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Fan Fiction and Fan Practices: Integrating the Digital Wilds and the Language Classroom


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Online fan communities and fan sites are home to many different kinds of fandom tasks and projects, perhaps the best known of which is fan fiction These are stories that reinterpret and remix the events, characters and settings found in fiction and popular media. Other online fandom tasks include translation projects such as fan-subbing, amateur subtitling of movies and television series carried out online by teams of fans in different countries, and spoiling, in which fan networks track down and share information via social media for the purpose of speculating about a television show or movie’s plotline before it is released (Duffet, 2013).

Research in applied linguistics on fandom practices has explored how youth have used fan fiction, in particular, to foster identity and second language development in the digital wilds (see for example Leppänen, 2008 and Thorne & Black, 2011). However, less attention has been paid to the older language learners in online media fandoms who also represent a type of language learner engaged in autonomous and long-term extramural language learning (Sundqvist, 2009) in the digital wilds. Moving from the wilds to the classroom, more recent research has begun to explore the domestication of fan fiction tasks in formal classroom contexts (Sauro & Sundmark, in press 2016) and which also holds promise for the design of technology-mediated tasks to support the learning of both language and literature.

This talk, therefore, discusses findings from case-study research with older fans as well as classroom-based research to explore how these fandom tasks and fan practices are used to facilitate the development of linguistic, literary, and digital competences both in the wilds and in the classroom.

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Fan Fiction and Fan Practices: Integrating the Digital Wilds and the Language Classroom

