From the category archives:


Future of Fandom

by Dr Davis on October 10, 2014

Jenkins, Henry. “The Future of Fandom.” Fandom. Eds. Harrington, C., Jonathan Gray, and Cornel Sandvoss. NYU Press. 357-63. 13 January 2013. Web. 8 June 2014.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0We should no longer be talking about fans as if they were somehow marginal to the ways the culture industries operate when these emerging forms of consumer power have been the number one topic of discussion at countless industry conferences over the past few years. We may want to think long and hard about what we feel about fans moving onto the center stage… (Jenkins 362)

fan scholars have recognized that fan culture is born of a mixture of fascination and frustration, that appropriation involves both accepting certain core premises in the original work and reworking others to accommodate our own interests. (Jenkins 362)

I bring all of this up because of a tendency (even in the best of us) to see fan studies as a somewhat specialized, narrowly defined body of research that operates on the fringes of contemporary media studies. We still seem to feel a need to justify our topics, explain how and why we are spending so much time looking at these geeks. Think of it as a kind of colonial cringe—if popular culture is a bad object compared to literary studies, then fan research is a bad object compared to communications studies. Elsewhere, these same core concepts (appropriation, participation, emotional investment, collective intelligence, virtual community) are seen as central to discussions of economics, art, law, politics, education, even religion. (Jenkins 363)

two Velmas ShDWhy should fan scholars be having their own separate little conversation rather than playing a much more vivid and active role in the larger discussion about the present moment of media transition and transformation? (Jenkins 363)

Maybe, as some subculture studies folks (Bennett & Kahn-Harris 2004) are arguing, there is no longer a centralized or dominant culture against which subcultures define themselves. Maybe there is no typical media consumer against which the cultural otherness of the fan can be located. Perhaps we are all fans or perhaps none of us is. (Jenkins 364)

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Autobiography and Long-term Fandom

by Dr Davis on October 9, 2014

Recent ethnographic research indicates that the participant observer must be direct about involvement in the culture about which she writes; therefore, autobiographical reasoning seemed like a good topic to examine.

I may be going in too many different directions, but with all these notes I was kind of “scoping out” the range of possibilities. While I won’t be able to post the chapter here (or it wouldn’t get published, which would not help me), I am going to be taking readers on the educational journey. When I need to know something, I usually want to know everything possible; after that I can figure out what I am going to use.

For me, focused research is too narrow. I have to see all the connections and make a giant basket of intertwined ideas in order to carry my thoughts into writing.

Is that how you do research? Is there a different (read better) way?

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Harrington, C. Lee and Denise D. Bielby. “Autobiographical Reasoning in Long-Term Fandom.” Transformative Works and Cultures 5 (2010). Web. 8 June 2014.

explore the social psychological processes through which fan-based experiences become situated in fans’ larger life narratives. … we examine how the psychological mechanism of autobiographical reasoning functions in fans’ construction of self-narratives over time. [0.1]

Here, we focus on one specific psychological mechanism—autobiographical reasoning—and explore its role in long-term fans’ construction of self-narratives. [1.1]

StudentAs part of the narrative turn taking place throughout the academy, psychologists have begun empirically researching the connections between narrative and self-development. Among developmental psychologists, for instance, storytelling is proposed to be “at the heart of both stability and change in the self” (McLean et al. 2007, 262), with the life story defined as a “selective set of autobiographical experiences that, together with interpretations of those events, explain how a person came to be who he or she is and projects a sense of purpose and meaning into the future” (Pasupathi and Mansour 2006, 798). [2.3]

We are particularly interested in how autobiographical reasoning may be attuned to different life stages, and how those in turn may be related to understanding a fan’s developmental trajectory. [2.5]

