As you might have guessed from last weeks post I am familiar with fandoms. I participate in making things from my favorite stories, draw pictures of characters when bored, and have dressed up for the midnight premier of movies like the Avengers. Although I have been a part of that side of fandoms I have not participated in the more literary side of fandoms. I have never written or sought out fan fiction stories, though I can see how they can be valuable learning tools.
Writing fanfiction in particular seems to have a good parallel with video games when it comes to learning. Both activities draw the fan or player in and in many cases compel them to form a community of learning as described in a New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. In the book the authors give an example of a college course where students played a video game throughout the class. In time the students were compelled to create a learning community around the game and learn deep lessons without the aid of their professor (Thomas & Brown, 2011).
Fanfiction works in much the same way. People form a deep connection with their favorite characters and worlds from books and television and are compelled to write about them. This burning desire leads them to write and possibly join a fanfiction website, where other people can read their writings and give them writing advice. In essence they create a sort of writers club that mimics the standard creative writing course, except the writers don’t write for a grade but for the love of the story.
While I haven’t ever been to a fandom event at a library I have no doubt that they help the library interact with teen artists and writers. In her essay Katie Behrens writes about hosting a fandom centered art event. Behrens said that”even if teens aren’t active in online fandoms, chances are good they’ve read something awesome lately and have that creative itch to make something” (Behrens 2012). These events can easily attract teens for some hands on learning, and isn’t that one of the biggest goals of a library?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, a very personal and very hidden secret… I’m a nerd. I know it will come to a shock to anyone who knows me, has seen the Iron Man standing on my desk at work, or the pictures of me and my daughter in matching Superman outfits. More importantly I am a creative nerd, and I have a similar story as the one Adam Savage from Mythbusters shared in this weeks video, except instead of wanting to be Han Solo I wanted to be Superman.
When I was sixteen I carved an octagonal disk out of wax with strange symbols in it, put it in a mold, melted it out, and shot molten silver into the leftover hole using a spinning crucible. After the metal cooled it was sanded and polished until I had a replica of a piece of Clark Kent’s ship from Smallville that acted as some sort of alien hard drive. To quote Savage “it gets better.” I made a wooden holder for the disk, embedded it into my bedroom wall, painted the wall to look like stone, painted kryptonian symbols on top of the stone, and wired the holder to play sound from my stereo when the disk was put in the holder.
Like I said, nerd. But as dorky as this project was it made me as happy as it made my parents mad (I went the “ask for forgiveness” route). Also like Savage I have continued making things from movies and original art.
Ultimately I agree with Savage, that there is no real difference between creating original things or replicas. They are both creative, require real skill, and can give you a sense of happiness. Both types of projects give me the same satisfaction and helped hone the same kinds of skills. I was equally happy when I designed the SJSU ALASC library t-shirt as I was making the Smallville disk, the only real difference is one project is vastly more socially acceptable to show off.
How does participating in online culture differ from participating in a physical space? How is it the same?
A large part of my life has been spent exploring various digital worlds. I am only a few years older than the teens interviewed in “Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out” and I grew up in the same, or very similar, environment. Texting, IMing, Myspace, and video games monopolized my teen years and continue on in some form today.
In “Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out” the authors divide online culture into several categories. One category, hanging out, is an extension of physical culture. People digitally hang out with peers they know in real life online to have a sense of privacy. They text friends to continue conversations across long distances and play online games with friends when they are unable to physically hang out. All of these activities can also be done offline and in person.
It has been a few years since this book was written and the lines between the digital and physical worlds have blurred to the point that for many people the two worlds are one and the same. As a teenager everyone wanted the coolest flip phone, with unlimited texts! Now texting takes a back seat to social media on smart phones where the entire online universe is instantly accessible at all times. It is common to take pictures at any given activity and instantly put them online where your friends can “like” them. At library conferences people are told to use the conference hashtag while live tweeting their thoughts on the presentations. Even traditional accessories can access the internet, I can reply to Facebook posts and text on my watch and buy running shoes that track my steps. The digital culture and offline culture have merged into the single culture of my generation because we are always online.
Ito, M., & Bittanti, M. (2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out : Kids Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge, US: The MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
For the next few months there will be two kinds of posts. I will continue to store the posts I contribute to the I-SPIE website and I will post my thoughts on my SJSU MLIS classes. Many of these courses require weekly blogging so it makes sense to write them here on my already library centric blog.