Matt Hills is Professor of Media and Journalism at the University of Huddersfield, where he is also co-Director (with Cornel Sandvoss) of the newly launched Centre for Participatory Culture. Matt is additionally co-editor (with Dan Hassler-Forest) on the ‘Transmedia’ book series for Amsterdam University Press. This published its first title, Fanfiction and the Author by Judith Fathallah, in 2017.
Matt has written six sole-authored monographs himself, starting with Fan Cultures in 2002 (Routledge) and coming up to date with Doctor Who: The Unfolding Event in 2015 (Palgrave), as well as editing New Dimensions of Doctor Who (2013) for the programme’s fiftieth anniversary year. He has also published more than a hundred book chapters or journal articles on media fandom and cult film/TV, including publishing in the journal Transformative Works and Cultures and the Journal of Fandom Studies. Other recent work has included chapters for the Ashgate Research Companion to Fan Cultures, The Blackwell-Wiley Companion to Fandom and Fan Studies, and the Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, along with a Foreword for the second edition of Paul Booth’s Digital Fandom and an Afterword for the Bloomsbury edited collection Seeing Fans. Matt gave a keynote at the first Fan Studies Network Symposium, and returns with a Plenary, ‘5 Years of FSN and Fan Studies’ at FSN 2017, hosted by the University of Huddersfield. Among other projects, Matt is currently working on a follow-up to his first book for Routledge, entitled Fan Studies.
From Fan Cultures to ‘Fan Worlds’ and ‘Implicit Fandom’: Becker and Bourdieu in the Field of Fan Studies
Abstract: I will consider two ways of revisiting the concept of “fan cultures” (Hills 2002). Firstly, given that fan culture/community is arguably in the process of fracturing into distinct specialisms and “traditional”/“brand” fans (Linden and Linden 2017), I will consider how the notion of fan world might address these points. Here, I will draw on Howard Becker’s approach to art worlds, moving away from a position where world theories have usually been adopted in relation to world building/transmedia to think about the diverse pathways through which fandom can be performed in today’s “participatory condition”.
Secondly, I will argue that fan studies has potentially focused on self-identifying media fandoms at the expense of addressing emergent, generational and social media-facilitated literary, art and theatre fandoms (Hills 2018). Via a reading of Pierre Bourdieu’s work I’ll explore how fan studies can (and is starting to) engage with “implicit fandom”, where audiences and produsers engage in strongly fan-like behaviours outside the settled domains of popular/media culture, and without necessarily using the labels of ‘fandom’. I will focus on the position of “implicit” theatre fandom as well as addressing the more explicit fans of immersive theatre (Biggin 2017).
In short, I’m interested here in the possibilities that can be opened up for contemporary fan studies by returning to the work of theorists such as Becker and Bourdieu.
Dr Ika Willis is Senior Lecturer in English Literatures at the University of Wollongong, but has a BA in Classics and an MA and PhD in Cultural Studies. She has published on slash and Mary-Sue fanfiction. (She has also written slash and Mary-Sue fanfiction, combining the two in a novel-length Harry Potter fic).
Ika is particularly interested in fans’ interpretative strategies, as part of her broader interest in theories of interpretation and the long history of reading. In 2016, she edited a special issue of the Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures on fan fiction and the classical canon, comparing fannish reading/rewriting practices to those of elite Greek and Roman literary communities. She also published an essay on Greek-myth fanfic on AO3 in the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Reception of Greek Mythology. Her book Reception roams across medieval, Classical, Biblical, and media studies as well as fan studies, and includes a reading of Flummery’s Doctor Who fanvid ‘Handlebars’. It will be published in Routledge’s New Critical Idiom series in October 2017.
‘There’s no running from worldbuilding any more’, wrote the science-fiction author Bernard Hayman on the popular website The Toast in 2015. His words echo those of Henry Jenkins, ten years earlier: ‘More and more, storytelling has become the art of world building’ (2006: 116).
Which is to say that worlds are coming into view as key objects of attachment in practices of interpretation and cultural consumption. Fans, in particular, frequently experience intense attachment to fictional worlds alongside (sometimes even instead of?) identification with characters or investment in narrative arcs, payoff, and closure. Fans want to go on inhabiting or exploring a fictional universe after the story is over – something which has, so far, mainly been theorised in terms of ‘immersion’ (Ryan 2007) or ‘participation’ (Jenkins 2006). These frames have, however, constrained our ability to understand fannish attachments to worlds, as well as the work of worldbuilding performed by fans’ interpretative and transformative practices. In other words, although we know that fans are attached to worlds, we don’t yet have a very good understanding of what kind of objects worlds are.
This talk speculates about that problem, wondering whether we can build a better understanding by distinguishing two aspects of world. Firstly, the explicitly fictional, fantastical, or alternative world constructed by a text; secondly, ‘world’ as the ‘unspoken, world-oriented ideological normativity’ in the ‘preconscious’ of that text (Hayot 2012: 7): the assumptions embedded in a text and/or a genre about the way the world is. Building on arguments I made ten years ago in ‘Keeping Promises to Queer Children’, I will examine some of the ways that fans explore and expand the first aspect of a text’s world by intervening in the second. Fans may align fictional worlds with their own assumptions about the way the world is, for example by importing the ‘methods of rationality’ (LessWrong/Yudkowsky, 2010-15) or the possibility of same-sex attraction (Willis 2007) into the Harry Potter universe; or they may explore or expand the emotional landscape of a fictional world by telling different kinds of stories, as with Star Trek ‘homoaffection’ fics (Narai 2017) or importing characters and dynamics into different ‘worlds’ altogether, as with coffee shop or college AUs.