fandebate_mod (fandebate_mod) wrote in fandebate,

Gender and Fan Culture (Round Seventeen): Melissa Click and Joshua Green

This is a mirror post of the seventeenth installment of this series from Henry Jenkins' blog: Part One and Part Two.

MC: Hi, I'm Melissa Click and I'm completing my dissertation on Martha Stewart fans (at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst), teaching at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and am just catching up on my sleep after the wonderfully overwhelming experience of having my first child. Having one foot in the East Coast and the other foot in the Mid-West, being in the midst of completing my Ph.D. while developing my professional identity as a scholar, and trying to figure out how to balance my work life and newly changed homelife, means that I'm still catching up on my TV viewing (I heart Tivo), I don't usually blog, and I'm a bit more behind on academic reading than I'd prefer.

As a scholar writing about Martha Stewart fans, I have argued that the women and men I interviewed were not simply audience members, they are fans (and anti-fans, for that matter). However, the types of fandom they demonstrated were different than many of the types of fandom discussed here: they didn't write Martha fan-fic, create Martha fan-vids, etc. My interest in their fandom overlapped with my own interest in/repulsion by Stewart's texts, and my allegiance with their behaviors as fans--my expressions of fandom mirror the behaviors gendered "masculine" in this discussion.

JG: Hello all, my name is Joshua Green. I'm a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT where I also run the Convergence Culture Consortium. At the Consortium we do a lot of work about the changing patterns of relationships between media producers - big and small, professional and amateur - media content and various audience formulations. We work with some "big media" companies (though not exclusively) to come to understand the changing environment in which their content circulates and the changing logics of the media space when you factor in participatory culture and the changing constitution of the audience experience.

Before I transplanted from Australia to the States, I was working on the recent history Australian television, particularly looking at the way the Australian television system resolved the presence of international, and specifically American, programming with discourses of nationalism. My (I suppose still recently completed) dissertation looked at the way Dawson's Creek was nationalized by industrial promotional strategies and received by a range of Australian viewers. I'm currently really, very interested in the ways we can understand the constitution and composition of television audiences as they're imagined more and more as media producers, or at least, as the role of media production is increasingly prescribed for those we used to understand as audiences.

MC: I'm not convinced that folks have really addressed one of the key issues that began this conversation: the perception that male interests and approaches are structuring publishing, conference participation, and the field in general. I'd like to pull us back to the pre-détente discussions that created the discussion in which we're now participating. Specifically, how can we begin to encourage ties between male and female scholars, and create more of a community in the field of fan studies? Everyone seems to agree that we can benefit from each other's work--but how can we begin to encourage that cross-pollination (or what Derek Johnson called "broad citation?").

JG: I think returning to this question is important, though I would like to point out that one of the things I have enjoyed most about this discussion on the whole is the diversity of ways people have responded to the "provocation." Some of the discussions around this topic have brought to the fore a range of important questions affecting not only fan studies but media and cultural studies practice itself. Prominent in this regard is the fervor with which this discussion has interrogated how we understand fandom itself. This diversity of topics is particularly appealing as I don't consider myself someone working 'in' fan studies. I'm not sure I've ever been a 'fan' of any distinct media property, certainly
not in the productive way that has been defended by some discussants as signaling something unique about particular patterns of engagement or structures of feeling towards media properties. Likewise, while perhaps daily I come into contact with some of the practices, strategies, or politics of fandom, I don't consider myself necessarily studying fandom. That said, one of the strengths of this discussion is the role those of us who don't fall into the 'fan studies' camp have played in contributing to the debate. At a somewhat crude level then, perhaps this practice of pairing respondents has at least gestured toward a way to achieve this cross-pollination.

