Digital Social Science and Oral Narrative Research Unit presents a symposium on

Intersections: Fan Studies in Conversation in Japan (Voices from the United Kingdom and United States Session)

・Date: December 16, 2018 (Sunday)

Presenter Abstracts and Biographies

・Spatial Transmedia, Participatory Cultures and the Global Theme Park

Theme parks have often been devalued and those who visit them characterized as cultural dupes, passive consumers or children. Parks such as Disneyland and Walt Disney World have been discussed in terms of their ideological representations of national identities and nationhood, or the cultural imperialist discourses inherent in opening parks in France or Asia. However, this presentation argues that we must pay attention to the fact that, even in the face of their apparent artificiality, theme parks are meaningful to people. The presentation further argues that theme parks are a key site for transmediality and convergence culture, allowing visitors to inhabit the hyperdiegesis of narrative worlds and offering opportunities for synergy between films and rides. They also present opportunities for participatory culture since, in the online knowledge networks formed amongst theme park fans, participants create and share content, information and advice, operating as active knowledge communities. Offering an introduction to the idea of theme parks as a site for “spatial transmedia,” the presentation seeks to open avenues for discussion of key concepts in studies of media convergence beyond the Western examples explored here, and to begin to better understand how global theme park spaces may challenge and complicate these.

Rebecca WILLIAMS is a Senior Lecturer in Communication, Culture and Media Studies at the University of South Wales, UK. She is the author of Post-object Fandom: Television, Identity and Self-Narrative (Bloomsbury, 2015) and editor of Torchwood Declassified (I.B. Tauris, 2013) and Everybody Hurts: Transitions, Endings, and Resurrections in Fan Cultures (University of Iowa Press, 2018). She is currently writing a monograph titled Theme Park Fandom for the University of Amsterdam Press.

・The Power Lives On: Empty Nostalgia, Transnational Production Flows and Anniversary Branding in the Power Rangers Television Franchise

This presentation focuses on Power Rangers Super Megaforce and material produced to coincide with the silver jubilee of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in 2018 with regards to its uses and encodings of nostalgia. Rather than representing West-originating properties, though, these examples are drawn from Japan’s long-running Super Sentai franchise and permit investigating how discourses of nostalgia are constructed through an East Asian-originating property that is reappropriated and localized for Western viewers. By combining analysis of industrial trade press material, institutional discourses, the textual strategies used across transmedia franchising and licensing iterations and paratextual material, the presentation argues that these construct discourses of what I call “empty nostalgia.” An intentionally loaded term, empty nostalgia captures the discourse’s commercial underpinnings, objections to the Power Rangers franchise amongst Western parents and, crucially, the program’s transnational production circumstances. Rather than being solely reducible to prevailing socio-historical circumstances or broad changes impacting nationally-specific television cultures, this presentation argues that empty nostalgia is constructed as a result of multiple institutional layers of power, including transnational flows of production, licensing, distribution and marketing.

Ross GARNER is a Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University, UK. His research explores industrially focused approaches to mediated forms of nostalgia and commemoration, television studies and media tourism. He has published articles in international peer-reviewed journals such as Popular Communication and is currently preparing a monograph titled Nostalgia, Digital Television and Transmediality for Bloomsbury.

・Fan Remix Remixed: The Evolving Aesthetics and Practices of Cosplay Music Videos

This presentation examines the transcultural intersections at work in fan remix, specifically in the evolving remix form of cosplay music videos (CMVs). I consider the processes of transcultural flow, engagement and transformation at work in fan authorship, and examine the transformative work of young fans creating gender-bending cosplay music videos for anime series such as Yuri!!! on Ice and Black Butler. I bring together Japanese theories of otaku and English-language traditions of fan studies to look at how these fans, through their performance of the characters in cosplay music videos, extend anime series by weaving together the distinct but interrelated traditions of vidding, cosplay, anime music videos and fan films. In their ongoing release of videos, these fan authors intertwine the narrative seriality of particular anime series with serial narratives of their own lives, drawing on a dynamic mix of remix traditions and aesthetics. In so doing, they embody, recreate, repeat and transform key emotional moments and images, reiterating small narratives that, in their repetition, affectively bind together larger networks of youth community and self-authorship.

