I was a contributor to last week’s Artsnight on BBC Two. Curated by Clara Amfo, it looked at fame from a variety of angles – managers, fans, artists, journalists – a really interesting programme if you’re interested in celebrity in its various forms, and it was great to be part of it. (Plus special thanks to the two SHU students who patiently let us eat up a few minutes of the time they had booked in the library while we finished if you’re reading!) It’s available here for another 3-and-a-bit weeks if you want to catch it.
It has been a long time since I updated, and with good reason – I have two injured arms (ask me if you see me and I’ll tell you the story although most people I know have heard it many times by now!) and this has been limiting my ability to type, use computers, read etc somewhat. Perfect for an academic, right? Anyway, I will be adding my thoughts on IR16 which was in Phoenix just over a week ago, where I was part of a team involved in a whole stream of stuff on social justice – in broad terms – but I’ll tell you all about that soon.
Just adding an update because I discovered there’s been some Tumblr sharing of some stuff I said in an interview a couple of years ago about 1D fans – and young female fans in general – and it’s nice to see fans finding out that there are people – including the journalist who wrote the article – who are supportive of them and understand them when they feel they’re getting kicked. So if any of you are reading this, hello! The picture on this post is of my nails because nail polish is one of the things I’m a massive fan of myself (in the spirit of fan solidarity and all that) and I’m too tired to find anything else!
And for those interested in my fan studies stuff, I just recorded another TV interview about fans of (female) celebrities. I hope the edit is sensitive – I know there was one part where they were trying to look at the ‘darker’ side of fandom and my point was that collective action, whether for ‘good’ or ‘ill’ is not something that fans or the internet invented and so we can’t look to them as scapegoats for the nastier sides of human nature… anyway, if it doesn’t end up coming across that way… Trust me, I wasn’t cynical about fans – or even about celebrities – so we’ll see what makes the cut. I’ll alert people when it’s coming out, fortunately it’s for something pretty niche rather than a ‘tabloid’ type show, and the production team were lovely and seem to be on the same wavelength, so fingers crossed!
In terms of publications, I have a chapter on how the news media represents mature female fans of male singers coming up in Lucy Bennett and Paul Booth’s new edited book on Seeing Fans, of which, details to come. Am finishing up a few things on fans and anniversaries that I can’t say too much on right now, still slowly working on stuff on gaming fans and game companies that has gone beyond just The Sims series, although that’s still a core component. And no, the hashtag that will not be named is nothing to do with it thankfully…
The Selfie Researchers Network has been running for just over a year, and members of it have just contributed to a special section, edited by Nancy Baym and Terri Senft, in the latest issue of the International Journal of Communication (vol 9). Articles look at funeral selfies, selfies in different cultures, selfies and politics and much more. My own contribution (written with Shane Tilton) compares the #nomakeupselfie and #thumbsupforstephen selfie campaigns and explores how they were portrayed very differently in wider media – but don’t just read ours, there’s a whole heap of interesting stuff in the issue – and it’s all open access!
The current issue of the International Journal of Cultural Studies (May 2015: 18 (3)) is the one that Feona Attwood and I guest-edited on Moments of Transformation – it’s been available for a while via OnlineFirst but now it’s out ‘for real’. The collection comprises a range of short and long pieces on different ways of thinking about aspects of makeover and transformation, from the changing taglines of social media sites to the use of YouTube by trans* vloggers.
My own paper looks at the trend of the mid-late 00s and early 10s to combine reality TV makeover formats and religious/spiritual programming – the likes of The Monastery, Make Me a Muslim etc.
Contributors include the likes of Matt Hills, Tania Lewis, Meredith Jones and Jean Burgess and we think it’s a nice mixture of topics and approaches. Sadly it’s not open access but hopefully you can find ways and means… 😉
In 2013, I co-edited an issue of Sexualities journal with Sarah Taylor-Harman and Bethan Jones about the Fifty Shades book series. My own contribution was a paper written with Clarissa Smith exploring reader responses to the novels.
Well, unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll have noticed a certain film adaptation was released last weekend, and so we’re all back on the case! Sarah has put out a call for papers for a special issue of Intensities journal on the phenomenon, and Clarissa and I (along with Lynne Hall and Sarah Tazzyman) are now interested in viewers of the film. If you’ve seen it, please complete the survey.
I’ll also be speaking about Fifty Shades and reader responses to the novels at the Science Museum Lates next week if you happen to be in That London.
This weekend I was down in London for the second annual Fan Studies Network conference. The event brought together a range of scholars of all levels, from undergraduates through to professors through to a Skype keynote from actor Orlando Jones talking about his own engagement with fans and academics. Several other participants have already blogged about the event at far more length than I suspect I have the energy to muster right now, so I really recommend you check out what Nicolle Lamerichs, Lori Morimoto and Emily Garside had to say about it.
I was part of a panel of authors from the newly-released Ashgate Research Companion to Fan Cultures, where I shared a bit about my longitudinal work on online fan communities dedicated to Belle and Sebastian and Cliff Richard. I also presented some of the very preliminary findings of my Sims 4 pre-release survey – although with almost 800 surveys completed there is a lot to mine through there still!
