Call for Survey Participants

Interested in online sociolinguistics in fandom? Then have we got the survey for you! We were contacted by a researcher at Bellevue College, who asked about boosting their study, so we’re passing this along. The study is about sociolinguistics in online fandom, and really digs into how individuals personally define various fannish terms. There’s a particular focus on shipping and antis, and a portion of the survey is optional and uses trigger warnings for potentially upsetting content around antis and anti discourse.

The number of survey questions vary depending on your answers. People have finished in around 20-30mins, and some have really dug into the optional, long-form questions and have taken an hour! We figure around 30-45mins is a good estimate for length.

The survey closes on June 25th, so go take it before the month is out 🙂 We’re really interested to see the results of this one… fan sociolinguistics are always so interesting, especially with a topic like this one!

Survey link: https://bellevuecollege.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bBGo5Duqrhog1yC
Project FAQ: https://fanthropology.carrd.co

Queering by repetition in fandom

Common fan fiction scenarios such as hurt/comfort and first-time perform cultural work that has been worked on before—be that negotiating discursive linkages between masculinity and violence, or appropriate expressions of intimacy between individuals of the same sex. In (the fanfic analysed in this paper), each scenario performs an explicit and formal queering of the canon text by drawing oblique lines of directionality. This opens up the narrative in ways that encourage—even proselytize—multiplicity by transforming moments of animosity and violence into opportunities for emotional and sexual intimacy. The result is a queering of gender norms, heteronormativity, and the very clear black and white distinctions of morality that serve as the foundation for the Harry Potter epic.

Hampton, Darlene Rose. 2015. “Bound Princes and Monogamy Warnings: Harry Potter, Slash, and Queer Performance in LiveJournal Communities.” In “Performance and Performativity in Fandom,” edited by Lucy Bennett and Paul J. Booth, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 18. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0609.

Fan Studies x Digital Humanities: Part 1

So, a little bit of a different post today! Fanhackers will always be about making Fan Studies scholarship more accessible, but Fan Studies encompasses a whole lot of other methodologies and disciplines. This post will be the first of a three-part series on the Digital Humanities as a discipline, and how it relates to Fan Studies scholarship.

Because Fan Studies doesn’t really exist as a single department in a university, scholars with backgrounds from other disciplines like English, Communications, Cultural Studies, Media Studies and even the Sciences all do Fan Studies research. Part of the reason for this is that Fan Studies as its own thing is really new: our earliest scholarship is from the late 80s/early 90s! If you look at the history of Western fandom, this makes a lot of sense: Fan Studies began as a Western discipline whose work focused on Western media fandom, and around this time period, Western fans started to seriously use the internet.

The reason I’ve glossed over all of this is because Digital Humanities (DH) kind of has the same history: it’s really new and encompasses a whole lot of scholars from other disciplines. This post is going to give a really quick run-down on what DH is, and how it relates to Fan Studies. I’ll follow it up with a post on DH & Fan Studies Projects and DH & Fan Studies Ethics next week the week after!

Digital Humanities came out of counterculture-cyberculture of the 60s and 70s, so it’s really based in the values of that movement. Mainly, DH scholarship is all about accessibility: DH wants to take scholarship out of the ivory tower and share it with everyone, so it aims to be free, easy to access, and use simple language to explain the big concepts it talks about. Because of this, DH is all about:

  • DH is qualitative (like English) and quantitative (like Math)! It spans a whole bunch of different methods and processes for collecting and analyzing data.
  • Working together as a way of creating better, more rounded work: co-creation and collaboration! This could be in a class, a department, or even different universities.
  • Defending content-creators from exploitation but placing serious value on transformative works. For DH, the more scholarship, the better, and transforming other works is a great way to get a different perspective and encourage creativity.
  • Encourages scholarship as entertainment, and entertainment as scholarship. A DH scholar will give as much attention to a piece of fic as a short story or a novel and will have no problem presenting their work in a video or interactive website. They want a big audience, so the easier it is to understand, and the more interesting it is to the general public, the better!
  • The way you go about doing your research is more important than your results and conclusion. For DH, the process is really what matters, because that’s the thing that is constantly being refined and redefined by DH scholars.
  • Because of all this, action is what’s really important. Buzzwords like “diversity”, “intersectionality” and “accessibility” are empty unless there’s a real change in the way people carry out their research and present their findings!

Already, we can see some really clear parallels with Fan Studies, here. Firstly, there’s both quantitative and qualitative Fan Studies research, and the discipline was built on defending fans—from piracy to how we’d been portrayed in audience studies. People like John Fiske and Dallas Smythe argued that audiences are not actually mindless zombies that just eat up anything put in front of them, and in doing so, laid the ground work for others like Camille Bacon-Smith, Joli Jensen and Matt Smith to argue that fans are actually super sophisticated and smart.