MC: Agreed. I think that a lot of good stuff has come out of this dialogue--making much more complex a lot of the issues that initially provoked the discussion. However, one of the really important points that I think the Busse camp (sorry, I can't do the boy/girl thing, though I'm not convinced the shorthand I'm introducing is much better) made in the pre-detente conversation had to do with how male and female fan scholars seemed to attend different conference sessions, use a different language, and adopt different methods. To me, this is where I do feel the gendered divide in the field (though I'll complicate that in a minute). This point has been alluded to numerous times in this discussion; many folks have expressed that they feel left out, or misunderstood, and I'm sure many more have felt this without expressing it (I have)--so *something's* going on here that I think we need to address.

I really appreciate Derek Johnson's acknowledgement that at conferences he'd attended panels in many of the ways Busse suggested (and I'm sure many folks had this realization--I did, too). I believe Derek when he says he'll try to rethink that in the future--and think we all should. But I'd like to see us be consciously pro-active before we get to conferences to try to make our panels relevant for a number of different camps--and to promote cross-pollination.

JG: If we're going to go back to the beginning, I'm going to be especially (and perhaps foolishly) honest here, and acknowledge my own implication in some of the catalytic events of this discussion. I have a fairly certain sense I was a direct participant in some of the panels (and one in particular) that prompted some of the comments that initially brought this issue to the fore. I'm not sure if I would say I was shocked, but I certainly want to own up to being surprised by the responses some of these panels prompted. Perhaps I'm not as alive to the gendered distinctions that do exist within the field (and there subsequent implications in terms of power), and I think the first discussion in this series between Karen Hellekson and Jason Mittell usefully laid out some of the ways in which "the field" might replicate larger gendered distinctions with regards to topics of discussion, modes of practice, academic and market activities. That said, I have to admit a sense of disappointment with the sometimes pessimistic tone present in some of the discussions featured as part of this series. I accept that there are substantial and entrenched issues of both equality and practice that need to be addressed, but more than once in the course of this debate I've been left with the sense these issues are intractable.

I wonder, then, if the response to some of these questions regarding exclusion has been to argue for the specificity of certain (gendered? topic determined?) fields of inquiry. Specificity brings with it its own form of exclusion, and the criteria upon which this specificity is patrolled is central to the questions under consideration. I'll admit I'm thinking out loud here, and I may well disagree with this proposition further down the track, but there is a part of me that thinks that some degree of specificity and exclusion is inherent to the art. I'm not sure, all up, whether I necessarily disagree with this proposition, as I'm not sure I have a problem with specificity, particularly in terms of academic practice, when it results from issues of subject knowledge. That said, I agree there are substantial matters that need to be addressed with regard to how we, as academics working from a range of different positions and working within a "field" that seems in some ways both pre-destined and necessarily "inter-disciplinary", interact in order to ensure "subject specificity" or "topic knowledge" doesn't privilege certain biases. All of which seems to bring us back to the germinal difficulties that led us down this path. A useful response, then, and perhaps the only one that seems tenable, is for us to regularly interrogate the way the forms of knowledge we produce, and the ways we communicate such, result in regimes of privilege.

MC: I agree that the specificity in our work does create a certain kind of exclusion (that I would agree is not necessarily a bad thing), and I agree that we should regularly interrogate our work and the way it's communicated. But how do we make sure we don't forget to do that? I think that's what was going on a bit at Flow, especially at the Watching Television Off-Television roundtable (including Jonathan Gray, Henry Jenkins, Jason Mittell, Will Brooker, Joel Greenberg, Kevin Sandler, Derek Johnson, Daniel Chamberlain). I think feminist (and mostly female) scholars in the audience expressed frustration that approaches and conclusions were perceived to lack fruitful overlap with work women do and have done--and I think there was also a frustration that the panel (obviously full of fabulous scholars) drew a large audience due to the perceived importance of the scholars and topics while panels that were mostly women drew smaller audiences. I do think we need to talk about that.... But I also want to say that during and after my panel of mostly women at Flow, I felt excluded because my work was not on fans proper (in fact, it could have been that I still in the baby haze that has just recently lifted, by no means would I suggest that was my best work). So, I think that exclusion does cross gender boundaries--and like Jonathan and Kristina have both said, when panels end, we do tend to hang out with our friends.

