April 28, 2008
Console-ing Passions: Fan Studies Workshop

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara at the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference. My role in the conference was to participate in a workshop to reflect upon how to build off of the series of discussions about gender amongst those participated in fan studies last summer on Henry Jenkins' blog and on LiveJournal.

Each of the five panelists for the workshop began the session by talking about some of our individual research and how we might build that research from an awareness of issues raised in that discussion last summer, which brought together 44 fan studies academics and a variety of other interested commenters to talk about gender divides in academia and in the fan cultures we study.

I posted the short paper I presented at Console-ing Passions here on the blog last week, and each of us involved in the workshop posted our papers to the LiveJournal Fandebate site that hosted the academic dialogue last year.

The workshop was entitled "Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old." In addition to my provocation--entilted "Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps"--Bob Rehak presented "Boys, Blueprints, and Boundaries;" Julie Levin Russo presented "The L Word: Labors of Love;" Suzanne Scott presented "From Filk to Wrock: Performane, Professionalism, and Power in Harry Potter Wizard Rock;" and Louisa Stein presented "Vidding as Cultural Narrative."

See Bob's notes on the workshop and its background as well.

After the speakers had their chance to present, we were lucky to have a variety of folks from the audience join the conversation as well, including David Bering-Porter, Lyndsay Brown, Conseula Francis, Heather Hendershot, Alexis Lothian, Catherine Tosenberger, and Andrea Wood. Tosenberger, who participated in the gender and fan studies/culture conversation/debate last year, brought up the importance of interdisciplinarity, as we talked about the "maturity" of fan studies, whether we wanted it to become solidified, and the danger in thinking of it as a "discipline."

The conversation ended on a promising note in terms of my feeling like the workshop was a success, since the conversation it provoked had to be cut off by a time limit, and I hope that just means that the dialogue encouraged by last year's posts organized by Henry Jenkins and Kristina Busse will continue in future academic conferences, publications, and online interactions.

However, with this workshop, the SCMS panel that directly resulted from last year's discussion, and the development of the journal Transformative Works and Cultures which boasts a board directly informed by that conversation, I feel that the sense of collaboration that came out of that discussion--despite its warts--will forge ahead and lead to more informed research in the process.