So clearly, Fan Studies is built on the idea of entertainment as scholarship, even though our projects might not always be super accessible to the general public—which is also where Fanhackers comes in! In terms of actually being to access content, though, Fan Studies allowing free downloads is also generally really important to Fan Studies scholars. Even though the Journal of Fan Studies is really hard to access—many universities don’t even have a subscription to the journal—the OTW’s Transformative Works and Cultures is totally free to access and is generally really great about using accessible language.

The different waves of Fan Studies scholarship also seem to prioritize process over the end result: the first wave, which I mentioned above, is all about proving fans make up a complex community, whereas the second wave really drilled down into individual fan identity. We’re technically in the third wave, where scholarship tends to focus on how industry and fans interact, but are also edging forward into important scholarship surrounding racism in fandom, how fans of colour embody fannishness and other research that relies heavily on critical race studies (a fourth wave!).

All of this points to there being some really serious intersections between DH and Fan Studies, which makes a whole lot of sense: both are new and both have kind of the same core values. More importantly, though, the Digital Humanities is all about using digital technology to accomplish its goals, and Fan Studies is research of primarily online communities. Both disciplines feature digital tech, and though it might seem like this is not something they have in common, next week we’ll see concrete examples of how Fan Studies research is sometimes also Digital Humanities research!

For now, here’s a little reading list in case you want to know more about DH or the history of Fan Studies:

Season of surveys

We have received a request to signal boost another survey. We believe it might be of interest to our readers as it studies attitudes about sex and relationships are impacted by different types of fiction — including fanfiction. You can find it on this link until the end of July. The study is being run by PhD candidate Lee Hair. Fans can be fanfiction readers or not, the survey is open to everyone 18 or older. This study has received IRB approval from Boston University.  A consent form detailing user privacy practices and contact information for the researcher, the faculty supervisor, and the IRB review board is available at the start of the survey.

Queer Representations: Pasts, Presents and Futures Conference

Hi everyone!

This post is little bit of a departure from our regular programming, but we figured why not? One of the very few perks of the COVID-19 pandemic has been how accessible conferences are. From May 11-14, the University of Edinburgh is hosting a virtual conference called “Queer Representations: Pasts, Presents and Futures”! Keynotes speakers are Professors Richard Dyer and Abigail De Kosnik (squee!) and there’s a panel on Thursday, May 14th at 16:00 BST about queer adaptation and fanfiction. Tickets were available for free, and though the window for sales has closed, you can following along on the conference Twitter. So far, the live-tweeting has been great, all the panels have been incredibly interesting and it looks like there’s only more good stuff to come!

Check out the program here.
Follow the conference on Twitter here.

Call for participants in a research survey

Makenna Reaves, an udnergraduate at University of Washington is asking you (in case you are over the age of 18) to participate in a survey. This survey is being conducted for the purpose of gathering data about general opinions and attitudes toward fan creations. The survey will run until May 13, 11:45 PM, GMT-7. You can access the survey at this link. It consists of 15 multiple choice and 3 long answer questions, it takes between 10 and 45 minutes to complete. The participants will be asked questions about their age, gender identity, sexual identity, and ethnicity and their knowledge and general opinion of various fan creations and fan communities.

The survey has been checked and approved by the researcher’s Faculty’s Ethics Commission. This survey on reading engagement includes a consent form and information about participant privacy and data usage.

More information can be found by clicking on the above survey link. You can also reach out to Makenna Reaves at reaves [at] uw.edu.

An example of queerbaiting in the music industry

I only managed to read one paper in these last days, but I am excited to share this one with you for two reasons. Last time, I bemoaned the lack of female idols in my research, this week we are going to talk about Amber Liu. I also didn’t find any instances of queerbaiting with celebrities, but what this paper describes looks to me exactly as the queerbaiting TV shows do.

The paper also starts out by talking about Liu’s appearance, which it describes as tomboyish or androgynous. It is even more noticeable as the singer is part of a girl group where the other members dress like a stereotypical female idol. There are examples from music videos, public performances and even talk shows or social media posts where Liu appears. Analysing these, it is not only Liu’s appearance that’s shown in contrast with the other bandmembers or other idols but the singer’s gestures or behaviour.

Nonetheless, while Amber’s style is different to that of her female counterparts, she is not recognized by her fans as particularly out of the ordinary. We deduce that the reason for this is because she looks not dissimilar to many of the K-Pop’s male stars. (…) If we take this into consideration, then the image Amber portrays is less revolutionary than it first appears; she does rebel against the standard imposed on girls, but only by embracing the standard that in recent years has been imposed on boys.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 220.