That said, I think there's a pattern in which women seem to be the ones continually reminding folks that gender should be one of the foundations of all work--not just women's scholarship. So, much like my fabulous partner who does his best to split evenly our household chores often has to be reminded by me to do x, y, or z (reifiying that I'm charge of everything household), I think there's a way in which the burden of bringing up these issues has fallen on women's shoulders (perhaps in part because many of us feel regularly structured by gender divides) because they are perceived as women's issues. Hopefully that makes sense...?

JG: I think all of that makes sense, Melissa, and the fact the burden falls the way it does has to do with larger issues that people much smarter than me have discussed elsewhere during this debate. But let's talk about the panel at Flow for a second. I am aware of the concerns regarding the boundaries to participation being regulated along gender lines. Likewise, I can understand the consternation about the fact a "panel of boys" and a "panel of girls", both featuring speakers who in other instances may have sat on panels together, were placed head-to-head at Flow. I'm not convinced, however, that to point to that particular incident as evidence of a marginalization of female academic practice necessarily does anyone a service. While I think some good has come out of that moment, there was a particularly sour taste left all round, I think, with regard to the way the issue was raised which seemed sometimes to suggest an intent to exclude, or if you like tinfoil headwear, marginalize.

MC: Clearly the sour taste is shared by many--and nobody enjoys it. I think we all know we're all good people and that no one would hurt or exclude anyone else on purpose, but the fact remains that there are patterns there. Perhaps everyone is tired of talking about it (and if so, forgive me), but I think we need to make positive things come out of these confrontations and uncomfortable situations. I love Stuart Hall's description of the push to put gender on the table in early cultural studies projects as the CCCS. I'll paraphrase because I lent out my book with that particular article in it, but he suggests that feminists broke in during the night and crapped on the table of cultural studies. I love that
because it suggests how shocking and violent the push felt--but look at how the field grew from that push. I'm not trying to compare this current situation to that, but I do want to stress that I've seen lots of great stuff come out of this dialogue, and I feel so much smarter for having read it--and I'm so glad to be a participant in it. I'm not, however, entirely satisfied by how this more direct stuff (that I think has more to do how we do our work and where our work takes place than it does with the content of our work), and in these last few weeks I'd like to see it more directly addressed. But I'll be quiet if no one else wants to talk about it....

My apologies in advance to those folks who will (rightfully) say that conferences privilege academics--they do. They are, however, an important component of the work that many of us do, despite the fact that our annual travel funds rarely cover even the costs of one trip to one conference. So critiquing conferences as a space of privilege shouldn't lead us to say that the work done there isn't useful or relevant (even fans have conventions, right, so something useful must be going on in these spaces?!). So, the deadlines for Console-ing Passions and the International Communication Association are upcoming. I'd happily volunteer to organize some panel proposals that would address some of the topics we've been discussing here--panels that would include male and female scholars and include folks studying fans with traditional and untraditional frameworks. If you're interested, please let me know.

I agree with Deborah Kaplan's suggestion that "surely a blog post gives a level of exposure unmatchable by presenting a paper to a room containing 16 overtired academics at an MLA conference," but it's become increasingly clear to me that while we started out with a robust conversation in this space, there are mainly "regulars" writing and responding, and in the recent weeks, responses have petered out. So maybe picking up the discussion in another forum would be useful? What else can we do?

JG: I think you touch on a really important issue here, Melissa; that is, how is it that we can ensure we effectively make spaces of academic privilege accessible while preserving the value of these sites. I think this is the other side of your proposition that critiquing these spaces shouldn't result in a devaluing of the work that is done here at the expense of work completed elsewhere. I'm not sure the intention of the debate thus far has necessarily been to critique these spaces as producing knowledge that isn't useful or relevant, but rather to point perhaps to the inadequacies of traditional academic practice to both engage the range of scholars producing knowledge within the discipline of 'fan studies' (or should that be "about fans"?), and to actively capture the diversity of knowledge that is being produced about the topic. Certainly Francesca Coppa's intervention in this debate describes the politics inherent in the perceived necessity to create spaces outside of what has been formally recognized as 'academia'. That these are spaces where useful work is produced that should or could be included in studies published via more formal academic channels does not seem such a controversial contention.

