Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A27. Fan Communities, Cultures and Creations

Fans. You know who you are. You’re the people nonfans and haters think spend too much time, money, and energy on things that aren’t even real; who take movies, TV shows, comic books and video games too seriously, and who are just a bunch of obsessive nerds who hang out in chat rooms all night thinking up weird nicknames.

Of course, media fandom is far more complex. Just ask the Browncoats, Gleeks, Downtonians, Whedonites, Trekkies, Whovians, or Potterheads. In this seminar, we will approach fan communities, cultures and creations in much the same way fans approach the objects of their devotion: in a spirit of critically engaged ‘serious play’. Along the way, we will examine fandom as an important form of participatory culture and cultural production, as well as an occasion to study a number of important aspects of online culture more broadly, such as: collective intelligence communities; crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding; big data and data mining; user-generated content and digital copyright; and social media and cultural citizenship.

Assignments will be project-based, and will emphasize a range of information fluency and digital literacy skills. Students can expect to gain experience:

  • conducting independent primary and scholarly online research;
  • designing effective online surveys;
  • collecting, analyzing and visualizing cultural data;
  • writing in digital spaces such as Tumblr, WordPress, and appropriate online forums;
  • writing for a diverse audience of fans, scholars and media professionals;
  • creating substantive multimedia presentations;
  • basic image, audio and video editing to produce a visual essay, mash-up or remix.
Josh StengerJosh Stenger
Associate Professor of Film Studies and English, Hannah Goldberg Chair in Teaching Innovation