Tuesday, 3 March 2009

CFP: Bitten by Twilight

CFP: Bitten by Twilight: Youth culture, media, and the Twilight saga
Edited by Melissa Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, and Lissa Behm-Morawitz

Proposal deadline: April 10, 2009

The editors seek essays that explore Stephenie Meyer¹s wildly popular Twilight series. We are particularly interested in essays that explore the cultural significance of the Twilight phenomenon and its impact on youth culture. The collection will feature scholarly work from a diversity of theoretical and methodological perspectives, including: analyses of the series¹ messages, production and marketing processes, and audiences. We welcome work from a wide variety of disciplines, including: communication, sociology, cultural studies, psychology, religious studies, and gender studies.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

--Representations of gender, race, class and sexuality
--Religion, morality, and values
--Feminist and anti-feminist themes in Twilight
--Intended and unintended audiences
--Fans and anti-fans
--Genre and vampire/werewolf folklore
--Relationship models (romantic, friendship, and familial)
--Space and place in Twilight
--Celebrity culture and Stephenie Meyer, Robert Pattinson, and Kristen
--Translation of the series for the screen
--The Twilight franchise

This collection will be proposed to Peter Lang's "Mediated Youth" series.

Please email a 250-word proposal, short bibliography, brief author¹s bio,
and contact information to Melissa Click at clickm@missouri.edu by April 10,

Notification of accepted proposals will be made by May 15, 2009.
First chapter drafts of 6000 to 8000 words will be due in early fall 2009.

The Dr Who Influence?


The Dr Who Influence?
February 27, 2009

Researchers at the University of Glamorgan have been awarded £20,000 by the BBC Trust to examine the impact of landmark BBC Wales drama series on the way that Wales in general, and Cardiff and South Wales in particular, are represented.

The research will centre on a case-study of Dr Who and Torchwood and will focus on the ways in which these high-profile drama series represent Cardiff and South Wales and how they are interpreted and appreciated by different audiences (general viewers from different parts of Wales, for example, and professionals charged with promoting and branding the city/region).

The research is being conducted by Professor Steve Blandford, Professor Stephen Lacey, Dr Ruth McElroy and Dr Rebecca Williams and involves a survey of viewer attitudes, including face-to-face focus groups and online questionnaires. In addition to analysing the programmes themselves, the team also aim to interview key production personnel and professionals in the tourist industry and to draw parallels with representations in television drama of other cities, regions and nations.

The work began in January 2009 and a report is scheduled for September. It is hoped that the research will form the basis of a bid for research council funding for a larger project on television audiences in Wales and representations of national identity in television.

If you would like more information about the project, or are interested in participating in the audience survey, please contact Dr Rebecca Williams at: landmarktvproject@glam.ac.uk . If you would like to communicate in Welsh, please contact Dr Ruth McElroy at: rmcelroy@glam.ac.uk

Friday, 30 January 2009

CFP: In the Limelight and Under the Microscope: Forms and Functions of Female Celebrity

Email address correction: proposals should be sent to both Dr Su Holmes (Susan.holmes@uea.ac.uk) and Professor Diane Negra (Diane.negra@ucd.ie) by 28 February, 2009.

In the Limelight and Under the Microscope: Forms and Functions of Female Celebrity
Edited by Diane Negra and Su Holmes

Proposals are sought for an edited collection on the politics of female celebrity across a range of contemporary, historical, media and national contexts. From Reality TV, gossip blogging and media scandals, to narratives of the celebrity ‘trainwreck’ or breakdown, women are positioned at the centre of contemporary celebrity culture. Although film studies and media studies have long since examined questions of gender at the level of star or celebrity image, attempts to explore the wider ‘gendering’ of fame as a concept, set of ideologies and representational practices have been marginal. Indeed, in 2000, Christine Geraghty observed how women are ‘particularly likely to be seen as celebrities [rather than ‘stars’] whose working life is of less interest than their personal life’ (Geraghty, 2000: 12) – in part because women are more identified with the private sphere, and their value as ‘workers’ in the public sphere has historically had to struggle for cultural legitimacy. Yet despite the fact that the media and cultural fascination with the ‘private’ lives and identities of the famous has accelerated substantially since Geraghty was writing, and despite the fact that the apparently devalued currency of celebrity – the now familiar laments regarding the decline of ‘talent’ and ‘work’ – have been articulated with increasing fervor, there has been little academic analysis of the significance of the gendered politics of celebrity. This collection will seek to interrogate the representational tropes and map the broad terrain of female celebrity.