In doing so, I think you point to one of the most practical and apparent responses to this debate - namely, to try and move this debate or at least the issues it has raised, to a range of different sites. In this regard, I think it is important to work via "micropractices" (to invoke Jason Mittell again) to attempt to open up the spaces we can influence to a wider range of content. Again, there is nothing controversial about this proposition, but I raise it to suggest an answer to your "what else can we do" question. I'm not sure the solution is necessarily striving for a gender balance on panels or a flocking to particular publishing sites. While I think these options are useful and important, I think it is equally
important to encourage discussion across platforms, to support the development of a range of areas of specialization and to keep these in touch with each other - in short, to attempt to move the discussion beyond this forum and beyond this moment. In doing so, I think the questions Jason poses, "what is the relationship between the fan viewer and non-fan viewer? When we study fan practices, are we looking at people who consume differently in degree, or in kind?", are useful as points not so much of common enquiry but to begin to frame continued discussion.

MC: How do we proceed in fan studies--what do we agree belongs in this category, and what should be left out? There seems to be an agreement (if only a reluctant one) among folks in this discussion on the idea that the category "fan" should be broadened. Concern has been expressed, however, that if we make it too broad, it will lose its meaning. Could we begin to try to nail it down by suggesting the ways "audience" and "fans" might be different?

JG: I'm really interested in this question as I think complicating the term "fan", and its use, can help us to start to understand how ideas about the audience itself is being transformed by the participatory moment that has arisen. This discussion has offered up a good range of ways to account for fandom that run the gamut from structures of feeling to productive consumption via a spectrum of viewing intensity (and the comments even offered up "fanatic" at one point).

Theoretically pragmatic personally, I drew a lot from Anne Kustritz and Derek Johnson's deconstruction of fans as an object of study that can be generalized about, challenging the notion of the fan as necessarily determined by community, socialization, productivity, consumption, engagement, or outsider status. Their ultimate conclusion seemed to be that the fan as an object of study needs to be understood as a multiplicitous social construction and contextualized within historical and cultural specificity. That said, they also draw upon the notion of the fan as a sort of cultural logic used to describe particular categories of consumption for the purposes of patrolling 'normal' behavior. This is a classic position for the fan, historically positioned as atypical or anomalous in ways that permit the delimitation of acceptable media consumption and engagement habits.

In the current moment, however, where non-fan audiences (apologies for the clunky language) are bring increasingly described if not constructed through discourses of production, the fan seems to have been drawn back in somewhat from the edge. As the television industry, especially, attempts to make sense of the impact of inviting viewers to participate, losing control over the contexts of consumption, and realigns itself in an environment that seems likely to privilege multiple separate opportunities to view content, certain elements of the fandom look very tantalizing as models of audience practice worth encouraging. Of course, this is not unproblematic, and the industry seems mostly interested in promoting the depth of engagement and what I would characterize as the structures of feeling of fan engagement and hopefully not having to deal with the politics of ownership and production that emerge from fandom. But the fan as a model of a passionate consumer, a loyal consumer, a willing participant, a word-of-mouth marketer (or what Sam Ford regularly refers to as a proselytizer), an active participant in expansive storyworlds, and even a producer of additional textual elements (whatever sanctioned or tolerated form they might take), seems to be having an impact on the model of 'regular' audienceship, particularly as the behaviors once considered anomalous (such as archiving content, to pick up on Derek's own example) are wrapped into revenue models or normalized through cultural practice.

