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What Is The Fan Audience Media Essay

Fan audience can be separated from the wider context of audience and can be distinguished on the basis of styles of consumption and cultural preference (Jenkins, 1992). The consumption pattern of fandom differs from the mainstream audience as they are enthusiastic and obsessively involved with an object of fandom coupled with a sense of community based around shared fixation consolidated with visual signs of belonging such as clothing, haircuts (Jones, 2003). Fandom is not a set of ordinary audiences that read TV texts to produce meanings and pleasure with respect to socio-cultural frameworks (Fiske: 1987, 17) but to supplement those meanings and pleasures into activities that fulfills their hunger of fannishness. Fan creates their own interpretations about a fandom object; they construct their own cultural artifacts such as fanzines videos, sound files, and screensaver to show loyalty towards a particular fandom object.

The conventional public view of fandom is negative as they have been described as ‘unbalanced’ and ‘out of sync from reality (Bruchill, 1986). TV fans are characterized as ‘kooks’ obsessed with celebrities and TV programs to an extent that they fail to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality (Jenkins,1992:11). Much of us describe fandom as obsessed individuals or agitating crowd living in their on spheres of life. Jenson(1992) explains fannish behavior as ‘psychological inept’ or lacking; fans as individuals are socially inadequate and ineffectual people deceived by popular culture, in particular the media that offers escape from pitiable life. He sees fandom as a behavior of people to get away with the worrisome routine life but notes that excessive fandom behavior can confuse the boundaries of a normal or deviant behavior. Jenkins (1992) Textual Poachers highlights the changing conception of fan audience from passive to active who turns readers and writers contributing much to the fans in particular and audience in general. He argues each fan constructs an alternative ‘reality’ through fan activities, the reality inurns demonstrates a desire to negotiate with the media in a creative and active way that creates a product relevant to fan or fan community, for instance many gays reworked the relationship between Spock and Kirk and wrote scripts to appropriate own meaning from the TV text. Such a behavior describes fans as ‘poachers’ who steals others text and appropriate it in their own ways. De Certeau (1984) idea of poaching offers TV fandom to assemble and participate in TV text according to their needs and wants. Harris (1998) explains fandom activities a spectrum of practices engaged to develop a sense of personal control or influence over the object of fandom in response to subordinated social status.

Hills (2002) argues fandom activities are marked by ‘common effective tie’ with an intensification and validation of emotional bonding among fans that are served by social groups or online forums. Recently online forums have become the latest platforms for exchange of fannish activities and artifacts providing an interpretive community (1984) where fans can ponder meanings be it aesthetical, philosophical or metaphorical. Online fandom cultures are bigger and better to access and forms an excellent forum for discussing fannish content. Bennett (1999) analyzes the connection between XWP’s postmodern construction of past and fan readings and draws how intertextuality draws audience for an active engagement with the series diegetic construction through and beyond and readers relating to other text and discourse. Fiske (1987) describes that one text is read in relation to others and readers interpret the content depending upon prior knowledge and socio-cultural frameworks. Intertextuaility has become key to hypertextuality leading ever evolving construction of networks (Jones, 2003) amongst online fandom. Online environment helps fandom to remove the necessary barriers to intertextual networks and changing it to a much flexible online culture where fandom relates one text to other texts and discourse for instance reformulations of amazon identities and culture around online Xenaverse.

Reed (1997) notes Amazon (women warriors0 of XWP (TV show) are represented as feminist symbolic lexicon and are known for their heroic deeds. Amazons of Xena Warrior Princess are courageous and fierce warrior that resembles to Greek women warriors and are popular among woman. The fandom community of XWP is emerging as historical actuality and a concept for female identities and alliance (Jones, 2003). Jones (2003) describes online Xenaverse, an online Amazon information source are used by fans to connect to other related websites that constructs virtual realization of idealized ‘Amazon culture’. Ross (2008) notes online communities brings a common platform and a sense among viewers that they can be heard. Such upcoming of Amazon fans can be sub grouped to a new identity of women that are strong and are somehow different from other women leading to a new sub-identify among women. Amazon fans activities are identified as ‘uniform’ that can be sub grouped as a ‘subculture’ existing within the periphery of fandom that has discovered their own unique ways to express their fannishness.

Fandom is a taste and preference statement made by those who become part of it and share uniform activities that can be identified as separate from others such as Whoosh used by fan communities of XWP, Spoilers of Survivor. Fandom can be defined as a form of expression used by a community to produce their own artifacts and get heard for it. As Ross (2008) explains fandom a legitimate cultural activity that must exhibit usefulness and value, fandom are no more obsessed individuals but have transformed into readers and writers that contributes fan written essays, fanzines, videos, sound files to enrich the media sources. In this context fandom can be seen as a self building activity plus a media enriching source.

Jenkins (1992) highlights difficulties in fan culture due to its problematic status, inescapable relations to other form of cultural production and social identities. Fandom is in a constant changing subculture with respect to new technological environment, changing cultures, global content that affects fandom activities to a larger extent. The new media interface such as social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Orkut encourages fandom participation and connect to other fans who have similar interest. However differences in culture, community and taste shape the preferences of fandom which affects their behavior to a larger extent.