Questions/ topics may include, but are not limited to:

• How is the perceived uncoupling of talent from fame a particularly gendered phenomenon? Is it postfeminist?
• To what extent has Reality TV functioned to articulate gendered forms of fame?
• How do codes for celebrity representation articulate sexist logics (and how might these intersect with discourses of race, age, class and sexuality)?
• To what extent are these discourses ‘new’, and how can we excavate historical precedents?
• How are gendered constructions of celebrity particularized within national contexts?
• What contemporary/ historical views about ‘appropriate’ forms of femininity are articulated via the representation of female celebrities?
• How does the surveillance of the female celebrity body – in such forms as plastic surgery narratives, celebrity magazines and internet gossip blogging – function within this context?
• What drives the fascination/repulsion for ‘bad’ women/girls in celebrity culture?
• How do new delivery systems such as YouTube, and older ones like celebrity magazines, favor and foster the spectacle of female ‘train wreck’ celebrity?
• How do discourses of motherhood, maternalism, family, the ‘work/life balance’ and the concept of the celebrity couple shape images of female celebrity?
• How are female celebrities placed in an expanded environment of paparazzism and mainstreamed tabloid media?

Please send proposals (maximum 300 words), accompanied by a short biographical note, to Dr Su Holmes (susan.holmes@uea.ac.uk) and Professor Diane Negra (diane.negra@ucd.ie) by 28 February, 2009.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Affective Audiences: Analyzing Media Users, Consumers, and Fans


Sponsored by the Popular Communication Division.

Title: Affective Audiences: Analyzing Media Users, Consumers, and Fans
Time: Wednesday May 20, 12:00 – 19:30 and Thursday, May 21, 9:00 – 17:00
Limit: 50 persons
Cost: ICA Members: $60.00USD
(Includes morning and afternoon refreshments, lunch on your own)

The study of audiences constitutes a central concern of contemporary (popular) communication research. As Democratic U.S. Presidential nominee Barack Obama fills football stadia addressing enthusiastic supporters and political commentators frequently refer to “Obama fans” and “Palin fans,” evidence of the centrality of notions of affect and participation in contemporary mediated communication within and beyond the realm of traditional popular culture is abundant. This preconference aims to explore the social, cultural, textual, and psychological conditions through which readers engage with, and attach meaning and emotional significance to, the texts they privilege in their everyday media consumption.

Corresponding with the theme of the 58th International Communication Association’s conference Keywords in Communication (21-25 May 2009 in Chicago, Illinois, USA) the field of audience studies constitutes a key conceptual battleground that has witnessed a number of paradigm changes over the past half century which have both reflected and contributed to the wider discourses of social and cultural theory.

“Affective Audiences” explores these recent paradigm changes by offering a dedicated space within the ICA conference program that combines empirical audience research with a thorough examination of the field’s canon and a discussion of its conceptual challenges vis-à-vis convergence and globalization. The preconference therefore includes themes at the heart of contemporary audience studies:

• Audiences, participation, and citizenship
• The changing interplay of media production and consumption
• Convergence and audience participation
• Television fan cultures
• Gender and audiences

Wednesday, 20 May 2009
12:00 Welcome and Introduction (Cornel Sandvoss)

12:10 – 12:45 Opening Address: Social Institutions and the Affective Engagement of Audiences – Denise Bielby