In a study comparing younger (late adolescence to early adulthood) and older (65 and over) persons, the older group had more narrative coherence to their reasoning and had more situated stories representing stability, while the younger group had more stories representing change (McLean 2008). This finding might help fan scholars account for the “I used to, now I…” dimension (or the past/present register; see Kuhn 2002, 10) of fans’ changing relationships with media texts as they age. [5.2]

there are at least three related reasons why media texts are important to consider from a developmental perspective: (1) early exposure to media texts shapes the legitimacy of such exposure (crucial with highly stigmatized texts such as daytime soaps); (2) this legitimized exposure, in turn, renders the fictional narrative a normatively appropriate developmental resource to call upon; and (3) fictional narratives such as soap operas offer powerful conceptions of emotional/experiential authenticity by which fans come to measure, appraise, or otherwise make sense of their own developmental and/or maturational processes. [6.2]

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


What’s in a Name?

by Dr Davis on October 8, 2014

Another article about academics and fans; this time by a self-identified fan, interrogating her place in fandom and articulating the elitist residue of “high culture” versus “pop culture” beliefs.

Pearson, Roberta. “Bachies, Bardies, Trekkies, and Sherlockians.” Fandom. Eds. Harrington, C., Jonathan Gray, and Cornel Sandvoss. NYU Press. 98-109. 13 January 2013. Web. 8 June 2014.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Which labels would people choose to apply to themselves and why? Do the words “fans”/”enthusiasts”/”devotees”/”aficionados”/”cognoscenti”/”connoisseurs” signal different degrees and kinds of engagements with the beloved object? (Pearson 99)

As John Frow argues, “There is no longer a stable hierarchy of value running from ‘low’ to ‘high’ culture, and ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture can no longer be neatly correlated with a hierarchy of social classes” (1995: 1). Frow’s cautionary quotation marks signal contemporary scholars’ uneasiness not only with correlating a hierarchy of value with social class but also with having to designate the steps of that hierarchy by distinct terms such as “high-”, “low-”, and “middle-brow.” (Pearson 99)

remainder of this article interrogates my own fandoms (Pearson 101)

Centrality to identity and social networks handily distinguish my fandoms from my enthusiasms. (Pearson 102)

if there truly is such a thing as a fannish disposition, then there should be many whose multiple fandoms range widely across fields of cultural production and up and down cultural hierarchies (Pearson 102)

Peterson and Kern provide empirical support for Gripsrud’s assertion, arguing that in the United States, there is an historical shift among the higher social categories from highbrow snob (one who does not participate in any lowbrow or middle- brow activity) to “omnivore” (capable of appreciating them all) (1996). (Pearson 103)

britain_william_shakespeare martinThe first and second generations of fan researchers insisted on attributing rationality to fans precisely to counter the popular image of the irrational fan so prevalent in the media (and still, it would seem, prevalent among Sherlockians). The third generation of researchers has insisted on the importance of fannish affect. (Pearson 107)

Expecting dissonances between Bachies and popular culture fandoms, I instead found harmony. Bachies are every bit as emotional as their popular culture counterparts and every bit as bloody minded about their own particular preferences… (Pearson 108)

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Academic as Fan?

by Dr Davis on October 7, 2014

This was a paper apparently written for a graduate class and dealing with the (recently resolving) issue of an academic as fan. As the CFP for my paper specifically requested academics who are members of the community of which they intend to write, I thought it might behoove me to find out what others were saying. A grad paper is a good place to get an introduction to competing ideas/scholarship, as the author needs to deal with the issues in order to write the paper and often it is an introduction to the topic.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Winter, Mick. “I am Not a Vampire Slayer—Reflections on the Academic/Fan Relationship.” For a grad class… Fall 2010. Web. 8 June 2014.

