What is Fanhackers?

Fanhackers is an Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) project whose mission is to make fan studies research accessible. Whether you’re involved in academia or research in your own free time, or just curious about what academia has to say about fans, we aim to help connect you to research on fan culture. We also want to help people add to the discipline’s ever-growing body of work by contributing personal experiences and/or new work, and encourage collaboration and community interaction.

Part of the way we’re doing this is by constantly building and improving our fan studies bibliography, which has 2,900 records and counting! You can find work in multiple languages, covering a multitude of subjects. We also publish quotes from interesting fan studies work, meta about fan culture and fan studies, and fan studies-related news on our blog. The blog is also on Tumblr.

We have a bunch of other outlets, projects and collaborations in the pipeline. If you have suggestions or want to work with us, please get in touch!

What is fan studies?

Fan studies is the academic study of all things fannish and fandom-related. Some academics define “fan studies” as the study of media fans because of the discipline’s close relationship with film and television studies. However, the word “fandom” is used to cover many kinds of behaviors and communities, from sports lovers to aficionados of politics, music, theatre, fashion, and so on—and fan studies looks at them all. It’s as diverse a field as the fan cultures it studies, so no matter what you’re into, there’s definitely research on that!

Academic interest in fans is decades old and comes from scholars of many backgrounds. In its English-language incarnation, the field of fan studies has its roots in cultural studies. Academic traditions in other languages sometimes study fans mainly within other fields, for example manga studies in Japan. In all cases, “fan studies” is a very interdisciplinary field: people from different backgrounds study it using techniques from various academic disciplines, often working together to understand fandom better. Disciplines that study fans include but are not limited to: feminist, queer, performance, cultural, literary and TV and film studies; law studies; economics; the digital humanities; and much more. These disciplines include academics of all backgrounds, independent scholars who aren’t connected to a university, researchers from private companies, and so on.

All these people bring different life experiences and training that influence the way they do research. This variety improves the quality of the research done in fan studies, but there are still many unexplored topics, unseen connections, and pervasive problems that the field needs to tackle if it wants to improve.

As academic fields go, fan studies is an open space that welcomes critique from and participation by people who aren’t professional researchers. Many scholars who work in it are fans themselves, which means they’re well aware that fans often do research, publish great critical insights about fandom, and host discussions about fandom topics that are often far ahead of academic fan studies. Who’s better placed to evaluate and improve academic studies on fans than fans themselves? Fan studies has incredible potential for collaborative and participatory research.

What does Fanhackers do?

Fan studies is of great interest to fans, and fans have a great deal to contribute to it. However, academic research can still be inaccessible to fans for a lot of reasons. Scholars might use insider language and vocabulary (jargon) or refer to other research that only other scholars are familiar with. Some research is hidden behind paywalls and unaffordable for anyone who’s not at a university. It can be hard to find the scholarship you’re interested in, and even harder to find out how you can participate in fan studies. We at Fanhackers are trying to make fan studies scholarship more accessible by doing the following:

  1. Promoting interesting research on fans in fannish spaces: we post quotes from and announcements about research on fan culture, both fannish and academic, on Tumblr and Twitter.
  2. Providing a space where people looking for research can exchange information: when you can’t find or access research articles, you can submit questions via our website or send an ask to our Tumblr.
  3. Making it easier for fans to expand research by contributing personal experiences, new research, and encouraging collaboration and/or community interaction. You can submit a post of your own on our website or on Tumblr!
  4. Advocating for academic publication practices that make research accessible to fans: we circulate information about the merits of open access and open data in scholarly circles on- and offline. In other words: make fan studies scholarship easy and free to access!
  5. Providing information about tools and methodologies that fans can use for research: we spotlight and explain different tools and methods for fan studies, with a focus on those that are accessible enough for fans to use (read: free and preferably open source).
  6. Lifting up fans’ voices in discussions about ethical and responsible research practices: we publish fannish critiques of academic research, and encourage constructive dialogue between fans and scholars about research practices.

While Fanhackers works mainly to help fans, most of what we do is of interest to scholars as well. We’re committed to using on-and offline spaces to bring fans and scholars together in productive ways.