13:00 – 16:00 SESSION 1: Fans, Audiences, and Citizenship
Chair: Liesbet van Zoonen
• Audiences, Users, Participants: Conceptualising the Affective Public in the Digital Public Sphere - Josetin Gripsrud)
• “It’s Annoying When They Keep Going on About Iraq”: The Political Uses of Popular Culture By First-Time Voters – Sanna Inthorn, Scott and John Street
• News Talk Online – Liz Bird
• The Citizen-Audience Dialectic: Beyond the Active Audiences Framework – Jeffrey Jones

Break 14:45 – 15:00

• Civic Education Through the Media – Lothar Mikos, Claudia Töpper)
• Keywords for Studying the Emotional Audience - Emily West)
• Affects, Information Processing, and Postcommunist Audiences – Alina Dobreva

16:30 – 18:30 SESSION 2: Audiences and Institutions: From Consumption to Production
Chair: Cornel Sandvoss
• Affective Audiences, Affective Musicians, and the Digital Economy – Baym and Burnett
• Capturing Impact? Qualitative Methods of Enquiry into the Arts Consumption Experience – Carnegie and O’Reilly
• Affective Labor in Academia: A Perspective on Blogs – Lia Ungureanu
• Working for the Text: Fan Labor and the New Organization – R.M. Milner)
• The Power of the Image: Exploration of an Image Archive – Virginia Nightingale

19:30 Optional preconference dinner
Off-site, venue TBD.

Thursday, 21 May 2008
09:00 – 11:00 SESSION 3: Gender, Fans and Audiences
Chair: Lynn Clarke
• What’s Gender Got to do with it?: Orientation, Academic Culture, and the Gendering of Audience/Fan Scholarship – Christine Scodari
• That’s So Hot: New Technologies, Audience Feedback, and the Gendered Body – Sarah Banet-Weiser
• A History of Violence: Cultivation Analysis and Fan Studies – Andy Ruddock

Break 10:00 - 10:10

• Women's Magazines and Their Readers – Brita Ytre-Arne
• Gender and Fandom as Interpretive/Performative Frames – CarrieLynn D. Reinhard
• Empowered or Embarrassed? Female Audiences Respond to Women and Sex in Contemporary British Cinema – Louise Wilks

11:30 – 13:00 SESSION 4: Television and its Audience
Chair: Jonathan Gray
• The Reflexive Self: The Expressive Subject in Makeover Television and Audience Research - Katherine Sender
• Reality TV: the Audience Also More “Real” in this Genre? – Michael Real
• Identity, Value & “Quality Television”: Fan Responses to the End of The West Wing – Rebecca Williams
• Media Socialization and Media Convergence – Martina Schuegraf and Theo Hug
• The Winner is the Emotion: Appraising Reality TV – Katrin Döveling and Jakob Eckstein
• Tourist Audiences, Mediated Places: From Hobbiton to Sedona (And Back Again) – Curtis Coats and Robert Moses Peaslee

13: 00 – 14:00 SESSION 5: Poster Presentations: Affective Audiences (Lunch on Your Own)

• Affective Convergence: Reality Programming, Judgment Culture, and Inter(re)active Audiences - Jack Z. Bratich
• Authenticity as Affect in Web2.0: Lonelygirl15 and the Contested Terrain Between The Real and The Fake - Michael Mario Albrecht
• Casting Credibility: Patterns of Audience Assessment of Television News Reporters and News Programs - Dumdum and Garcia
• Interactivity and Fans on the Battlestar Galactica Website and Forums - Melanie Bourdaa
• Modeling Consumption: Selling Fashion as a Way of Life - Elizabeth Wissinger
• Out in the Field: A Theoretical Analysis of “Cultural Gleaners” - Suellen Rader Regonini
• The Affective Space in Online Fandom and ‘Imagined Communities’: Nationalism in Hollywood North – Samita Nandy
• The Labor of Pleasure and a Rhetoric of Empowerment in NBC's Create Your Own Promo Contest – Michael Lahey
• Traveling With Fanfiction Writers - Angela Lee

