fan object and gate keeping certain information; in a sense, it makes that idea of ‘who you know’ more apparent and can increase your social capital and further distinguishes your identity and taste through association.

For me, being friends with bands or getting myself recognised through fan activities such as attending gigs, writing reviews and socialising and networking online pushes my social capital and gives me an identity that not only do the bands recognise but what other fans will see me as too. People choose their music not only for its message but also for the ways it can bolster their self-image (Lewis, G. 2008), leading to strengthening of my own personal identity. John Fiske says that “fans are the most discriminating and selective of people and the cultural capital they produce is the mist highly developed and visible of all”.

From my participation in fanbases, I disagree with this idea, it relates mostly to extreme fans such as One Direction which I have been a part of, where there is competition and rivalry and discrimination about who can and can’t like them, it’s unpleasant. However, compared to my most recent fan involvement, this is not the case; people are welcoming and like to encourage sharing these fan objects (bands) and attend gigs together. It’s very dependent upon the fan object.

 

Bibliography

Fiske, J. (1992) ‘The Cultural Economy of Fandom’. IN Lewis, L. A. (Ed.) The Adoring Audience. London, Routledge, pp30-49.

Lewis, G. (2008) ‘Taste Cultures and Musical Stereotypes: Mirrors of Identity?’ Popular Music and Society

Auto-Ethnography: My participation within a particular fandom

Jensen (1992) describes a fan to have one of two characteristics: obsessed loner or a frenzied, hysterical member of the crowd. I mostly identified with the second of the two in 2010, The most memorable time when I felt like part of a community with a fandom was being a part of the sixer fandom for You Me At Six. This fandom practiced both online and offline and continues to do so now. Sixers were dedicated fans to the band, we arranged ‘sixer gatherings’ in big cities where we’d congregate due to our one passion being You Me At Six.

While I personally never got involved with the likes of ‘fan-fiction’ and recreating videos etc. I participated in attending the meet-ups, attending gigs and arranging to meet the fellow sixers to enjoy the gig together, create banners, hang around after to try and meet them, excessively tweet to gain their attention, referring back to the hysterical crowd member. As some fans were highly active in textual productivity, creating works related to the band just for fun (Fiske, J. 1992), Michel De Certeau suggests there is a divide between producers and consumers, this example suggests otherwise and is also supported by Jenkins (1992) who adds onto this claiming consumers can be producers and create artistic work to express their fandom.

There was a lot of things that came with being in this particular fandom, that weren’t any different to how other fandoms operate, for example, we had a particular style, sweep fringe, converse, skinny jeans and studded belts – this was also relevant to other fandoms of a similar taste. This demonstrates the ‘enunciative’ type of audience productivity within a fandom; fan talk circulation around a certain community referring to hairstyle and clothing that in turn reflects our social identity (Fiske, J. 1992).

Within the sixer fandom, there was a hierarchy, there was a certain group of fans that were friends online and offline and appeared to have a closer relationship with the band than anyone else, the way they talked about them and the gigs was a lot more personal than to how I spoke about them.

There was an evident competition between who was a bigger fan, who knew more and who had been a fan the longest, I participated in this, in that when someone I knew became a fan of You Me At Six, I felt like I was higher in the hierarchy than they were.

Within this fandom, there was rivalry with bands of a similar genre and status, for example with All Time Low, calling their practices, ‘fangirly’, which draws upon the idea by Kristina Busse (2013) where fandoms protect their own by criticising others on the way they demonstrate their fandom thus pathologising in their own ways.

 

Bibliography

Busse, K. (2013) Geek hierarchies, boundary policing, and the gendering of the good fan.

De Certeau, M. (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life. trans. Steven Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley

Fiske, J. (1992) ‘The Cultural Economy of Fandom’, in Lewis, L. A. The Adoring Audience. London, Routledge

Jenkins, H. (1992) ‘“Get a Life!” Fans, Poachers, Nomads” in Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. London: Routledge

Jensen, J. (1992) ‘Fandom as Pathology: The Consequences of Characterization’. In Lewis, L. A. The Adoring Audience. London, Routledge.

Auto-Ethnography: My fan practice

“Fans are highly articulate. Fans interpret media texts in a variety of interesting and perhaps unexpected ways. And fans participate in communal activities – they are not ‘socially atomised’ or isolated viewers/readers” (Hills, M. 2002). This can be simplified as an obsession and ability to quote the media product, however many academics don’t like this as a fan is too complex to define this way.

Taking this into account and in reference to my own fan practices of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, features of this definition definitely do apply to myself. My fan practices for F.R.I.E.N.D.S consist of me purchasing household items such as doormats, mugs and cushions that have links to the show, as well as replica items such as the French poster seen in one of the character’s apartment and owning the full box set. I’d say my fan practices stretch further than items as it becomes part of my daily life and conversation, quoting the programme in conversation, sharing videos and bloopers online and even taking fashion inspiration from the female characters. The focus of this auto-ethnography will be on the subject of the female characters.

As an individual fan practice, the fashion and attitudes that the female characters have in F.R.I.E.N.D.S have influenced my own fashion and attitudes to certain topics, this relates to the idea that dominant studios initially aimed to reach a female audience and to provide young working women with figures of identification (Duffett, M. 2013). As well as enjoying the humour and story lines of this sitcom, I have developed an identity based on these characters and a certain way to see myself. Additionally, my motivation for this fan practice is that I feel it shows a sense of my personality as it portrays a certain sense of humour that to me is important and signifies types of people. It definitely creates a sense of identity for myself due to the influences it has on my style and personality. Enjoyment is brought to me through these practices as it attracts certain people to converse with and creates friendships and discussions about a mutual interest. It’s a great feeling knowing there are other people interested in the same thing and while I don’t think this particular media product creates a ‘community’ as such, it just links like-minded people, with a positive emotional engagement (Duffett, M. 2013). Personally, my identification with the characters is possibly what has led me to purchase the replica poster as seen in one of their apartments, as it shows an expression of interest in the style. This also puts me as a brand consumer, someone who snaps up the latest thing, buy extra merchandise and builds collections (Cavicchi, 1998).

My fashion choices, as influenced by F.R.I.E.N.D.S, has contributed to cultural identities. While, in my opinion, there is no strong community for this media product, it sparks conversation and people notice things that appear similar. For example, many times have people commented, ‘that’s the type of dress Phoebe from F.R.I.E.N.D.S would wear’, which in turn cements how my fan practices have formed a sense of identity for myself.

 

Bibliography

Cavicchi, D. (1998) Tramps Like Us: Music and Meaning Among Springsteen Fans. Oxford University Press

Duffett, M. (2013) Understanding Fandom: An Introduction to the Study of Media Fan Culture. Bloomsbury

Hills, M. (2002). Fan Cultures. Taylor & Francis