Fan Cultures and Fan Creativity

This is a class about media fandom and about the many activities that fans participate in: posting and commenting on episode reactions, writing and reading fan fiction, making and watching vids, creating and sharing art and user icons and playlists, crafting and wearing costumes, collecting images and action figures, coding and maintaining archives, compiling recs and links, adding and editing wiki entries, liking and reblogging other fans' work, and more. It's about the communities that fans build in order to discuss shows and movies and to share the things we make in response to those shows and movies.

In this class, we talk about why and how fans make the things we make and how those creations function both as responses to commercial media and ways of connecting with fellow fans. We read and view examples of fic and vids, and class members are encouraged to draw on their own fandom backgrounds in discussions and papers, but for the most part the class is about fandom itself rather than specific shows, movies, or books.

Topics include the history of media fandom, recent scholarly theories of fandom, and economic and legal issues related to fandom. We talk about archives, forums, mailing lists, conventions, cosplay, zines, Usenet, LiveJournal, DeviantArt, Twitter, Tumblr, user icons, VCRs, digital editing software, fests and challenges, kink memes, beta readers, wikis, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff as well. We discuss the mainstreaming (and, increasingly, the commodification) of fandom and examine some of the ways in which fans are organizing to advocate for our own interests in order to influence (or talk back to) our representation in the mainstream media.

Like fandom itself, this class is an example of serious play. It's a space in which to be excited about fandom and to connect with other fannish people, but it's also an introduction to fan studies, the academic study of fandom.


In the 2014 version of this class, we read Textual Poachers, by Henry Jenkins; Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, by Anne Jamison; a number of essays from the online open-access journal Transformative Works and Cultures; and some meta (fan-written essays about fans and fandom), most of them reblogged on the class Tumblr and linked from our course Moodle site.


Assignments include traditional academic papers (examine and respond to scholars' definitions of fans and fandom), creative assignments (make a fan work to share with the class), and hybrid assignments (deliver a presentation persuading classmates to watch a show or try a fannish activity).