MC: I should confess (in case it's not yet obvious) that I'm in agreement with the folks who keep saying that they think there's something useful in studying audience members who do not behave as fans have typically been defined--as communal producers of materials that "rewrite" media texts. I support this perspective because it speaks to my experiences as a fan--and I find it useful in terms of understanding the activity I have seen in my study of Martha Stewart fans.

JG: Just quickly, I have to agree. I think understanding fans however defined is a useful activity to get at particular modes of consumption, but I do wonder sometimes if studies of particular genres that engage regularly with fan audiences (as opposed to studies of fan practice) over-represent the degree of fan consumers in a way that risks generalizing from the margins. I'm personally much more interested in the way cult properties, say, exist amongst a broader range of cultural and audience practices than I am the passionate investment of some audiences in these properties. This is not to belittle that work, but if we wind back the clock a little to consider the cottage industry that emerged around Buffy, I think much good work was either undiscovered or uncompleted because of the firm grasp cult and fan studies placed on the text.

MC: In my analysis of Stewart's fans, I found Jonathan Gray's ideas in "New Audiences, New Textualities" (International Journal of Cultural Studies 6.1) to be really helpful--and think they are potentially really useful here (I have received no compensation for this endorsement). Jonathan writes about two categories of fans he thinks have been overlooked: anti-fans and non-fans. His discussion of anti-fans reminds us that there's a possibility that folks who are thoroughly engaged with a text--consumptively and/or creatively--don't always feel/act passionately because they like the text, its stories and its characters. So, anti-fans "strongly dislike a given text or genre, considering it inane, stupid, morally bankrupt and/or aesthetic drivel." I found this kind of hatred of Stewart and her texts in my work, and found that some of the haters knew more about Stewart than those who claimed to adore her. So, for me, the reminder here is that there's a possibility for many different kinds of involvement with a text--and maybe we haven't thoroughly examined that yet. I think there's a lot of value in exploring the terrain of "fan."

And that's of course one of the threads in this blog extravaganza. One of the responses to that call, as we all know, is how to explore a range of fan identities while still being able to talk about "fans" and "fandom" as meaningful terms. For me, that's where non-fans come in.

Non-fans aren't really fans at all--and if we're going to retain the value of "fans" I think we have to define the term against something, and for me, that's the larger audience. Jonathan describes non-fans as "those viewers or readers who do view or read a text, but not with any intense involvement." These folks do have favorite programs, but "spend the rest of their television time grazing, channel-surfing, viewing with half-interest, tuning in and out, talking while watching and so on." Because these viewers are "the comfortable majority"--the TV audience--we should be able to use these folks to show how fans and the audience exhibit different identities, feelings and actions in relation to a text. This assumes in advance, of course, that there is in fact a difference. We'll have to do a bit of work to figure this out. In fact, Jonathan suggests (and I agree) that fans studies are in some ways more convenient than audience studies because fans of a text are much easier to identify than the audience for a text--plus they know the text more intimately and are more likely to make for more interesting interviews.

So, the push to widen the scope of fan studies is in a way a push to help us get a better view of the audience--and this is probably why it feels a bit like "fans" could be diluted in the process. But, if, once we've done some of this exploration, we can look at all we've found and have a better sense of what's really going on out there, I'm guessing we will have a way to talk about who's in a text's audience and who's a fan of a text. We have to remember to do that last step!

JG: At the risk of this sounding like a love-in, once again I have to agree. I think Jonathan's work on the anti-fan complicates our understandings of consumption muchly in valuable ways. If nothing else, the proposition of the anti-fan as something other than the fan-with-a-goatee works to break the binary of engagement that can too easily be (sloppily) applied to the fan/not-fan model of audienceship. I'm not entirely sure why you think this in some way dilutes 'fans' in the process. Doesn't it strengthen the idea of the fan as an object (however constructed) by enriching the models for engagement that circulate around the term?

