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March 2017, Week 1


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Bridget Kies <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 28 Feb 2017 07:29:55 -0600
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Hello everyone, the deadline for Toxic Fan Practices, a themed section of
the journal Participations, is tomorrow. We hope many of you will consider
submitting! If you can't get a formal abstract together by tomorrow but are
interested, please email me your loose description.

Call for Papers, Themed section of Participations: International Journal of
Audience and Reception Studies


Editors: Bridget Kies (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA) and William
Proctor (Bournemouth University, UK).

Since its inception, the discipline we now know as Fan Studies necessarily
set out to challenge stereotypical perspectives on the behaviour and
practices of fan cultures, many of which constructed the figure of the fan
as a figure of fun; of pathological disorder, instability and ‘enfreakment’
(Proctor, 2016; Richardson, 2010). In so doing, and in many ways, Fan
Studies followed the trajectory established by Media and Cultural Studies
beginning with the Birmingham School in the 1970s. In particular, the
‘first wave’ of Fan Studies was invested in demonstrating that audiences
are not solely passive recipients of so-called media messages, or ‘dominant
ideologies,’ but active participants in the production of transgressive and
transformative practices – fan fiction, fan ‘vidding’ and the like – and
involved in the negotiation of making meaning. The advent and proliferation
of new media technologies, especially the Internet, has forced previously
marginal fan cultures into the mainstream (Bennett and Booth, 2014; Gray et
al, 2007; Scott 2013). As a result, the heightened visibility of fans and
their ability to comment, celebrate and criticise produces readily
accessible discourses for public consumption. While such a shift in
visibility has had a clear impact on “monolithic conglomerates” (Johnson,
2013: 43) in that “fan audiences are now woo’d and championed by media
industries” (Gray et al: 2007: 2), we believe that this represents only a
fraction of the story, and one that requires significant redress. The
visibility of fan cultures may very well shine a light on creative and
participatory practices, but mainstream, public exposure also demonstrates
the heterogeneity of fan communities, warts and all.

Of course, Fan Studies has since moved through several phases and, in
recent years, fans themselves have become the subject of mainstream news
media, but often in highly negative ways. Such discourses circulate around
the figure of the fan, not as a figure of fun necessarily, but as a figure
of racist, homophobic, sexist and reactionary politics. Moreover, news
reports are beginning to stereotype fans in ‘new’ ways, such as the belief
that the affordances of new media have led to an era of “fan entitlement
syndrome” (Mendelsohn, 2014), of “nerd rage” and antisocial, toxic
behaviours. Stereotypes of fan entitlement circulated in online news media
(professional, amateur, pro-am) seems to be an “updated and retooled”
version of William Shatner’s oft-cited ‘get a life’ stereotyping (Hills,
2016: 271; see also Jenkins, 1992).
The anonymity provided by social media platforms, with their (cyber)
pseudonymous (and obfuscated) identities, has provided a figurative wall
behind which participants may hide. As Claire Hardaker (2015) emphasizes,
‘this anonymity can also foster a sense of impunity, loss of
self-awareness, and a likelihood of acting upon normally inhibited
impulses’ (224). By the same token, Michael Suler explains that ‘people say
and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say and do in the
face-to-face world’ (2004: 321). This disinhibition can be salutary
(supportive, cathartic) but these fan discourses in particular exemplify
toxic disinhibition signified by ‘rude language, harsh criticisms, anger,
hatred, even threats’ (ibid).

The fan studies discipline has already started grappling with these issues.
Analyses of inter- and intrafandom Othering, ‘of fans, by fans’ (Hills,
2012), have been conducted on such quarrels and conflicts, including
fan-objects such as Twilight (Hills, 2012; Williams, 2014), One Direction
(Jones, 2016; Proctor, 2016), R.E.M (Bennett, 2011), and the female-led
Ghostbusters remake/ reboot (Proctor., 2017). Moreover, online conflict and
“toxic technocultures” (Massanari, 2015) has been analysed in other
disciplines, including the #GamerGate controversy and hashtag activism such
as #RaceFail, #Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter (Rambukkana, 2015) and
#BlackStormtrooper (Proctor, forthcoming), to select a few examples (see
also, Burgess and Matamoros-Fernandez, 2016; Chess and Shaw, 2015;
Hardaker, 2010; Hardaker, 2013; Hardaker and McGlashan, 2015; Luce, 2016;
Massanari, 2015; Poland, 2016).

How can researchers examine toxic fan practices beyond those offered by
mainstream news artefacts, many of which cherry-pick examples from social
media without adequate theorisation or methodology? That some fans are
racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise exclusionary is one thing; but how
can researchers develop tests to measure this extant discourse? How do we
know who is speaking? How do we know that these are fans at all, as opposed
to ‘trolls’ or ‘flamers,’ that is, those online individuals who find
delight and entertainment in conflicts of this kind (Hardaker, 2015)? This
special section does not seek to deny that toxic fans and audiences exist.
We do, however, seek to provide an academic space whereby these issues are
placed centre-stage via methodology that moves beyond reductive, handpicked
selections.  We are also interested in theorisations of the place of toxic
fan practices within larger fan communities and as objects of study for the
maturing fields of Fan/Audience Studies, including research across

Contributions are welcome on a variety of topics that investigate the
concept of toxic fan practices and methodological issues arising such as:

*   Online methodologies/ netnographies of particular fan communities and
social media platforms
*   Specific case studies of toxic fan cultures (e.g. Star Trek fans’
responses to gay Sulu or Marvel fans’ reactions to female Thor)
*   Criticism of toxic fans from within fandoms, intra-fandom conflicts
(e.g. Game of Thrones fans condemning and celebrating scenes of rape)
*   Widescale protests and boycotts on social media (such as
#boycottstarwars or #buryyourgays)
*   Criticisms of representations of race, gender, sexuality, etc., in fan

Proposals are also welcome on other topics as long as they meet the aims of
the special section.

Please send 300 word abstracts to the following email addresses by March
1st 2017.
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Bridget Kies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Media, Cinema, and Digital Studies
LGBT+ Studies
[log in to unmask]

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