1.3.4 Facebook – A networking platform for TV fandom

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter are becoming new platforms for next television generation (Kenny, 2010). Viewing television content on social networking sites has added new dimensions to the broadcast model in terms of ‘reception’ and ‘engagement’. Experiencing TV content with functional tools embedded in social networking sites such as voice chat, peer ratings, tagging engages users in a more personalized and intimate manner.

TV fosters multiple forms of sociability (Oehlberg, Ducheneaut, Thornton, Moore, Nickell: 2006), an ethnographic study was conducted to analyze the pattern of interaction of broadcast model that categorized sociability as: direct (chatting with friends and family while watching TV) and indirect (discussing previously viewed TV content with peer and friends). The direct sociability is much on the lines of Mc Luhan’s (1964) living room experience that conveys a sense of synchronicity created by electronic medium (broadcast model) and the living room. He depicts a living room equipped with TV and family members that discuss about TV content while watching it. Such an involvement with the medium a) promotes sociability among family members by giving them a common topic to discuss that transforms them to potential audience b) illustrates a sight of simultaneity between the medium and family members as potential audience discussing about programs as they are watching TV.

In the current era, the broadcast model practices direct and indirect form of sociability. Indirect form of sociability refers to ‘water cooler conversation’ (Jenkins: 2000) amongst friends and peers while or after watching TV content. For many of us, the water cooler dialogue has gone digital (Jenkins 2000), in the present context it refers to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Orkut, that attracts tones of TV fans from all over the world to share ideas and insights at a single platform. The fact that fans are no longer committed to appointment based television i.e. watching shows on broadcast model at a given time and channel, has shifted them to potential jugglers whose movements to different mediums are defined by certain gratification. Gratification refers to amusing activities carried out by online communities of fandom on networking sites that are synonymous to ‘readers’ who other than recovering meanings from the text also apply those meanings to their lived experience (Jenkins :1992).

Fandom communities on networking sites are huge and extend beyond peers, neighborhood, cities, countries, and even continents. Online varied content may interest to different fandom communities but what I am interested to discuss here is how such shifts in social networking affects a) circulation of TV content via posting of links and videos on networking sites b) consumption of content by online fandom communities resulting monologue to dialogue. For instance if Brooky becomes a fan of Simpson’s Halloween special episode on Facebook and the same gets posted to all her friends; does it induces a conversation between friends who more or less likely to talk about Simpson? Or her friends going to take this opportunity to discuss something unique about the episode and unleash facts that are not known before.

Facebook in simple words is a networking site, but ascertaining how we incorporate it in our routine life would take some time to ponder. A simple user may use Facebook for networking but a fan of Simpson’s may use it as a forum to discuss about its plot and other characteristics. Different users use networking platforms for varied reasons, other than users or fans who exchange their favorite links and videos, network channels too use such platforms for range of promotional activities such as offering full episodes of popular programs online, making deleted scenes available online, generating episodic commentary of a series etc too boost the fandom activities on social networking, for instance status updates and regular posts to fandom’s wall keep them posted about recent development in the show or series. Posting and sharing videos across networking sites not only sparks comments but forms a series of endless conversation with recent additions. CNN networks fans on Facebook via different pages (pages based on different channels of CNN –CNN International, CNN Turk etc) each catering to different set of niche fandom communities, the pages share links to main websites and have special tabs on the wall such as Twitter tab, video tab that highlights the recent most developments and updates from the channel (Calderon, 2010).

Networking sites (new media) are technologically designed to be more responsive for a better feedback that generates interactivity leading to participation that is dependent on social and cultural protocols surrounding fandom (Jenkins: 2006, 137). The creators (content producers) decides interactivity, and users (fans) may interact with whatever is given to them where as participation allows users to become creators and consumers of the content. In this way both network operators and non network players create and capture value while dramatically changing how consumers interact about TV text on social platforms.

Social as a noun refers to consumption and engagement of amusing activities in public spaces (Putman, 2000). Putman (2000) describes engagement with the broadcast model on social networks contributes to an individual experience and explains how individualization of technology enables contacts on social platform. As discussed before the broadcast model has been transformed by rapid changes in technology, online virtual communities has added a new spectrum for a personalized communication flow that can be accessed by range of personal devices like mobile phone, I phones etc. Personalization of media devices leads to granulation of media spaces performing a customized and personalized programming habits based on what a user or a community may like (Klym and Montpetit: 2008, 2-7).

Thompson (2009) refers networking sites are ‘personal media network’ for every individual or user who builds a hive himself, selecting and controlling, what you want.

Video links and posts posted on a user page are ‘personalized’ and cater to a common ground shared by you and your friends or communities. Interpretation or ‘decoding’ (Hall: 1980) of the post rests on the individual, who understands and interpret meanings from the text in a personal way and act accordingly. Networking sites are tailored to individual taste and expectation, no matter what you like Simpsons or Lost, the global character of networking sites have enough fodder for entertainment hungry fans.

This seems a rich area of fandom (audience) activities that explores social platform for gratification of personal needs. Pursuing questions will be important to access as in how fandom cultivates communities around their favorite shows, when distribution of TV content flourishes through networking sites.

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