14:15 – 15:45 SESSION 6: Technological Change and Audience Practices
Chair: Virginia Nightingale
• Participation Beyond Production: The Return of the Active Audience? - Joshua Greene and Jean Burgess
• Technological Convergence and Audience Activism – Jennifer Rauch
• Understanding the Implication of Interactivity Between Musical Artist and Audience: A Virtual Ethnography of Live Musical Performances on Secondlife.com - Hiesun Cecilia Suhr
• Audiences and Friendships in Online Social Networking Sites - Rebekah Willett
• Unplugged Audiencing: Media Resistance Practices in an Age of Convergence and Ubiquity - Michele Rosenthal and Rivka Ribak

16:00 – 17:00 SESSION 7: The Future of Audience Research (Roundtable)
Chair: Cornel Sandvoss
Lynn Clarke
Jonathan Gray
Kristina Busse
Nancy Baym
Liz Bird
Denise Bielby
Virginia Nightingale


Monday, 5 January 2009

CCI Researchers Win BBC Trust Grant


CCI Researchers Win BBC Trust Grant
January 5th, 2009

A group of Glamorgan researchers have been awarded £20,000 by the BBC Trust to examine the impact of landmark television drama, principally Dr Who and Torchwood on the representation of Cardiff (and to an extent Wales).

With the support of the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations, and the Theatre and Media Drama and Communication, Culture and Media Studies Research Units Professor Steve Blandford, Professor Stephen Lacey and Dr Ruth McElroy constructed the proposal and they will be joined on the project team by Dr Rebecca Williams. The work will begin in January with a report scheduled for September 2009.


Sunday, 21 December 2008

Mark Jancovich on Horror Studies


Oh the horror

The genre of horror is culturally significant, and should no longer be seen as a political football for left or rightwing viewsComments (…) Mark Jancovich guardian.co.uk, Monday 26 November 2007 08.30 GMT

When I began to study horror movies, I was motivated partly by my enjoyment of these films, but also by their cultural significance. In the 1980s, when I was a young research student, a series of groups on both the left and the right of the political spectrum were engaged in an attack on both horror and pornography, genres that were said to have dangerous effects on their viewers. These claims were often vague and contradictory, but there was a general sense that these genres were supposed to justify or cause violence against women. In other words, horror and porn movies and the people who watched them were dangerous and needed to be policed.

So the study of horror became a way for myself and others to question these claims and the politics on which they were based, and to begin to understand the strange alliance between sections of both the right and the left on these questions. On the one hand, academics such as Carol Clover showed that slasher films, which were often taken to be the epitome of misogynist horror, actually bore little relation to their characterisation by those who would censor them. If these films often featured a male homicidal maniac, these monstrous figures were hardly presented as the heroes of the piece. On the contrary, the movies were usually distinguished by the presence of a female rather than a male hero, a final girl who dispatched the killer and saved the day.

If Clover and others therefore focused on claims about the films themselves, other academics started to think about the audiences for these films, and demonstrated that they were anything but the mindless zombies often implied. Rather than being unquestioningly controlled by these films, the audiences for horror were often shown to be highly sophisticated and discerning viewers, whose responses were quite different from those often attributed to them.

However, as the study of horror became less disreputable, I also started to become concerned about it. As the field grew, academics started to feel less defensive (which is good) but also began to talk among themselves (which is bad). In the mid-1990s, I therefore found myself at a conference where I had the uncomfortable realisation that my work was no longer contentious. It seemed that most academics felt that there were now so many academics working in the field that we had somehow "won the battle".

But what was the battle? If I have jokingly said that my mission in the late 1980s was to get John Carpenter's Halloween onto a university syllabus, it was certainly far more concerned to oppose those who would censor and control what we could watch and discuss. Unfortunately, it seemed that, for many academics, the fact that we had got horror onto the syllabus proved that we had made it: they seemed to have forgotten that this might not mean that we had convinced anyone in the outside world.