Karen Yost in Academia Explores the Final Frontier. She writes “One does not become a fan merely by watching a television show. As any true fan can tell you, fandom has become as much about the friends we make, the ties that we establish, than just about the shows we love.” (Winter 5)

9Worlds dread pirate roberts 2014-6178Tara Brabazon in From Revelation to Revolution. “For a fan, the joy and exhilaration is enough. For those writing on the coat tails of fashion, we need to understand why particular popular cultural forms survive through time and space.” (Winter 6)

Henry Jenkins has stated that an Aca-Fan is a “hybrid creature which is part fan and part academic.” His use of the hyphen, or as others have suggested a slash or arrow, implies a separation, as if Fan and Academic were separate. Even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were one, or at least inhabited one body. True separation is impossible, so the term itself should be one, without separation: AcaFan. Jenkins has also written “One becomes a ‘fan’ not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some kind of cultural activity, by sharing feelings and thoughts about the program content with friends, by joining a ‘community’ of other fans who share common interests.” (Winter 6)

girl tardis-2077Joli Jensen has suggested use of the word aficionado instead of fan and writes:
“Apparently, the real dividing line between aficionado and fan involves issues of status and class, as they inform vernacular cultural and social theory. Furthermore, the Joyce scholar and the Barry Manilow fan, the antique collector and the beer can collector, the opera buff and the Heavy Metal fan are differentiated not only on the basis of the status of their desired object, but also on the supposed nature of their attachment. The obsession of a fan is deemed emotional (low class, uneducated), and therefore dangerous, while the obsession of the aficionado is rational (high class, educated) and therefore benign, even worthy.”

Jolie. Jensen, “Fandom as Pathology,” in The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media (1992), L. Lewis (Ed.), London: Routledge, p. 21

Matt Hills coined the terms fan-scholar (a fan who does scholarly work) and scholar-fan (a scholar who considers himself a fan). (Winter 6)

With academics be primarily, and very clearly, an academic; with fans, be primarily and very clearly, a fan. Be one with your audience so that they can concentrate on what you say or write, not on their beliefs about your identity. (Winter 7)

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Materiality in Fan Practices

by Dr Davis on October 6, 2014

Woo, Benjamin. “A Pragmatics of Things: Materiality and Constraint in Fan Practices.” Transformative Works and Cultures 16 (2014). Web. 22 September 2014.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0I was interested in the forms of community-making that constitute these groups and articulate them together… [1.2].

Some of the practices involved are public and spectacular, like cosplaying at an anime convention …[1.3].

Surrounded by particular things, people produce themselves as particular kinds of agents, as people who can do certain kinds of things. [1.4]

As Venkatesh and Meamber (2008, 46–47) summarize, such studies “illustrate how individuals collect past meanings, negotiate future meanings, and assemble present meanings of cultural constructs such as family, religion, gender, age, and tradition through their participation in particular consumption behaviors.” [2.1]

9Worlds 2014 steampunk masks-6222Miller, who explicitly repudiates a semiotic approach (2010, 13) and stresses the mutual constitution of persons and things, at times recreates a picture of material culture as an adjunct of mind, for there seem to be few limits on what things can be made to mean through personal aesthetics (2008). [2.7]

We must account for the ways objects extend our capabilities and constrain our actions. We might think of these as objects’ biases (Innis [1951] 2008) or affordances (Gibson [1979] 1986; Norman 1988). Although objects can be put to surprising uses, they have material qualities prior to their human appropriation [2.8]

what Lisa Gitelman (2004, 203) calls objects’ material meanings—the “nexus of cultural practices, economic structures, and perceptual and semiotic habits that make tangible things meaningful”—are not equivalent to individual, subjective meanings. Rather, they are objective products of the interaction between collective human praxis and the physical world. [2.10]

Steampunkers-2276This [fandom] is obviously a complex process of socialization, but I want to suggest that material goods are part of its scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, and Ross 1976). [3.9]

virtually all practices require equipment-goods. Philosopher Russell Keat (2000) uses this term to describe goods that are consumed in order to accomplish some practice. … These objects equip people to create meaning in their lives by enabling them to participate in social practices. [3.10]

Objects extend our capabilities. In a real, immediate sense, they equip us to be fans: you can’t play in the SCA without a period costume [5.1]

