Communication and Culture | Seminar in Media (Topic: Fans and Participatory Cultures)
C793 | 27527 | Klinger, B.

W, 1:00 PM-3:30 PM, BH 335
Required film screening: Tu, 7:15 PM-10:15 PM, FA 102

Meets with CULS-C 706 and AMST-G 751

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Barbara Klinger
Office: C2 225
Phone: 855-1796

Over the last twenty-five years, media studies and Cultural Studies
have seen increasing attention to reception, to the ways that
audiences decode media texts. Previous theories had constructed the
spectator as an abstract, disembodied entity who passively responded
to the strategies and messages of media texts and industries. In
reaction, scholars began to employ historical, ethnographic, and
empirical research to examine how individual viewers or groups of
viewers responded to films, TV shows, and other media within
specific social contexts. These scholars helped diversify ideas of
who spectators are and how they use media texts, showing the
importance of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality to
discussions of viewing.

Within this context, the study of fans has emerged as a particularly
vital area of inquiry. Working against the commonplace
misunderstanding of fans as crazies or misfits, researchers analyze
the fan as a spectator par excellence–an avid, participatory
consumer of media texts whose practices speak volumes about the
interpretive strategies and pleasures of viewers. In this course, we
will begin by examining the methodological tools used in fan studies
(particularly ethnographic and empirical methods). As we proceed, we
will examine a number of questions that have structured this area of
research, particularly in relation to film, television, and new
media. Who are fans and what makes their viewing habits and
strategies distinct? What are the interpretive practices of fans and
how do they affect textual decoding? How do fans use media as a
resource in their everyday lives? How have new media, such as the
Internet and multiple platforms of access to film and television,
affected the formation of fan communities and interactions with
media texts? Can we consider fan activities as subversive? What
challenges do cases of transnational fandom represent for fan
studies? These questions are posed as a means of understanding the
intricate relationships between viewers and mass culture
particularly, but not exclusively, in a U.S. context.

Weekly screenings will showcase films about fans, as well as a broad
range of media texts favored by avid viewers, from cult film and TV
programs to fan-made videos. These screenings will provide the
opportunity to think through the fan theory and criticism we will
read in class. In turn, assigned readings (by Henry Jenkins, Matt
Hills, and many others) will acquaint the student with the
development of fan studies in the field and the major schools of
thought that have helped to define this area of scholarship.
Assignments will also include presentations and a research paper.