Fan Studies

Henry Jenkins

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Fan Studies

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Fan studies is a field of scholarly research focused on media fans and fan cultures. Fans might be broadly defined as individuals who maintain a passionate connection to popular media, assert their identity through their engagement with and mastery over its contents, and experience social affiliation around shared tastes and preferences. Fan cultures are the social and cultural infrastructures that support fan activities and interests. In a narrower sense, fandom sometimes refers to a shared cultural space that emerged from science fiction fandom in the early 20th century, which was reshaped by Star Trek fans in the 1960s and which has since expanded to incorporate forms of cultural production mostly by women around genre entertainment. Within fan studies, there has often been a split between those who focus on individual fans and those who study a larger community. The roots of fan studies can be traced back to early work in the Birmingham cultural studies tradition on media audiences but increasingly fan studies focuses on groups and individuals who have self-defined as fans of particular programs, performers, genres, and media as opposed to audiences that have a more casual relationship to the content of popular media. Fan studies began as the study of fan reception but has increasingly been recentered around forms of fan cultural production, especially as new forms of digital culture have rendered participatory culture practices more visible. One key dividing line in fan studies is between predigital and digital era accounts, although many argue that fans have been early adopters of communication technologies and that their social and cultural practices, forged more around affinities than geographies, prefigure more contemporary forms of virtual or online communities. Apart from a section on key works that informed the early development of fan studies, most cited works here explicitly address fan studies issues and concerns, rather than deal with closely related studies of exhibition, reception, consumption, celebrity culture, transmedia entertainment, and audiences. The focus here is on works that contribute to the larger conceptual models that have emerged in fan studies as a specific theoretical and methodological tradition. Included works focus primarily on fans of film and television rather than of popular fiction, games, sports, or music although exceptions are made where such work has been widely embraced by others working in the fan studies tradition. This bibliography starts with a consideration of how the phenomenon of fandom developed out of earlier historic practices (see Historical Perspectives), followed by an exploration of how fan studies emerged as its own, specific field out of earlier works on media audiences and subcultures (see Roots of Fan Studies and Foundational Works). Next, this bibliography focuses on how scholars have analyzed fan communities as sites of interpretation and evaluation (see Fan Taste), production (see Fan Production), and social and economic exchange (see Online Communities and the Digital Economy). Subsequent sections consider fandom’s potential contributions to education (see Learning through Fandom) and politics (see Fan Activism), both topics that have surfaced in more recent research within fan studies. Finally, this bibliography adopts a more global perspective, dealing especially with work that examines the Otaku Culture of Japan, highlighting its similarities to and differences from Western fan practices.

Article.  15783 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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