I discussed among my selves whether or not to write an introductory post (name, rank, serial number). My first attempts at an autobiographical introduction began in a manner I found akin to my muffled, disjointed ramblings when I’m confronted with the question, “What do you do?”
I gave up. My first post is instead some recent thoughts inspired by hyperlinking through fandom during the course of my research.
Teenage fandom and the Internet for company
Fandom came to me late in life – at least relative to the aca-fan confessions of several distinguished authors on the subject – at the age of 18 when I moved away from home to university. Perhaps the migration to a new personal and social context enabled an instinctive bud of fandom to bloom, or perhaps I purposefully sought something with which to cultivate the bare soil of my new surroundings. I could search my developmental years and extract indicators of future academic and fannish occupations, but it is slim pickings unless I get creative. Teenage fandom, then, at any level more elaborate than cutting-out Jason Donovan pictures from Smash Hits! or scribbling ‘AN luvs RK’ (bonus points if you guess who RK is) in an exercise book, is new to me. My empirical knowledge of modern teenagers is limited to the media and to what activities I witness in public spaces.
I have been studying fandom and associated topics intermittently since writing the dissertation for my bachelor’s degree in 2003, through my Masters degree, and now as a PhD student. Fan activities in the age of the Internet, then, are not new to me; I am very much more familiar with them than offline activities. However, during the years in which I was not actively researching for academic purposes my experiences of Internet fandom were limited to ‘my’ fandoms, with a vaguely peripheral awareness of others.
The culmination of all this is that my academic interest in fandom has only recently opened to me a window to teenagers’ engagements with texts. I wasn’t looking for it, and in these early days it is little more than an arrow slit, but through it I have been pleasantly surprised, occasionally concerned and undeniably intrigued. To illustrate: through hyperlinking my way through recent fan activities, I discovered that by following the ‘#TomHiddleston’ Tumblr tag one could find teenage fans’ discourse on depression, fan art and fiction by teenage slash fans, and intertextual links between Shakespeare and The Avengers.
For those of you with an academic interest in fans the above example will be no surprise, but having been out of the aca-fan loop for a little while I find myself especially enchanted by the media activities of the younger generations. I also share the growing concerns of those who highlight the need for an organic and responsive curriculum of media education, especially at primary and high school level. I look forward with anticipation and awe to a time when I can contribute meaningfully to the debate.
This blog will, I hope, provide an outlet for those thoughts that would normally go unaired during my time inhabiting a one-woman PhD bivouac on the Parttimestudentshire tundra with only the Internet for company.