Since then, the study of horror has taken several different directions. First, some academics simply study horror in much the same ways as English departments used to study the Gothic novel: they regard it as an important form of historical significance and aesthetic interest. I have no particular problem with this: I don't think it is scandalous to study horror films seriously, and many are more rewarding than many of the more respectable "classics". However, I also feel that this work ignores some pressing issues.

Second, there are the academics that celebrate the shocking extremes of horror, and suggest that shocking middle-class taste is a goal in itself. The argument seems to go that, if something shocks people, then it must be challenging. This approach I find more irritating. It often simply confirms the superiority of the academic and reverses the values of the censors. In other words, sometimes we might be right to be shocked and appalled by things, and simply ridiculing others for being "uptight" seems to have little real significance.

Furthermore, this kind of work rarely demonstrates any real engagement with the cultural politics of shocking images. If I was originally motivated by the campaigns against horror and pornography in the 1980s, there are now new campaigns against sexual and violent imagery. The government has introduced truly dangerous new legislation (see Section 6 of the proposed bill on the criminalisation of the possession of extreme pornography (pdf)), while a bubbling liberal consensus emerges around the new forms of horror represented by film series such as Saw and Hostel. In short, simply celebrating the shocking hardly engages with the logic of government legislation or more general cultural attitudes developing around horror.

However, there are also two key trends to which I am more sympathetic. The first is best represented by Martin Barker, whose work around audiences and censorship makes a real contribution to policy issues (see his study for the British Board of Film Classification, Audiences and Receptions of Sexual Violence in Contemporary Cinema (pdf)). The second trend is the historical studies of horror such as that of Kevin Heffernan, who has gone beyond a simple history of the films to analyse the ways in which 1950s horror films were crucial to a series of changes within the production, distribution and consumption of cinema in the period.

An understanding of history can enable us to show that campaigns against horror are anything but new, and that they have a rather worrying and unsavoury history. While those who condemn horror and pornography today may feel themselves to be on the side of the angels, an examination of the past quickly dispels any such certainty and may even suggest the opposite.


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Taste & Fandom - Louisa Stein & Kristina Busse


Taste and Fandom
Posted by Louisa Stein and Kristina Busse on November 17th, 2006

Taste Matters
by: Louisa Stein / San Diego State University

The innovative roundtable structure of the Flow conference facilitated inviting, ongoing conversations. Throughout the conference, I found that ideas raised in earlier panels fruitfully informed and contextualized my engagement with later discussions. For me, the question of taste and evaluation (the topic of my roundtable) emerged as a linchpin in later discussions, particularly those addressing media engagement and the relationship between niche and mainstream audiences. Indeed, I think that incorporating an awareness of taste and evaluation is critical for our analyses of media engagement past and present.

When we try to figure out how our evaluative stance, how our taste fits in with our academic study (be it of TV programs or TV audiences), one dimension of what we're after is how we (as TV scholars and as TV viewers–dare I say fans) fit in relation to mainstream television consumption. During the conference, this question of how we negotiate these different elements of our subjectivity turned to discussion of pedagogy: how can we deal with the fact that in addition to being professors, graduate students, etc., we're also TV viewers with tastes, albeit informed by our academic investments? The taste cultures from which we emerge influence not only what work we choose to do and how we frame that work, but also how we teach TV, what programs we show in class, and what we say about them. Larger questions of how we engage with media and media culture underlie these inward interrogations of the role of taste in our teaching and scholarly work: As TV studies academics, are we a niche? Are we participants in multiple, overlapping (and differing) niches? And how should our positioning affect what we do as TV scholars and teachers of TV?