MC: Good clarification question. I wouldn't argue per se that I think understanding fans as "multiplicitous social constructions" contextualized by the historical and cultural moments in which they were expressed will dilute the term "fan." I was voicing what I believe others have expressed in this dialogue. And I agree to a certain point that if everyone can be a fan, there's a possibility that then no one is not a fan--and that could lead to the term having less value or utility. Though I'm not sure that opening the term to new expressions necessarily means making everyone a fan....
PS: "fan-with-a-goatee" is fabulously funny.

JG: Not only a goatee, but driving a truck ominously across the desert! Okay, so here is my concern with where this is going, I can see two tensions in this overall discussion. One is about a desire to expand and increase the range of opinions and to have certain bodies of work and spheres of practice (and practitioners) recognized outside of what might be a marginal realm of participation. In this spirit, questions about what a fan might be and what fan studies might be constituted by are being posed with a hope to expand the functional definition and to generally share the love. The other tension, and there seems to be a defensive edge to this, is a desire from certain quarters it seems to quarantine off as 'proper' certain modes of studying fandom and of defining fans.

As I suggested earlier, I think one of the ways for us as a group, if we decide that we might comprise a like-minded body invested in putting on our "Gramscian hats" and moving this realm of discussion forward is to work out a way to support both these tendencies. Despite the fact I've placed these two positions in tension, I do think a fruitful way to advance this field of enquiry is to try and be aware of and promote specialization as well to make attempts to broaden the range of perspectives regularly brought to various tables. Does this sound like a pipe-dream or a recipe for trouble?

MC: Both--brilliant!

It seems to me that related to the topic of who counts as a fan is what kinds of media texts we are focused on as scholars. Certainly the distinction has been made that some folks are more interested in studying the texts produced by fans in relation to the "original" media text (and/or the communities in which they circulate), but some folks are interested in fans' relationships to the "original" media texts themselves. In either case, though, it seems that we're drawn into examining the kinds of fans that we do, at least in part, based on our own relationships to the "original" text. There a number of media texts that many folks here seem to reference repeatedly as being the important ones in terms of studying fans: Doctor Who,

Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc. But what happens when we examine fans of texts quite different from these? What kinds of fandom might we see then?

JG: I think sometimes the fandom we see is not recognised as fandom as such. I have spent a great deal of time looking at television branding and identity spots, which I absolutely love. Fans of these artifacts seem to be more regularly constructed as archivists than fans, in part, I suspect due to the nature of the text itself, though admittedly it also has much to do with the way they practice, perform, or engage in their fandom. Many of the fans of this content actively position themselves as archivists, often aping the language, structure and form of cultural institutions as they set up online galleries of this content categorized by channel, station, country, or season. Some of these fans historicise this content, positioning it within larger pro-am projects of media history that record national broadcasting systems or the work of particular stations. I don't think they write fanfic about television idents, though I can imagine a few possible adventures the Peacock could have on the way to letting us know NBC is broadcasting "The Place to Be." I do know there are groups in the UK particularly who mash-up existing idents and create their own, sometimes for fictitious stations and sometimes as replacements or 'what ifs' for existing stations.

The question that comes to my mind, then, is whether there is a meaningful distinction between considering this as fan practice and considering it as archival practice. I'm not suggesting they're necessarily exclusive categories, and I realise the latter is an activity most probably motivated by the former. But I do wonder whether these consumers would ever self-identify as 'fans' of these properties or this genre? And is that even important to the recognition of a category of fandom that might describe this behavior?

Certainly, I think the archival mode adopted by many of these fans (and the more I think about it, the more I'm sure they are actually fans) is related to the short form nature of the content and its intimate ties to both its historical context and its origin. It seems to make some systematic or structural sense to adopt an approach that ties idents to their era of production, especially as this is a genre of content that is regularly updated, often by iteration, so comparison and contrast is a meaningful way to engage with the content. So too, the place specificity of this content, particularly where idents come from individual stations rather than networks or national broadcasters, makes the construction of an archive a particularly meaningful way to engage with the significance of the text.

