Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers

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Book: Henry Jenkins. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory culture (2006).



"Henry Jenkins is the co-director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers is a compilation of several essays, including his previous work on fandom, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (1992).

The introduction of the book is entitled as the confession of ACA/fan, which already gives away Jenkins’ personal interest in fandom. Jenkins is certainly not the first scholar whose work centered on fandom, but is one of the few who took fandom seriously, even within the context of science and knowledge. What makes his work stand out in comparison to previous studies on fandom is that his work captures fans’ experience as a source for active participation in producing meaning. Rather seeing fans (or audience) as passive recipients of the media texts, Jenkins argues that fans like “poachers” occupy someone else’s property and adapt/alter it to suit their own taste. This approach provides a useful insight into the position of fans in relation to media text, which as Jenkins emphasizes, is not one-way streamed. This also means that corporate media hegemony is contested by the consumers of the texts, and that meaning of the text is not a top-down dictation, but rather a constructive one that requires fans’ participation and input.

Furthermore, Jenkins emphasis on active participation also entails a closer and critical look at the way research on fandom has been conducted up until now. Jenkins refers to the first generation of scholars such as John Fiske, John Tulloch, and Janice Radway who uses ethnographic methods, derived in part of sociological methods. Even though these early works on fandom acknowledged fandom to be a participatory and constructive phenomenon, it was “important for these writers to be outside what they were writing about, to be free of any direct implication in their subject matter” (Jenkins 2006: 11). Jenkins considers himself to be part of the second generation scholars who tried to find a way to alter the perception based on insider knowledge of what it is to be a fan, and to find a language to articulate a different perspective that comes out of lived experience and situated knowledge. Jenkins and scholars from this second generation opened up a way for a third generation of scholars who identify themselves as scholars and fans (ACA/fan).

I think that Jenkins makes a strong point by sketching the phases of social/cultural research on fandom and popular culture. It has become more acceptable nowadays to be personally involved in the subject or research matter. It is a way for not only fans, but also scholars to share their findings and collectively build on knowledge. For instance, it is usual to publish research findings on a weblog, even before the official publication of the article. Jenkins supports the interactive dialogue between research subjects (fan) and scholars. But it’s also an important issue to see the ways in which scholars are becoming part of a participatory culture of shared knowledge, enabled by the wave of web2.0 applications.

Secondly, Jenkins confronts scholars with the common practice of taking the work of fans for granted. According to Jenkins, there is the tendency as a scholar to consider their own analysis of the media text as a legitimate contribution to knowledge; whereas the work of fans or what they have to say about the media content does not pertain to the world of academia. In other words, fans are excluded in the contribution of knowledge. I may not completely agree with Jenkins on the extent to which fans are producing knowledge (which I shall discuss later on), but Jenkins gave the fans a voice and a place within the academia." (