It used to be a four-letter word, frowned upon by cultural producers and critics alike, a way of describing an unwelcome over-emotional reaction from an audience otherwise well-disciplined in the logic of consumer practice (buying products and admiring stars from afar). Today fans is the love that dares to speak its name.
The study of fans and fandoms has become increasingly prominent and popular, particularly given the cultural shift from a negative portrayal of fans as having clingy emotional attachments to a positive one that recognises the fan-consumer as a vital participant in cultural production, one who completes a feedback loop helping to expand the artist/product as brand through connected transmedia contexts. In a social media-savvy age, the fan is able to present and perform identities, enact them in community contexts, participate through fan-talk on fan sites — ones that remain largely faithful to the brand, as well as those (such as fan fiction) where the brand is reimagined in the likeness of the fan. Fan practices include cosplay (and crossplay), collecting and curation, resignification of products on social platforms like YouTube, blogging, slash sites and filking (among others).
The material for this option covers a wide range of fandoms, from David Bowie to the more
cult Doctor Who and the reboot The X-Files, Buffy, and, well, you insert here, because you’ll want to promote your own fandom. We look at fan psychology, practices, projected identities, performance, participation, textual appropriation, fan criticality (including anti-fans and non-fans), participatory cultures and how to research fans and your fandoms. If you have a fandom, this option offers you the opportunity to take it up as an aca-fan (academic fan).
Fan Cultures introduces students to debates and perspectives on fans, fan practices and fandoms and their relevance in informing identities and contributing to the meaning of cultural texts, products and performance. Throughout the option, students apply these debates to their personal fandoms and fan practices. Fan / Fandom Cultures is an ideal option to compliment interests in cultural studies, art, branding, fashion studies, moving image, gender studies, music cultures, participatory cultures and subcultures.
If I was writing a thesis in a year’s time, I’d want it to be on Doctor Who or David Bowie. What about you?
Dene October is an aca-fan. He is currently researching and writing books on Doctor Who and History (McFarland, due 2017), Marco Polo (Black Archive) and on David Bowie (details tba). He is particularly interested in how fans like him contribute to their fandoms through practices like writing, computer-mediated discussions, fan-art and cosplay. Thus he has recently written about fan-sites (Doctor Who: Twelfth Night, I. B. Taurus, 2017), fans and authenticity (The Language of Doctor Who: From Shakespeare to Alien Tongues, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), fans contesting official meanings (David Bowie: Critical Perspectives, Routledge, 2015), fans as listeners (Enchanting David Bowie, Bloomsbury, 2015), fan cosplay (Materialising Meanings, tba), fans and memory (The Roof of the World: Remediation, Focalisation and ‘Marco Polo’, McFarland, 2017) and fan mash-ups (There’s a Time Lord Waiting in the Sky, CSO 2017).
Dene doesn’t really enjoy writing in the third person. That’s because I am a fan and proud of how my fandoms have become central to my life, both personally and academically. I don’t need to apologise to anyone for my fandoms and consider them just as worthy of study as high culture (such as literature) and conventional academic subjects (such as, er, design). I enjoy the long-running British television series Doctor Who – which I will write about until my fingers bleed, especially on those episodes lost by the BBC – and the much-missed musician David Bowie, who is so important to me I still cry when I listen to Blackstar, his last album. For me, these two fandoms have an affective dimension. My earliest memories are of watching Doctor Who and I grew up wanting to be the cool, mysterious, character-morphing artist that is Bowie. So yeah, it’s personal… you better believe it. Similar to that saying “the personal is political” … I think the personal is the place out of where a passionate engagement with academic writing and other fan practices is forged.
So whatever your fandom, be you a Belieber or Whovian, your fandom is your starting pistol to personalise the academic sprint. Join me … I’m a geek and I love it.