Further, the paper sees this pattern continue in the lyrics of their songs (both written by Liu and by others):

In many songs, but unlike many other girl group hits, Amber does not refer directly to an ‘oppa’ (that is an older boy),  – examples would include the song Danger (Pinocchio), which in its indeterminacy could be addressed at both or either a boy or a girl, and the hit Nu Abo. In the latter, (Amber and her group) directly sings to an ‘ennoi’ (that is an older girl), encouraging queer readings of the lyrics.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 222.

We can see now the constant presence on all platforms this ambiguity that doesn’t leave space to be confirmed as one thing or the other. As the authors say about Liu’s reaction to the rumors of dating girls, there is neither denial nor confirmation.

She does not say she disapproves of the rumors because she is straight, but rather she fosters the idea that she might be queer, although she never says it explicitly. She neither confirms nor denies the rumors, but neither does she stigmatize same-sex relationships.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 226.

Therefore, as much as this ambiguity remains, it can never became something explicitly different.

However, if we delve more deeply, S.M. Entertainment trade on Amber’s ambiguous sexual and gender identity, and this means she is not free to identify herself as either as straight or gay.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 226.

It must not be forgotten that Amber belongs to the mainstream, in an industry fueled by capitalism, where any supposedly new type or breed of pop woman can only emerge if the industry is convinced that they can be marketed.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 227.

What the authors showed us here is familiar from TV shows where the writers keep up some ambiguity about the relationship between two (usually male lead) characters, but never confirming it, so it can be marketed as a queer or straight relationship. Yet, in this case, we are not talking about fictional characters but the public presentation of a person. Still, it’s no wonder that just as the studio wants to keep the marketability of the show, the music industry does the same about their idol.

The question, then, is whether resistance is actually possible in the culture industry.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 228.

Welcoming Guest Posts

Do you have a favourite quote about fandom that you want to talk about? Do you like writing meta? Have you ever disagreed with us?

Write a Guest Post!

If you’re interested, contact us on Twitter, Tumblr, through email or our contact form. We are looking for all kinds of posts, so whether you have a quote, a short post, commentary or something else regarding fandom studies, we want to hear from you. We have a posting schedule and sometimes we are doing themed weeks, so we are not promising to publish every submission. Make sure your submission has a title, is grammatically correct and that you cite your sources.

If you are still unsure, we are here to answer all your questions.

If you are confident and you have an essay waiting to be posted, maybe even consider submitting it as a Symposium piece to Transformative Works and Culture.

We hope to hear from you!

The perception of gender attributes of K-Pop idols

For the last two weeks, we talked about RPF and more than one of you mentioned K-Pop in response. This week, I tried to look at one question in particular: are there similar strategies to queerbaiting in the marketing of K-Pop?

So this week, I looked for papers that answer or at least touch on that question. I’ve found…nothing. At least, nothing that explicitly asks this question. Now, if any of you has recommendations, I will read and summarize them but for now, I looked for another solution. I looked at literature asking related questions and based on the answers, I started to ask my own questions.

I could not answer if fans perceived the relationship between their idols as queer but there is research on whether fans perceive their idol’s gender presentation as non-normative.

Ayuningtyas (2017) and Song; Velding (2020) both find one of the main sources of this perceived gender presentation in the idols’ styling, makeup, stage and music video performances. That was interesting to me because my theory was that for fans, the place of queerness (or at least the investigation to uncover it) was the backstage, the interviews, social media. Places that they would associate less with the idols’ professional performances. In that aspect, I did not find a relationship between perceived masculinity or femininity and perceived queerness. This notion of mine was further discouraged by another paper.

Moreover, the effeminate appearance of ‘flower boys’ does not mean the stars have feminine personalities or identities that match their appearance. It is not necessarily linked to homosexuality, as it would more often be in the case of the West (Oh 2015).

OH, Chuyun. 2015. ‘Queering spectatorship in K-Pop: The androgynous male dancing body and Western female fandom’. The Journal of Fandom Studies 3(1), 59.-78. https://doi.org/10.1386/jfs.3.1.59_1
HOANG, Ha. 2020. ‘K-Pop Male Androgyny, Mediated Intimacy, And Vietnamese Fandom’ In ‘Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia – Reconfiguring Local Ties and Enacting Global Relationships’ edited by CABAÑES, Jason Vincent A.; UY-TIOCO, Cecilia S. Springer Nature, 192.

