Archive for the ‘Fan Cultures’ Category

Spreading the cult body

marzo 17, 2011

Research presented at Networking Images – Approches interdisciplinaires de la notion de réseaux, IRCAV – Paris 3 – Sourbonne Nouvelle – 17 – 18 mars 2011.



In the “convergence culture” new hybrid and participatory forms of audiovisual production are emerging. Cultural industries design “media brand” with the aim to engage consumers in “affective economies” (Jenkins, 2006) and stimulate the emergence of “grassroots marketing” (Ito, 2008). In the digital public spaces, information is persistent, searchable, replicable, and scalable (boyd, 2008). Therefore media brand can reach a huge visibility thanks to the works of consumers that, sharing branded products online, work as grassroots promoters and generate a viral process. However, different to the “viral” model, the “spreadable” model (CCC, 2009) assumes that fans doesn’t simply share contents, but they also adapt, transform and rework the professional produced material, creating derivative works (video remix, fanart, fansubs… ) to fulfil they expressive and social needs. It is thus important to investigate how fans add value to the original content and how they create now expressive forms.
How does producers design spreadable contents to engage consumers in grassroots promotional activities? Which hybrid audiovisual forms are emerging? With the aim to answer to those questions I’ve conducted a comparative analysis of YouTube videos that are derivative from two different mainstream cultural products: the US Tv series Glee and the Lady Gaga’ music video Telephone. I’ve chose those case studies because they have been international success during spring 2010, also thanks to the grassroots work of fans. In fact, the professional produced text have been appropriated and reworked by gLeeks (i.e., fans of Glee) and Little Monsters (i.e., fans of Lady Gaga) that shared derivative videos online. Furthermore they are both example of the convergence process that surround cultural industries: Glee is a teen-dramedy that integrate elements of the “self-reflexive musical” genre, instead Telephone is a music video that is part of a series of short films. Comparing Glee’ and Telephone’ amateur re-performances, I’ve identified four main categories of grassroots creativity: (i) parody (spoof), (ii) musical (fans and semi-professional musicians re-perform the original song during “re-singings”, cover, live medley, DJ remixes e choreography), (iii) fashion (make up artist and fans appropriate the image of the star to create “make up tutorial”) and (iv) fan cultures (vidding, street team, fansubbing, …). Glee and Telephone thus stimulate the users’ creativity in term of ironic criticism, music performance, fashion performances and fandom.
I argue that Glee and Telephone are both media brand that have been designed with the aim to engage consumers in an affective economy, exploiting the dynamics of cult text and stardom (Hills, 2002). A complex word full of intersexual reference and quotable elements have been created. Glee and Telephone gives to the fans “textual hooks” (Burgess, 2008) that can be appropriated and reworked. In particular, producers intentionally construct “cult bodies” that explicitly incorporate previous media icons such as pop music idols and cinematic references. Fans are thus stimulate to appropriate the second order of cult bodies, creating another level of performativity that are the tertiary text. YouTube users thus re-create with emulative or parodic intent the professional produced text, spreading the brand itself.


Writing fan cultures: a dialogical performance of [aca]fandom

agosto 25, 2009

The speech will be presented at the conference “Transforming Audiences 2”. 3 September 2009, University of Westminster. London, UK.

“The contemporary media landscape is a complex global environment that recently evolved to a many-to-many communication channels of interactive technologies. In fact, due to the digital convergence, old and new media collided in a cross-media platform where the audiovisual narratives are created not only from the media industries (primary and secondary texts) but also from the grassroots participatory cultures (tertiary texts) (Jenkins 2006). Those sociotechnical changes affect also the way people manage their presentation of selves and interact in their everyday lives. In fact media audiences are evolving into networked publics (boyd 2008) that participate in the construction of niche peer cultures. It is the case of fans, consumers with an intense engagement with a media content, genre or celebrity, that adopt digital social media with the aim to communicate with like minded people. Fan cultures and special interest groups thus emerge from the ongoing interaction of the fans in different social spaces, that could be both online (fan communities) and offline (fan conventions).

My study focuses on how fan cultures can be understood as a starring system: a network of multifaceted and multisited individual and collective performances of fan audiencehood where the boundaries between media figures (and academics) and viewers are blurred. In fact, during an explorative ethnography on Italian television fandom I‘ve observed the emergence of a networked collectivism of amateur experts (Baym 2007) that performs their competence and their passion publishing tertiary texts as fansite, fanart (video remix, avatar, wallpaper, …), fanfiction and fansubs.

In order to describe the starring system from the point of view of the audiences, I argue that the researcher should embark on an ethnographic experience to dialogue with fans and to give narrative visibility to her identity as an aca/fan thus performing her audiencehood. For this reason I propose to combine an analytical auto-ethnography (Anderson 2006) with a multisited participant-observation.”

Addicted to Passion

giugno 30, 2009

Presentation prepared for Modernity 2.0. Emerging Social Media Technologies and their impacts | Urbino, Italy 29 June/5 July 2009