  2. 2. “…’fan’ is actually a much wider social category, referring to a mode of participation with a long history in a variety of cultural activities, including literature, sports, theater, film, and television.” (Cavicci, 1998 p. 3)
  3. 3. “A fan is a person with a relatively deep positive emotional conviction about someone or something famous, usually expressed through a recognition of style or creativity.” (Duffet, 2013, p. 18)
  4. 4. Affirmational Fandom “the source material is re-stated, the author’s purpose divined to the community’s satisfaction, rules established on how the characters are and how the universe works.” (obsession_inc, 2009) Transformational Fandom “laying hands upon the source and twisting it to the fans’ own purposes” (obsession_inc, 2009)
  5. 5. Online Fandom “the local and international networks of fans that develop around a particular program, text or other media product and which foster the sharing of responses to the source material, including the production of novel fan-generated content.” (Sauro, 2014, p. 239)
  6. 6. Extramural English “…English-related activities that learners come in contact with or are engaged in outside the walls of the English classroom, generally on a voluntary basis.” (Sundqvist & Sylvén, 2014, p. 4)
  7. 7. Young Fans and Applied Linguistics • A teen L2 English learner’s development of a textual identity through fan site web design and interaction in fan spaces (Lam, 2000) • Case studies of teen L2 learners’ use of fanfiction in anime fandoms to transition from novice writer in English to successful writer (Black, 2006; 2009) • Bilingual fanfiction writing practices of young Finnish fans of American television shows to index multilingualism and global citizenship (Lepännen, et al, 2009)
  8. 8. Non-Teen Fans and Language Learning • The cyclical relationship between anime consumption and Japanese learning among university-aged learners of Japanese as a foreign language (Fukunaga, 2006). • The language learning practices of a 26-year-old Spanish manga fan who engaged in amateur translations (scanlation) of Asian manga into Spanish (Valero-Porras & Cassany, 2015).
  9. 9. Case Study of Steevee To explore the L2 language development and digital literacy practices of an adult fan and second language learner of English.
  10. 10. 2009 • convergence of online & offline events • Began university • Joined Supernatural Fandom • Joined Twitter; Created a fan FB page 2010 • Joined Torchwood and Doctor Who fandoms • Created a Tumblr Steevee 30 year-old female fan from eastern Germany 2012 • Joined Sherlock fandom • First read fanfiction • Wrote first fanfiction 2013 • Began reporting on filming of Sherlock #setlock • Developed fact-checking skills, brevity & speed in English for posting. 2015 • Joined The Man from Uncle fandom
  11. 11. “As we have noted, motivation is never simply in the hands of the motivated individual learner but is constructed and constrained through social relations with others” (Ushioda, 2008, p. 157)
  12. 12. I tried to shift my accent from American English to British English. I tried to learn to write colour with ‘ou’ and so on. And I started to watch Doctor Who and Torchwood. Those were my next two big fandoms. (Interview, 14 December 2015) …it was the opportunity to completely immerse myself in the English language. That was it for me. I was so stoked. I’m going to get online and I’m going to talk to people and learn English. And I’m going to learn new words. And I used to sit there with a notepad next to Twitter and write down words I’d never seen before, look them up, learn them. (Interview, 14 December 2015)
  13. 13. Spoilers Spoiling “…the purposeful discovery of crucial developments in the plot of a fictional story of a film or TV series before the relevant material has been broadcast or released.” (Duffett, 2013, p. 168)
  14. 14. “The non-native speakers are really the lose canon because they might understand something incorrectly because of their own lack of knowledge of the English language or sarcasm or whatever is being used as a metaphor for example.” (Interview, 14 December 2015)
  15. 15. “And setlock has taught me in a way to check many things that come up. Like today, it was the Pope posted his first selfie…Within one minute I had found out, even before Buzzfeed had found out, I knew that the picture was not a selfie but a screengrab from an interview he once did.” (Interview, 14 December 2015)
  16. 16. Fanfiction "writing that continues, interrupts, reimagines, or just riffs on stories and characters other people have already written about." (Jamison, 2013 p. 17)
  17. 17. The Blogging Hobbit: A collaborative story of a missing moment from Tolkien’s The Hobbit: Task 1: Story outline and map Task 2: Collaborative roleplay fanfiction - each group member to write from the perspective of one character from The Hobbit Task 3: Reflective paper
  18. 18. “this writing activity has influenced my language skills…. During this project I have been able to expand my repertoar [sic] of English words which are not so commonly used in everyday English anymore.” (Student 14, Cohort 2013)
  19. 19. “[a]fter a short while, the writing became very fluent and I did not have to think too hard before writing” (Student 40, Cohort 2013)
  20. 20. It is lying still, yet it spins around It tries to move but its body is bound All because of the precious it stole Fool us again and they eats it whole. (from The Mirkwood Mysteries)
  21. 21. Learner Fanfiction (172,911) • N=31 stories produced by Cohorts 2013 & 2014 • 2000-16000 words each • Rated Teen • Gen • Canon compliant Ao3 Fanfiction (92,760) • N=18 stories posted Dec 1 2013 – Jan 31, 2015 • 2000-16000 words each • Rated Teen • Gen (no het or slash) • Not alternate universe or other sub-genres
  22. 22. Keywords Third Person Plural Pronouns: we, our, us Character Names: Gandalf, Beorn, Balin, Elrond, Gollum, Dori, Bombur, Bilbo Species: dwarves, goblins, wizard, elves Less Common Irregular Plural: dwarfs
  23. 23. Negative Keywords Third person singular pronouns: she, her, his, him Kinship terms: son, sister, mother, brother, uncle Character names: Thranduil, Legolas, Tauriel, Bifur Contracted forms: d, s, re, t
  24. 24. “I think ours was very, kind of, very much like the book in a way, so maybe it wasn’t as exciting as some other fanfiction because it wasn’t innovating in that way…” (B. Dream Team Interview)
  25. 25. A Study in Sherlock CollaborativeCasefic
  26. 26. Option 1 Retell a Sherlock Holmes story but in a different universe. (Transformational) Option 2 Tell an original Sherlock Holmes mystery in the original context (Victorian London) or in an alternate universe. (Affirmational or Transformational)
  27. 27. The last member of our gang was the dog Scooby Doo, which belonged to Sherlock’s mother and had a fantastic nose for mysteries and funny business. Our gang practically lived in our car, a blue van with flowers on it (Sherlock didn’t like it much and thought it was a bit vulgar) we called it the Mystery Machine and with it we cruised around searching for mysteries to solve. Nowhere to Hyde
  28. 28. “Good afternoon, sir. This is Bragevägen 21B, the home of Sherlock Holmes? Is he available?” asked one of the officers who introduced himself as chief officer Gregsson. The von Sydow Murders
  29. 29. “…instead of saying “he said”, we and Doyle instead used “said he”. Second, we and Doyle often, from Watson’s perspective, referred to Sherlock Holmes as “my colleague”, and from Sherlock’s perspective referring to Watson as “my friend”. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes often said “pray” instead of “please”, and “I fancy” instead of “I believe”, which we also used in our fanfiction. “ (Student 16, Cohort 2015)
  30. 30. “Doyle writes also quite linear with Watson’s first person narrative, which contributes to maintaining the suspense, since Watson, as a limited narrator, is many times as clueless as the reader is, which I tried to keep in mind at all times. I also tried to give my writing a variable rhythm, slowing it down with descriptions sometimes, and speeding it up with action verbs at other times.“ (Student 8, Cohort 2015)
  31. 31. References Black, R.W. (2009). Online fan fiction, global identities, and imagination. Research in the Teaching of English, 43, 397-425. Black, R.W. (2006). Language, culture, and identity in online fanfiction. E-learning, 3, 180–184. Cavicci, D. (1998). Tramps like us: Music and meaning among Springsteen fans. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Duffett, M. (2013). Understanding fandom: An introduction to the study of media fan culture. New York/London: Bloomsbury. Fukunaga, N. (2006). “Those anime students”: Foreign language literacy development through Japanese popular culture. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(3), 206-222. Jamison, A. (2013). ‘Why Fic?’ in A. Jamison (ed.). Fic: Why fanfiction is taking over the world. Dallas, TX: Smart Pop Books. Lam, W. S. E. (2000). Literacy and the design of the self: A case study of a teenager writing on the Internet. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 457-484. Lepännen, S., Pitkänen-Huhta, A., Piirainen-Marsch, A., Nikula, T., & Peuronen, S. (2009). Young people’s translocal new media uses: A multiperspective analysis of language choice and hetero-glossia. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14, 1080–1107. obsession_inc. (2009). Affirmational fandom vs. transformational Fandom." Accessed May 31, 2016. Sauro, S. (2014). Lessons from the fandom: Task models for technology-enhanced language learning. In M. González-Lloret & L. Ortega (Eds). Technology-mediated TBLT: Researching technology and tasks, (pp. 239-262). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Sauro, S., & Sundmark, B. (In Press.) Report from Middle Earth: Fan fiction tasks in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal. Scott, M. (1997). PC analysis of key words - and key key words. System 25, 233-245. Sundqvist, P., & Sylvén, L.K., (2014). Language-related computer use: Focus on young L2 English learners in Sweden. ReCALL, 26(1), 3-20. Ushioda, E. (2008). Language motivation in a reconfigured Europe: Access, identity, autonomy. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 27(2), 148-161.