9Worlds 2014 steampunk who-6235In fan cultures, participants orient themselves to some object or set of objects. I don’t mean the mental objects of psychoanalysis here but real, physical things. Objects allow us to carry out fan practices and thereby provide access to social worlds in which we develop skills and competencies, relationships, and perhaps even a sense of identity or belonging. [8.5]

The temporality of circulation and relation between interlocutors produced by each medium is distinct. Or, to flip things around, the same equipment-goods of books and miniature figurines produce very different experiences when put to different uses in fantasy role-playing games and war games because these contexts generate different relations between people (the cooperation among a party of player characters, and head-to-head combat between two opposing armies). The relationship between practice and material culture provides a valuable line of inquiry into the possibilities and limitations of fan activity. [8.6]

culture is constituted within a nexus of social practices. That means fandom is never simply a matter of individual, private psychology—even in the intimate space of the home. It is always already public and intersubjective [8.7]

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Costumed Role-Playing: Cosplay

by Dr Davis on October 5, 2014

Gunnels, Jen. “’A Jedi Like My Father Before Me’: Social Identity and the New York Comic Con.” Transformative Works and Cultures 3 (2009). Web. 8 June 2014.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Very few venues exist for adults to play dress-up, with Renaissance festivals, comic and other media conventions, and live-action role-playing games comprising the bulk of these venues. This sort of behavior is expected of people in their formative years—children and teenagers—where they try on and receive feedback about the “range of possible extensions of the self” (Elliot 1986, quoted in Kaiser 1996:162). What might be the reasoning behind the behavior of adults doing so, especially after primary socialization has occurred? Susan B. Kaiser, in her study of clothing, wonders whether role-play dress is important “in terms of providing some means for ‘escaping’ from mundane daily routines, as well as for expression of creativity,” but she concludes that “little is known about fantasy dressing; this is an area with a great deal of potential for contributing to an understanding of creativity and self-expression” (1996:163). Very little has been written on the subject, beyond mentioning that this behavior happens. [1.2]

Adults engage in costumed role-play to explore an identity that may not be practicable in everyday life. … cosplay, as a performed identity, can provide a means of permitting individual agency and social commentary on current and past social stresses. [1.3]

ShD head steampunk blueSome identities can be performed and explored as cosplay. The study of cosplay and its practice specifically within the United States is sparse. Most studies of cosplay are framed within its expression within Japanese popular culture, particularly manga and anime, and its export to the United States and other points West (as can be seen at; other studies discuss cosplay in terms of gender. What has not been examined is its nature as performance and as identity play as found at sites such as conventions. [3.1]

When observing cosplayers, regardless of the universes they represent, some might wonder why they choose to connect with their fandom through performance, as opposed to other manifestations of fan engagement. Two reasons in particular come to the fore: the immediacy of the physical, and applying archetypes/fetishes to aspects of personal identity. [4.1]

Weeping Angel Suanna b+w Shd-2076Donning the costume, or even simply carrying a small prop such as a light saber, allows cosplayers to tap into the character as archetype and the costume piece as fetish: “The fetish is empowering, transgressive of the realm of the everyday and mundane, and transforms the user, thus marking a return in a sense to the original meaning of the fetish” (Wetmore 2007:177). Essentially, both become a totem, or a meaningful emblem or symbol, and “people will act towards totems in such a way based on the meaning they have given the totem.” Meaning will then manifest as social interaction (Garrard 2008:17). [4.2]

aspects of the character are specifically tied to donning the costume. He may not believe that he carries specific aspects of character identity [Obi-Wan] over into everyday life, yet they are available to his identity when in costume. [4.5]

Why do cosplayers choose the characters they do? How do cosplaying communities, like the 501st Legion, work on a larger scale? Are cosplayers at other comic cons portraying Star Wars characters for similar reasons? Why do people choose cosplay over other forms of fan participation—or do they participate in other fan areas as well? If so, to what extent? [5.1]