I fully believe that we have much to gain from integrating our taste into our work and teaching–for our taste will influence us whether we acknowledge it or not. But I would caution against the impulse to equate our taste–not only regarding the programs that we admire, but also the strategies that we admire–with mainstream tastes or with fan tastes. As Kristina Busse points out, such recognitions of similarity can be dangerous; we can lose site of the multiplicity and the specificity of media taste cultures. If we do not closely examine our own position as TV viewers, fans, and participants in online TV cultures, we run the risk of simply equating our own engagement with that of the multiplicities of TV audiences.

At the same time, I would argue that it's crucial that we not overlook the potential connections to be drawn between our media engagement, fannish engagement, and mainstream engagement; if we address the subtleties of our own taste cultures in relation to mainstream and fan taste cultures, the connections and the differences will become more evident. Indeed, in cases like the Lost websites discussed in the “Watching TV Off TV” panel, we do see forms of engagement akin to fannish interactions with TV and the Internet. In response to Kristina Busse's argument in this issue of Flow regarding the specificity of fan behavior, I would suggest that we consider fannish engagement not as something embodied, but as a mode of engagement which transcends self-identification and bodies, and which can be offered and encouraged by the new media interface. These seemingly fannish modes of engagement, interwoven into the interface, may indeed interpellate the Lost website user into fannish behaviors. However, the hailing of fannish modes by online commercial interfaces does not completely level the playing field. There are still differences in community context, cultural values, and yes, taste, which shape media engagement–and these differences surface most lucidly when we assess our own taste investments as well as those of the communities we study.

As scholars studying TV audiences, we often seem to seek out audience communities that appear to us to most closely align with our own taste cultures as academics. I'm not suggesting that we should stop studying the audience cultures that reveal themselves as complex, dynamic, intellectual, and self-reflexive, for the study of these communities is indeed crucial in any assessment of how people engage with media. But our delight in finding our reflection in organic TV communities comes laced with pitfalls. We may rush to dismiss a television program as not having an active audience culture because it doesn't line up with our specific assessment of fan-oriented TV as complex, multilayered, and literary (assessments which match an academic taste-culture.) Compounding this, in seeking out audience communities which seem to resonate with our own taste, we may mistakenly correlate academic and fan cultures, and thus oversimplify fan processes by relegating them to the status of “cult.” In so doing, we risk overlooking interconnections and parallels between fan engagement and (the diversities of) mainstream engagement.

Above all, I would argue that if we are too quick to dismiss our own situation at the intersection of multiple, specific taste cultures–if we strive to bypass our own tastes in order to jump to a non-evaluative space where all cultural work is equally good–our value assessments are simply made invisible. Only by negotiating (I won't say embracing, because that's for each of us to decide on our own) our own evaluative processes, our taste, and acknowledging how those processes fit within or work in conflict with the subject of our study, can we hope to paint a more nuanced picture of the complexities of media engagement. Of course, that might not be our goal–and that in itself is a matter of taste.

Fandom-is-a-Way-of-Life versus Watercooler Discussion; or,The Geek Hierarchy as Fannish Identity Politics by: Kristina Busse

Henry Jenkins has described fans as early adopters and adapters in terms of media engagement, which goes for technology (e.g., downloading episodes, remixing footage) as much as behavior (e.g., extremely close readings, character analyses). Throughout the panel “Watching Television Off-Television,” the emphasis was on how such behavior has become mainstream: casual media users now can engage with a universe that exceeds the television show via cross-media, cross-platform texts, thus creating a synergistic “overflow” experience. Thus, Jason Mittell offered the examples of Alternate Reality Games and additional online-only available footage, Will Brooker presented various fully immersive web sites that invite viewers into the shows' diegetic spaces, and Henry Jenkins commented on the current ease of streaming or downloading television shows. The mainstreaming of fannish behaviors is thus seen as advantageous even if (or maybe even because?) the industry clearly attempts to create such behavioral patterns in order to sell their products and/or supplementary materials.

