Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Media Fandom is More than Just a Hobby

UW20 Prof. Kathy Larsen Never Knew Research Could be Such Fun.

With her colleague Dr. Lynn Zubernis (a clinical psychologist and professor at West Chester State University in Pennsylvania), Prof. Larsen is currently working on a book titled Stalking Fandom, an exploration of media fandom from the inside.

Prof. Larsen says: “Henry Jenkins and those who followed him have done some ground breaking work in establishing fan culture as a viable area of academic research. But as we read the scholarship, we felt that as intellectuals started to take fan culture seriously, something--someone--crucial was being lost in translation. No one was talking directly to either the creators or to the consumers of media culture. We wanted to put real people back into the discussion.”

The first step was to choose a fandom small enough to get to know thoroughly, and active enough to demonstrate a range of fan practices. They decided on the cult hit series Supernatural. For the last year and a half they have been interviewing everyone connected with the fandom: the fans themselves, the creator of the series, writers, directors, actors, journalists, bloggers and fan convention organizers.

“We didn’t count on the effect we would have on the fandom. In one case we explained fan fiction to an actor and a week later he turned up at a fan convention wearing a teeshirt announcing that he read fan fiction – just to see what the fans would do. The fallout from that lasted for days!”

For more on Prof Larsen’s project, check out her blog (http://spnfans.wordpress.com/). She’ll also be screening My Big Break, a documentary about making it and not making it in Hollywood featuring Chad Lindberg (Fast and the Furious, October Sky, Supernatural), on January 30 at 7:00pm in the Marvin Center Amphitheater at GWU. Both the director and producer of the film will be available for a Q&A after the screening.

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