Seeing Fans, edited by Lucy Bennett and Paul Booth, is available now from Bloomsbury Academic (at extortionate monies, so beg your library). I have a chapter in this collection looking at the representation of mature female fans of male singers (e.g. Rod Stuart, Daniel O’Donnell) are betrayed in local and national newspapers. The collection itself is great-a real mixture of academic and industry insights into how fans are portrayed in different contexts.
A few weeks ago, I presented a paper at the celebrity studies conference in Amsterdam, written with Kathryn Murphy, one of my research students. In this paper we looked at newspaper representations of YouTube star Zoella. You can access the slides here. We are also presenting at the YouTube conference in Middlesex in September looking at how mainstream media are portraying YouTube stars.
I’ve also got an article available in Celebrity Studies on the ‘fame cycle’ and celebrity reality television, and this summer I’m completing work on ethics in fan studies and safe spaces in higher education as well as continuing work on gaming audiences and their relationship to corporations.
Baggage and taggage. Pic by Richard McCulloch
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.
Ashgate panel. Pic by Linda Duits.
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.
Neighbours Cluedo from Art of Neighbours
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.
Social Justice Sally advice animal. Image from FuckYeahSocialJusticeSally on Tumblr
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.
As most of you know, I have been doing research with Sims fans for a couple of years now and a while back held a survey about their web use. Some of those findings are in a paper I presented at the Internet Research conference last year (slides here, short paper here), some aspects were mentioned in a paper I co-authored in Participations journal. I have also written an article using these findings which will be published in the journal Transformative Works and Cultures next year and have another 2-3 articles in progress.
Given the release of Sims 4, I wanted to use this opportunity to gather player opinions on the new game, both before and after its release, and so I’m asking anyone who is a Sims player to fill in two short(ish) anonymous surveys relating to the game. The pre-release survey is now live and I would appreciate you recirculating the link so I can get as many people as possible to complete it (I had around 1.5K responses last time – thanks all!): http://pinto.hallam.shu.ac.uk/limesurvey/index.php/298684/lang-en
The second survey will be posted after the game is released (probably within the first week rather than on the day of release as I’ll need to discover what its features actually are so I can create appropriate questions). I’ll post reminders when it goes live, but the address is: http://pinto.hallam.shu.ac.uk/limesurvey/index.php/549839/lang-en Please note, this survey and its follow-up are entirely anonymous.
If you want any more details, you can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or keep an eye on this site. Thanks!