Louisa STEIN is an Associate Professor of Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College, USA, where she teaches classes on remix culture, youth media, YouTube and gender and sexuality. She is the author of Millennial Fandom: Television Audiences in the Transmedia Age (University of Iowa Press, 2015), and co-editor of Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom: Essays on the BBC Series (McFarland, 2012) and Teen Television: Programming and Fandom (McFarland, 2008). In addition to working as a book review editor for Transformative Works and Cultures, she is now co-editing A Tumblr Book and a special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures.

・The Pop Culture Classroom

In 2015 I wrote that, “Fandom is the future” because “new generations of fans will become future teachers, thinkers, and responsible media citizens.” For over a decade, I have been teaching students about fandom and the ways that it can be facilitated in their own life. In this presentation, I want to broaden the topic to explore how fandom can be applied outside of the immediate fan studies classroom. Why teach fandom? What does fandom bring to the classroom (and what does the classroom bring to fandom)? And why is fandom so important today? I want to explore some of the main themes I have discussed with students about teaching fans, and offer some insights about how teaching fandom can facilitate pedagogy across the disciplines. Indeed, media fandom is so important today, the attributes of media fandom – active engagement, emotional connection, creativity – are crossing over into other areas of life as well: politicians garnering support via social media, civic projects enabled through grassroots participation, local communities participating in social events and, as I describe in this talk, the classroom. I teach about fandom because it offers a way of looking at the world that can be applied long after the doors of the classroom have shut. I teach fandom because I believe we need to help students build the type of critical self-evaluation and reflection that can happen in fan communities – the type of fan discussion that can change the conversation, or engage issues of diversity. I also believe that fandom can be messy, nasty and filled with hateful speech; so students must also learn where this speech is coming from, and why, and how to safely and appropriately combat it. Teaching fandom is not just about showing students how to appreciate media in a deeper way. It is about discovering ways fandom itself can change our perceptions of the world.

Paul BOOTH is an Associate Professor at DePaul University, USA. He is the author of Crossing Fandoms (Palgrave, 2016), Digital Fandom 2.0 (Peter Lang, 2016), Playing Fans (University of Iowa Press, 2015), Game Play (Bloomsbury, 2015), Time on TV (Peter Lang, 2012) and Digital Fandom (Peter Lang, 2010). He has edited Companion to Media Fandom and Fan Studies (Wiley, 2018), Seeing Fans (Bloomsbury, 2016, with Lucy Bennett), Controversies in Digital Ethics (Bloomsbury, 2016, with Amber Davisson) and Fan Phenomena: Doctor Who (Intellect, 2013).

・Audience Studies and Fan Studies: Bridging the Gap

Research exploring the relationship between mass media consumption and cognitive development, emotional attachment and/or audience behavior leads to a bigger question, which is the impact of cultural products on the general wellbeing of audiences. Yet, there is a disconnect between fan studies and social sciences in terms of audience studies. While the former largely focuses on the social ecosystems of fans and fandoms (identities, representation, politics and so on), the latter is concerned with the socio-psychological fundamentals governing audience-media interaction. Consequently, this presentation compares hypotheses from a range of social scientific studies in different areas (sports, gratifications, parasocial relationships, media effects, wellbeing) addressing the audiences’ cognitive, emotional and behavioral components, and argues that their conclusions point out ways in which media contribute to the audiences’ wellbeing. Specifically, these studies suggest that media has a positive impact on the cognitive development of younger audiences; that the emotional relationships audiences establish with mediated characters (real or fictional) are analogous to interpersonal relationships; and that audiences include media consumption as an integral part of their mental health. Considering that fans are audiences, the purpose of this presentation is to bring the conclusions of research on audiences to the attention of fan studies in hopes of opening paths for joint research in the future.

Julian PIMIENTA is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Languages and Cultures, Nagoya University, Japan. His research interests focus on how fans develop and maintain emotional bonds with popular culture and media and how said bonds contribute to the social wellbeing and mental health of fans.

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Intersections: Voices from Japan session abstracts and bios