I heard a bunch of great papers over the weekend and missed out on even more fantastic-sounding ones (the difficulties of choice at conferences!). There was an emphasis on fandom and spaces, which was really interesting. I also loved the number of papers discussing fandom histories – from Lincoln Geraghty’s look at a history of conventions and programmes to Eva Hayes Gledhill’s fascinating comparison of 19th century scrapbooking and contemporary fandoms on Tumblr and Pinterest. It was great to see soap opera and music fandoms represented alongside the perhaps more expected cult media and TV drama. Sport was lacking a bit, though, and it would have been good to see something on club/dance cultures to see how those subcultural/clubcultural studies have come on (if at all?!) since last century. Inevitably, the white European nature of a lot of us meant that the papers weren’t as diverse as they could have been in terms of ethnicity and nationality – something that is maybe hard to avoid in a small conference held in the UK – but worth us acknowledging as a gap.
Some of my favourite papers, however, were those that explored the intersections between ‘fans’ and ‘professionals’. Orlando Jones gave a fascinating keynote Q&A via Skype (which was much more glitchy than it ever is in films or adverts, funny that) about his experiences as an actor who fully embraces several social media platforms and engages very actively with fans, other celebrities and academics, engaging at times in his own fannish practices. He spoke passionately about the relationship between fans and stars – whilst also acknowledging the disconnect some of the big Hollywood studios have from their audiences. Sarah Ralph shared some of the findings from the broader Make Me Laugh project, which looks at British comedy. In her paper she shared extracts from interviews with comedy professionals about their own experiences of being comedy fans and the pleasures and pains of becoming professional in an arena you love. Ruth Foulis presented on YouTube stars and their engagement with their own fans, something I’m really interested in as I teach a Celebrity Culture module and the rise of YTers has been one of the most significant developments that I’ve seen in the four-five years of working on the module.
I’m looking forward to reading all the articles, chapters and books that emerge from the projects represented at the conference.
I have now closed the Sims 4 pre-release survey with around 800 completions and will be working my way through the data in advance of the Fan Studies Network conference in September where I’ll present some of the preliminary findings. Now The Sims 4 is out (in most of the world anyway…) the post-release survey is live. I’d love as many people as possible to complete it – whether or not you have TS4, and whether or not you completed the earlier survey.
There will be two types of questions – a set for those who have played TS4 and a set for those who haven’t. The survey will be live until the end of October. If you are planning on getting it before then, please can you wait until you have played before completing it? But if you have already played or you know you won’t be getting it before the end of October, go right ahead!
As before, it’s entirely anonymous (and this survey is a bit shorter too). Results from the pre-release survey are likely to be available late September after the conference and I’ll keep people posted about the results of this one.
I’ve got chapters/papers in a couple of publications that were released in the past few days. Bethan Jones and Wickham Clayton recently edited a special issue of Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media about transmedia board games. I have a wee piece about The Art of Neighbours in there, but the range of articles is really great – not just cult/fantasy stuff but it features things like Charlie Chaplin, Battleship and the Wizard of Oz. It was a great project to be involved in and I know a few things are being written on board games at the moment so I look forward to seeing where this burgeoning field goes…
I’ve also got a chapter in The Ashgate Research Companion to Fan Cultures (edited by Linda Duits, Joost de Bruin and Stijn Reijnders) about the research I did on Cliff Richard and Belle and Sebastian fans in the early 2000s and early 2010s. The book covers a wide range of topics, eras and methodologies and I can’t wait to read it.
And, as I suspect I’m getting a bit of traffic from Sims fans at the moment, just an update on the Sims 4 research – my pre-release survey will be live until Monday if you still want to complete it. The post-release survey should be up within a week of the game’s release (it hasn’t been written yet as I want to adapt questions to what’s known to be in the game after it comes out, not just the pre-release news/rumours/trailers etc). I know a lot of people have said in the pre-release that they’re not buying it, but I hope those people will still fill in the post-release survey. The survey will essentially take two ‘tracks’ – one for those who’ve purchased it and one for those who haven’t (yet) and the findings will be compared to the pre-release data. Almost 800 surveys have been completed. Some of the raw data will be made available late September when I present a paper at the Fan Studies Network conference on it, but it’ll take a while to process everything (especially all the qualitative comments). Number and nature of the publications based on it TBC but I’m also committed to some non-Sims and non-fan studies papers in 14/15 (plus creating new modules for SHU) so I will have to write those first!
Yesterday was one of those days where the news seemed directly targeted to me and I wanted to shout at it to shut up while I finished being busy doing a bunch of entirely different stuff. Two of the big stories directly related to my research interests: religion in the media, and fans of Cliff Richard – and I’m slap bang in the middle of writing a lot of things that mean I can’t give either story much attention. Still, I have a blog, so I can write something quick and rough and ready instead – and it’s some very weird kind of (divine?) coincidence that two big stories featuring Christian singers and sexuality broke on the same day.
Following on from my post the other week, here are some thoughts about trigger warnings, fandom and social media. In a forthcoming paper for Transformative Works and Cultures I write about this as part of a wider discussion of how Sims fans use Tumblr and the ways this Tumblr posting is observed, commented on and ‘shamed’ by LiveJournal site SimSecret. One of the things that particularly interested me from both the interviews and surveys I conducted with users and from reading SimSecret and its comments was the way that fans were often ‘called out’ either for behaviour that was deemed to be offensive or inappropriate (e.g. sexism, cultural appropriation etc) or, conversely, for being a ‘Social Justice Warrior’ and too precious about such things. One of the debates fans frequently have with each other – and in other communities – is about the use of trigger warnings. Those who advocate their use are often seen as being SJWs, pearl clutchers or ‘special snowflakes’ whilst those who are vehemently against them have been characterised as oppressive, bullying or insensitive.