The central caveat I'd like to offer is that we not wholly conflate such recreations of fannish behavior with fandom per se. In other words, I am worried that in mainstreaming fannish behavior, the concept of the TV and media fan as a self-defined identity, as part of a more or less well-defined community, may get lost, and that other defining characteristics of the fan may be overlooked. Derek Johnson's position paper for the panel illustrates such a theoretical fusion when he describes how “the hyperseriality of multiplatformed television makes it possible for viewers to enter and consume from a position within the vast, detailed, internally-coherent 'hyperdiegesis' ascribed to niche-oriented cult series.”

My central question is: How alike or different is such a commercially constructed position when compared to the space media fans have traditionally eked out for themselves? If behavior is similar, what ultimately separates “fans” from casual TV viewers who engage fannishly? Or, more specifically, how can we define fans without invoking a category so expansive that it includes all media audiences or one so narrow that it excludes large numbers of individualist fans? How can we create a continuum that acknowledges the more intense emotional and actual engagements of many TV viewers today without erasing the strong community structures which have developed through media fandom?

This gets particularly difficult when we start looking at cases in which casual users work collectively, thus creating virtual communities (as in the case of wikis). Likewise, it becomes difficult to encompass the individualist fans who may exhibit fannish behavior in private yet do not appear (or even consider themselves) part of a television fan community. Cornel Sandvoss, for example, defines fandom as “the regular, emotionally involved consumption of a given popular narrative or text” (8), thus wholly changing the definition from collective to individual and from activity to emotional investment. (The exemplary scholarly study for the former would be Henry Jenkins' Textual Poachers, whereas the latter is possibly best represented by Cornel Sandvoss's Fans.)

I want to suggest that we distinguish between fan and fandom as well as acknowledge that there are different trajectories that combine into levels of fannishness. In other words, an intense emotional investment in a media text that is wholly singular may create a fan but does not make the individual part of a larger fandom, whereas a person enacting fannish behavior may not define him- or herself as a fan. It thus might be useful to consider the overlapping but not interdependent axes of investment and involvement as two factors that can define fannish engagement. Moreover, we need to consider models that can differentiate between people who are fans of a specific text, those that define themselves as fans per se, and those that are members of fandom.

It is here that community- versus self-definitions of identity come into play. Politics of inclusion and exclusion are central to concerns over normativity and representability; such issues surface in the identity debates of queer theory and critical race theory but also play out in the subcultural identity politics of fandom. Making the definition too inclusive makes any term as useless as defining it too narrowly: if any TV viewer who visits a website has become a fan, how can we intelligently differentiate those for whom fandom is a central component of their everyday lives, affecting personal interactions and their very identities? Likewise, if we only define fans as convention-goers whose entire social network has been drawn from the fannish community, we exclude the emotional and intellectual engagement of large numbers of viewers for whom a given show may have immense impact on their lives.

I'd argue that defining a spectrum of fannish engagement might be more useful than trying to define “proper fans.” As someone who studies participants within specific fan communities, I feel we need to be aware what point of the spectrum we are studying. For example, Jonathan Gray argues that we need to consider positions of non- and anti-fans. His work serves as an example of a more widely differentiated approach to studying media audiences which could help to refine notions of fandom rather than simply universalize the concept. At the same time, we need to address our own subject positions as fans and academics and examine our investment in defining ourselves and others as fans. Commercially encouraged modes of engagement that employ modes of fannish identity do not create instafans; moreover, the types of engagement often vary, not only with intensity but also with creativity. In the end, I feel it is important to realize that playing a computer game or looking around a website may not be wholly the same as participating in a fannish gift exchange or contributing to a shared fictional universe.

Notes: The Geek Hierarchy can be found here.

Works Cited:
Gray, Jonathan. New Audiences, New Textualities: Anti-Fans and Non-Fans. International Journal of Cultural Studies 6 (2003): 64–81.

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Sandvoss, Cornel. Fans: The Mirror of Consumption. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2005.

“Watching Television Off-Television.” Roundtable Discussion. Flow Conference. Oct. 26-29, 2006, Univ of Texas, Austin.