So as we can see, for the fans, there is a distinction between not only the gendered appearance and the idols’ personality or offstage behaviour but also between perceived gender and perceived sexuality. But I did not find my initial theory without basis as Hoang (2020) observes:

Photos and clips of androgynous G-Dragon became part of everyday feeds for many fan pages. But this clip stood out among others as it showed G-Dragon as ‘authentic’, catching his genuine reaction to an unexpected situation. Fans often perceived such a reaction as reflective of his real personality, at least more than the persona he often performed in music videos and onstage. Fans would, as such, would express surprise and amusement upon encountering an adorable G-Dragon with a gender-blurring look, as it was strikingly different from the swagger and distance of G-Dragon onstage.

HOANG, Ha. 2020. ‘K-Pop Male Androgyny, Mediated Intimacy, And Vietnamese Fandom’ In ‘Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia – Reconfiguring Local Ties and Enacting Global Relationships’ edited by CABAÑES, Jason Vincent A.; UY-TIOCO, Cecilia S. Springer Nature, 198.

As you can see, all of these papers talked about male idols, their perceived masculinity or transgressive androgyny or femininity. (There were other papers about similar topics regarding female idols.) It was interesting, that one paper (Song, Velding 2020) specifically asked if the American perspective perceived the idols’ gender presentation differently, the other papers had similar findings with different demographics. What I was missing from these studies was the comparison between the perception of K-Pop idols’ gender presentation and other popstars’ gender presentation as the majority of the mentioned indicators (makeup, attire, dance moves etc.) apply similarly to all celebrities in the music industry.

So to answer the question whether queerbaiting strategies are applied in the marketing of K-Pop? I don’t know but I have more questions. Would asking the same questions about perceived gender with a control group of a different music group give us different answers? What about girl bands? What about the perceived gender performance of onstage appearances?

AYUNINGTYAS, Paramita. 2017. ‘Indonesian Fan Girls’ Perception Towards Soft Masculinity as Represented By K-Pop Male Idols’. Lingua Cultura, 11(1). 53-57. doi.org/10.21512/lc.v11i1.1514

HOANG, Ha. 2020. ‘K-Pop Male Androgyny, Mediated Intimacy, And Vietnamese Fandom’ In ‘Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia – Reconfiguring Local Ties and Enacting Global Relationships’ edited by CABAÑES, Jason Vincent A.; UY-TIOCO, Cecilia S. Springer Nature, 187- 203. doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1790-6_12

SONG, Kirsten Younghee; VELDING, Victoria. 2020. ‘Transnational Masculinity in the Eyes of Local Beholders? Young Americans’ Perception of K-Pop Masculinities’ Journal of Man Studies. 28(1). 3-21. doi/pdf/10.1177/1060826519838869

What do you think?

RPF, once more

Over the last week, we received many responses to the question how RPF can operate without a canon text, the majority of them among the lines of much the same way non-RPF fandoms do: by constantly negotiating fanon interpretations. It looks like then that the question of what constitutes as canon is problematised for any kind of fanon.

(I’m also very glad that my throw out about canon already being problematised when we leave the media fandoms definitions was caught in this post.)

Henry Jenkins’ concept of Convergence Culture provides a useful way of thinking about how RPF communities work together to create their own meanings from transmedia texts, or intertexts, such as The Lord of the Ring and its paratexts distributed across many delivery platforms.

MARTIN, ANNA (2014). WRITING THE STAR. STARDOM, FANDOM AND REAL PERSON FANFICTION, 68.

We can see fans refer to a continuously changing meta-text, both in and outside of RPF. (Something that we might call fanon.)

The „ideal” version of Star Trek, the meta-text against which a film or episode is evaluated, was constructed by the fan community through its progressively more detailed analysis of the previously aired episodes.

Jenkins, Henry (1992). Textual poacher, Routledge, 101.

I’ve found interesting the mention of fandoms with several adaptations here. It was surprising to me, but Martin also talks about this interconnectedness.

In the bonus material, (Gray) points out, the actors as presented as similar to their roles in the film (…). The behind-the-scenes narrative existed parallel to the fictional narrative of the trilogy, and, as Gray argues, it mirrored the narrative of the trilogy, both enriching and being enriched by it. (…) Certain parallels are used to pin these versions together at crucial points, as I will discuss later in this chapter. Many points in the behind-the-scenes documentaries are used to pin the film version to the books. The books, the films and the paratexts link together in various ways to form a complex intertext, an interrelated group of texts that enrich and layer each other in meaning.

GRAY, JONATHAN (2006). Bonus Material: The DVD Layering of The Lord of the Rings=Ernest, Mathjis (ed.) The Lord of the Rings: Popular Culture in Global Context, Wallflower, 238.-253.
MARTIN, ANNA (2014). WRITING THE STAR. STARDOM, FANDOM AND REAL PERSON FANFICTION, 64., 69.

Thank you for all the responses so far! To continue the conversation, I’d like to ask your experiences: have you ever seen something that felt like queerbaiting but with real persons? If you can think of an example, what did you think of it?