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Transnational Fan Communities (2): Anime

by Dr Davis on October 3, 2014

Annett, Sandra. Animating Transcultural Communities:?Animation Fandom in North America and East Asia from 1906–2010. Thesis. U of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. 2011. Web. 6 June 2014.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0He [Azuma Hiroki] calls these elements ?moé elements (42), because they inspire in otaku the complex and difficult-to- define emotion known as ?moé (??). Literally denoting a plant‘s budding or sprouting, moé indicates the intense sensation of mingled protectiveness, empathy, and attraction towards a fictional character or image felt by otaku. Moé elements are the appealing, codified, recurrent aspects of anime characters, plots and settings that evoke such feelings. (Annett 276)

The ahoge element is so integral to the series that women who ?cosplay or dress up as Hetalia characters will take pains to create wigs or extensions including just the right curl. And no wonder: the inclusion of such elements is the inclusion of fans themselves, who can both call a character such as Canada ?moé or say ?I am moé for Canada. (Annett 277)

They—we—were forced to confront some very difficult questions, questions which often trouble me personally as an anime fan and scholar. What do you do when a media work you love provokes behaviours you cannot always condone? (Annett 304)

More generally, how do you remain a ?fan of something that you can see is problematic, yet cannot help finding appealing? (Annett 305)

The point is not that fans should opt out of the media or perpetuate cycles of silencing by calling for bans on texts they find offensive. It is rather that they need to engage with the most problematic elements of texts and of their own readings of them self-consciously. In practice, many online debates still descend into unreflexive recriminations and insults. But such debates also make possible different kinds of re-imaginings across difference. (Annett 307)

Azuma Hiroki, ed. 2007. The ideology of contents: Manga, anime, light novels. [Kontentsu no shis??manga, anime, raito noberu]. Tokyo: Seidosha.

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Research in Rhetoric of Memory, Cosplay, Fandom

by Dr Davis on October 1, 2014

I have been working on a paper for a few months now in answer to a CFP on memory in popular culture.

Upcoming collection on memory in popular culture, under contract with McFarland and Company, seeks proposals for academic essays on the complex role of rhetorical and social memory in science fiction, fantasy, fandom, and online gaming.

Submissions are being solicited that examine cultural memory within the following categories:
• Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre texts
• Fandom activities (including fan fiction and cosplay)
• Online Gaming
• Digital collaboration and media

While the underlying premise of this collection is rhetorically based, interdisciplinary approaches are most desirable. In particular, my goal is to collect perspectives that cover the intersection of contemporary interpretations and explorations of the ancient rhetorical canon of memory, fandom studies, narrative theory, and scholarship into digital media.

I decided that, like my Reading Research in New Media (particularly visual rhetoric), this should also be published on the blog.

I will be posting notes, versions of my abstract, and eventually individual ideas I hope to deal with either in that chapter or in a journal article (after the chapter is in).

This series will be identified with
RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0and an icon created by yereverluvinuncleber at deviantART and Pinterest and the artist, Dean Beedell, on softpedia


Retrospective History of Rhetoric

by Dr Davis on September 30, 2014

The Grammarian teacher rhetoric historyFlorence 1437 WC pdOverall
The students this semester suggested that perhaps instead of starting at the farthest point from modern understanding, it might be more beneficial for the students to read the modern rhetoric chapters first. These are connected to literary theory via Foucault and Derrida and are, therefore, perhaps more accessible.

Next year the modern chapters will be their first readings. In order to ensure an understanding of the text, however, I will also introduce the early theorists who are mentioned in those chapters. Plato, the sophists, Aristotle, Cicero, and perhaps even Quintilian could be introduced with a “known for these things particularly” approach.

In my desire to make the class interesting and hands-on, I have drifted from the focus on history of rhetoric in the activities in class. So I am considering what things would be interesting and prospectively helpful that focus on the history of rhetoric and historical rhetoric.

