- Kali Dedominicis
- School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
- Edinburgh UK
- Research Interests
- Media fandom, Qualitative Research Methods, Discourse Theory, internet research methods, community, Documents of Life, Sociology of technology, Technology and society, Discourse, practice and sociological theories and methods, Media and society, new media, Media anthropology, popular culture, digital culture
Online media fandom and the construction of virtual community
- Dr. Kate Orton Johnson
- Dr. Liz Stanley
- MSc. by Research in Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh.
- MA (Hons.) in Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh.
Online Media Fandom and the Construction of Virtual Community
The short version: I am using online media fandom as a case study to explore what it means to be a virtual community - what such a community is, how it develops, how it functions, how people use and adapt the various available technologies to suit their needs, how virtual interactions and relationships are and are not similar to "real life" interactions and how that changes (or doesn't) the nature of the social structure that can develop around them.
The long version: Media fandom ("fandom", for short) is a subculture that grew up around particular practices of media consumption and appreciation. I chose fandom as my case study because of its longstanding tradition of what fans call "meta" texts: These are essays, stories (fan fiction), conversations, or other documents that deconstruct their chosen media, and subject it to academic levels of literary and sociological analysis. This body of discourse is disseminated, discussed, and built-upon by other fans until it forms its own distinct narrative - recognizably related to the old story, but also separate from it, rather like a fairy tale can take on new cultural details and plot variations until it becomes two separate but similar stories. When a fannish interpretation of a particular character, detail, or explanation becomes widely recognized throughout that fandom, they call it "fanon" to distinguish it from the "canon" version presented in the original media.
My interest, however, is in the tradition of meta discourse that deals not with media but with the fan community itself - with fan analysis of fandom. Many of the same practices of analysis and discursive creation involved in the development of fanon narratives are also applied to the analysis of fan products, practices, assumptions, behaviors, technological preferences, and history. The resulting narrative is, by its nature, highly contested and constantly evolving attempt to define and debate the nature and existence of the fan community.
My intention with this dissertation is to use those meta texts, and the unique and insightful self-reflection they represent, to further academic understanding of 1) the ways online fandom talks about itself and represents itself as a community - or not, 2) how people create a sense of belonging, community, and collective identity through conversation and analysis, and 3) what a virtual community is and how it can function, both as a technological infrastructure and as a force in people's lives, and how its existence is affecting the meaning of "community" in the modern world.