Constructing an archive, however, also easily enables a form of display that demonstrates your wiliness or dedication to the task. Idents are essentially disposable television content. Not programming, not advertising, they're content that may not last very long and which is regularly overlooked by most viewers. This certainly is not true in the case of the BBC, which quite gloriously has public launches for new ident campaigns, but especially in the US and in the case of the commercial networks in Australia, idents are programming that often doesn't warrant a second glance. While the DVR has made obtaining copies of more recent idents easier, older idents, particularly those from the 1970s and 1980s can be especially difficult to come by. The fan archive, then, would seem a particularly sensible way to publicly demonstrate your prowess as a television ident fan, as much as other productive modes of fandom might demonstrate textual mastery or inventiveness with the property (please don't slam me fan fic people - I know it's more complex than that).

MC: Joshua, that's a fabulous example for what I was trying to say. Thanks!

JG: You're welcome.

MC: Alan McKee's comment about his anger with Adorno's and Habermas' scorn of non-academics' interest in popular culture resonated with me, and I wondered if we are making a similar mistake by assuming that only folks who relate to texts in particular ways are worthy of being called "fans" without really exploring the issue. While I appreciate and respect the reasons why the fan-fic scholars want to hold on to their definition of "fan," I think that until we've ventured out into mainstream territory to find out what's going on out there, we can't really speculate.

There was an article by Susan Douglas in The Nation (25 August 1997) that has always stuck with me. Douglas relays her feelings about her pre-teen daughter enjoying the Spice Girls. She discusses her own reactions to the group's lyrics and images (many of which are negative) and then takes a step back to consider how her daughter and her friends might read/use The Spice Girls. What she concludes, of course, is that her own evaluation of the group matters much less than what the group means to her daughter and her friends.

Jonathan Gray joked that "we are the cool kids, right?" While it was clearly meant as a joke, I think there's a reason to take this comment more seriously. Much like the fans we study, we make judgments about what texts are worth our time and attention. This was never more clear to me than it was at Flow, when I (admittedly out of the loop because of the aforementioned baby) sat through conversations that referenced programs I had barely even heard of--and because of my lack of knowledge about the "cool shows," I kept quiet (and just as an aside, the repeated references to the "cool shows" could work to exclude others from a range of important discussions--here and elsewhere).

JG: And some of the cultural biases that appeared at Flow were interrogated there and elsewhere subsequently (not all, I know). I have to ask, however, isn't that somewhat the nature of academic practice? And isn't it useful sometimes to be the one who doesn't get it, or doesn't know what the text is, in order to either prod or interrogate the perceived significance of texts or to take an alternative track? Am I missing a point here?

MC: Maybe we're talking on two different planes? Sure, that's the nature of academic practice, but I guess I wanted to challenge that a bit. My point is that it sometimes feels like we tend to focus on particular texts to the exclusion of others--and while that may be "normal" (especially given the ebb and flow of TV texts in the context of the industry), I think it keeps us from looking at the range of texts out there (just like we've been talking about the current limits of "fan"), and looking at a limited range of texts (I think) will inevitably limit the range of fans and fan practices we see. And btw, thanks for suggesting "not getting it" is a useful position--now I feel "cool" instead of out of the loop.

So, in this discussion, many folks have called for more of a focus on the mainstream--and I guess here I'd like to underscore that. Will Brooker suggested that:

if we just concentrated on those people who fit the type of "fan" [meaning the productive and communal fan] ... we might just end up studying an unrepresentative group at the margins of a broad range of behaviour, much of which is less recognizable, less immediately visible, less striking, perhaps less exciting.

My point, is this: if we don't explore what else is out there, there's potentially a whole range of fan identification and participation that we could be missing--and since we are "the cool kids" shouldn't we be doing that important work to find out what's there?

JG: To finish on a note that's underscored this discussion, I think I agree. Melissa, it's been a pleasure.

MC: The pleasure was all mine. Take care!
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