Greek writing ancient pottery by TkoletsisKeep the introduction and the intro to the sophists. Maybe bring in a few pages from sophistic writing. Or we could look in class at the Paul and sophists article. It is 22 pages long, so maybe instead use it to understand how Galatians is sophistic and then have the class look through Galatians and discuss in terms of sophistic rhetoric.

That would be a really good idea. I think that would work very well and would be interesting and would tie into the Christian aspect and the sophists. –Why didn’t I think of doing that before?

Perhaps also use the Ewing Lecture notes to discuss Ezekiel and rhetoric. Mark Hamilton did folkloric, but it is also clearly connected with rhetorical. Make that rhetorical connection clear and then discuss Ezekiel in those terms. …That might be a different way to approach the rhetoric history. We’re looking at how biblical authors employed it before there was a history of rhetoric. Ezekiel was written before Plato wrote, before the sophists taught.

We can look at Plato’s presentation of the sophists and look at this work for built-in flaws that he created to show their work. We can do that in class if it isn’t too long a work or if we can take pieces of it.

For Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian… Beef up the discussion of how and where we see the appeals. Perhaps look at book covers specifically for the appeals. Maybe even discuss the “turning in a paper” ethos or other points. Why is it important to look like what has gone before? People recognize it and have a place to put it. This is partially ethos. Definitely want to talk about how Cicero applies to writing in the modern classroom. Both Aristotle and Cicero are used in AP courses, so the students need to know those, if they don’t.

typingFirst class
Looking at a way to introduce rhetoric and the history of rhetoric that doesn’t just involve me talking, I looked at multiple PowerPoints and videos. I wanted something that would approach the information from a common or lay perspective, but would focus on rhetoric very specifically.

I think I have found a few videos that would be useful, after the original PowerPoint introduction.

History of Rhetoric in Under 4 Minutes (or Over 3 Minutes) has a good introduction to the historical aspects of rhetoric AND ends with the idea that people think of rhetoric pejoratively.

Then talk about what you know about rhetoric. How do people talk about rhetoric? That will introduce the ideas here. “Oh, that’s a rhetorical question.” Not discussed, but still would work as an answer. (Rhetorical question originally meant that the question itself was intended to persuade you or lead you into a correct answer.)

ancient woman with bookThen use the UClemson video In Defense of Rhetoric.

I really like this. It is well done, interesting, and introduces a lot of modern rhetoricians. Also it’s epistemic rhetoric, which is how I view rhetoric.
It discusses what rhetoric is and how it has been perceived, focusing on epistemic rhetoric.

Set of criteria, rank order the criteria, systematic way = epistemic rhetoric
Epistemic = creates understanding/perception of reality
Rhetoric is a way of knowing.
Facts are monolithic, unchanging. But how you think of them… Rhetorical.
Knowledge is a process.

Josh’s introduction to rhetoric—very fast introduction, but could pause and discuss
Focuses 3.45 minutes on ancient rhetoric. Then 3 minutes on modern. Has questions that he puts on the screen and then writes “Think about it!” Could stop the video at those points and discuss.

How do perceptions of truth, authenticity, and reality affect communication?
How does your authorship, authority, and power affect your rhetoric?

Toulmin model + semiotics can be used to examine visual and digital rhetoric.

Would need to be sure that I mention that this is a history of rhetoric (even though we’ve already seen one) and we are going to use it to talk about some questions that are relevant to all of rhetoric.

Denelson83 WC CC

Denelson83 WC CC

Is introducing the history of rhetoric as an overview multiple times a problem? Or can I do this as they are coming at it from very different angles?

Perhaps when I start to use the videos say that these overlap what I’ve already said and what the videos say, but they offer different discussion points that I think are valid for the course….
Think about it.


Eyewitness to History

by Dr Davis on September 14, 2014

A great site for eyewitness accounts of important (and less important) national and international events is Eyewitness to History.

I would use this for literature courses. I might even use it for rhetoric classes.