Teaching Statement

I love to teach and I love to learn, pure and simple.  I continue to learn from my students and I hope they continue to learn from me.  I believe my goal as a teacher/instructor/lecturer is to provide hands on knowledge and experience to impart new wisdom and understanding to the students in my charge.

Obviously I handle class room management, curriculum and lesson plans the best way I know how and hopefully in an entertaining and interesting way. I continually seek guidance from colleagues, my superiors and also from the students themselves. I research as much as I can for new classroom and teaching ideas. I subscribe to newsletters and forums that provide excellent tools to help me polish my skills.

My goad is to help students succeed.  If that’s just to get them to come to class each week or turn in assignments on time then I believe I’ve helped them in that endeavor, however I want to help them with more. I want them to leave my class with knowledge and power to know they can succeed in all aspects of life not just academically.  I provide tools and skills they can take with them into there professional and personal lives.

Communication has been considered a soft skill and yet it is the skill that is the most valued and respected and when done well the more revered.

 

Crowdfunding, Fandom, and the Future

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 11.40.15 PMOne of the main goals of my blog is to bring awareness and broaden the knowledge that people may have about Crowdfunding and Fandom. I’ve established how fans are exploited for their labor and why fans give of their time and money, but what of it’s future?  I want to continue by reviewing new crowdfunding platforms, the business of crowdfunding and why we should be cautious.

Watch the PBS Idea Channel’s Future of Fandom video to find out what might happen in the future for these studies:

While Kickstarter and the entertainment campaigns on it are solely for funding for their productions, we must look at crowdfunding for what it is, a business. The investors of a crowdfunding campaign need to be aware of what is going on. “Let the buyer beware” so to speak. In “Crowdfunding: Fleecing the American MassesScreen Shot 2015-04-06 at 11.45.40 PM” (2012), by Zachary Griffin, he shares that crowdfunding relies on the public to solicit and advertise so they can bring in the “crowd” of investors. The main idea of using the Internet is that it permits entrepreneurs to advertise their business and gain investments from just about anyone around the globe. It’s important to remember that even those entertainment campaigns I’ve researched about and blogged here, are soliciting a fan for money.

You may recall the mention I made of fans calling the shots. Today “fan-vestors” are making more decisions than anytime in the history of fandom. One of the conclusions made by Galuszka and Bystrov the researchers for the article, “The Rise of Fanvestors: A Study of A Crowdfunding Community” (2014) is the fact that fans are beginning to realize their ability to make decisions within a campaign. Fans are helping those that are campaigning by supporting them in whatever way they are asked to do so, and in return, fans are helping with the creation. Galuszka and Bystrov go on to say that there has to be a connection for those investing in a crowdfunding campaign to be successful. Hence why the fan-based campaigns seem to do so well. In certain circumstances, there is a social aspect to crowdfunding, and in many ways, it is an online community (Galuszka & Bystrov, 2014). I have established that fandom is a collective intelligence that offers a place to belong, so it is this researcher’s foregone conclusion that fan-based crowdfunding campaigns must rely on those fans for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Campaigners give rewards for donations and depending on the amount given the rewards can be worth it to a fan, but there is a cost. Richard Lawson, a writer for the Atlantic Wire the online magazine, wrote about the investment of the Veronica Mars project:

In Veronica Mars’s case, they’re asking you to pay for what will ultimately be a studio movie. This is not some independent film, financed on credit cards and bake sales. Nor is this an investment that anyone who donates will ever see a return on; essentially you’ll be a pro bono producer. There’s even a joke in the campaign’s introductory video about giving donors an associate producer credit, the joke being that the title is itself a joke. Aside from some assorted rewards that only get good in the really high donation brackets, the only thing you get in return for your investment is the movie, which (depending on the size of your investment) you’ll have to pay for anyway (Lawson, R. 2013, para. 2).

Lawson has a valid point, even saying that if fans are now the producers (funding the campaign), then they should have their name on the credits as well as the percentage of what was backed (Lawson, 2013). Fans will invest in future mediums anyway, as Lawson says, but today they have more of a say and can drive a project. Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars mentioned that he first thought that he would only have to worry the first few weeks of the Veronica Mars project, but then he realized he had fans’ tastes and preferences to consider and the fact that the pressure to write what the fans wanted and not what he wanted took precedence in order for the production to be successful (McMillan, G., 2013). What Thomas realized was that fans can make or break a project, and creators have to take that into consideration when campaigning for funding on sites such as Kickstarter.

If you remember I already shared the four main methods of giving, 1) donations, 2) rewards, 3) repayment of debts, and 4) equity (Spirer, 2014). I also mentioned earlier that Kickstarter was not the first or only online crowdfunding platform; that award goes to a site called Kiva. Kiva is a “repayment of debt” method of crowdfunding.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.29.10 AMKiva was one of the first crowdfunding sites, established in 2005 (Bannerman, 2013). Kiva is a non-profit crowdfunding site “with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the Internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world” (Kiva.org, 2014). Here is how it works: a person goes onto the site and searches for a borrower; once they find the borrower of their choice (and there are thousands to choose from), they fund part or all of the loan to the borrower. Once the lender receives full payments back from the borrower, the lender has the option to give that same money back to another borrower, if they so choose (Kiva.org, 2014). Many students in higher education are using this site to fund their educational goals. Sara Bannerman wrote the article, “Crowdfunding Culture (2013), in it she shares that Kiva has established a new form of crowdfunding where there is a sense of community and responsibility. Kiva removes the layers of anonymity often found in other crowdfunding models and offers a real community where both lender and borrower become connected.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.29.35 AMGoFundMe.com is another crowdfunding site for people of all walks of life. GoFundMe.com is a “donation method” site. It is a personal online fundraising site, and the motto is, “Crowdfunding for Everyone” (GoFundMe.com, 2014). GoFundMe has various funding platforms, from helping a family finance an adoption for a child, to funding a young girl with cancer so she may receive the transplant she needs to survive.

Another new crowdfunding site called Crowdfunder.com is more for capital and small businesses, but it is a site that allows people to invest in a project where they become key stakeholders. The site states that they provide investors “the opportunity to profit financially from their investment” (Crowdfunder.com, 2014, p. 1). They also state that where Kickstarter offers rewards for its backers, Crowdfunder offers investments in exchange for equity.

Sites like Kickstarter are “reward” based crowdfunding sites, and currently the most popular type of platform. With sites like Kickstarter, a person can give in return for a reward or gift. Besides the sites already mentioned, it is important to note that because of the success of the Veronica Mars and Reading Rainbow campaigns on Kickstarter – several other crowdfunding sites specific for funding film and television productions have been established, sites such as Indiegogo, Juntobox, and Rockethub. Each of these sites offer an alternative creative outlet for certain types of creators and that of funders, it is up to the one donating to decide which one works for them. Patreon is another new site established for artists and those that want to sell their art.

On a cautionary note, along with exploitation and labor another issue to take note of is the issue of fraud. Although crowdfunding sites establish rules for their borrowers and investors, there have been people creating campaigns for donations who are not in need of funding for any project; they just want the money for their own gain. Someone like Amanda Palmer comes to mind: although she says she is creating an album, the album has not been finished. Consumers definitely need to be aware and educated when giving funds to a campaign. I found a great SWOT analysis for crowdfunding in the academic article called, “Valuation Of Crowdfunding: Benefits and Drawbacks” written by Loreta Valanciene and Sima Jegeleviciute (2013). SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.” Granted their report was for basic crowdfunding campaigns, but I believe their analysis can be related to fan-based crowdfunding campaigns as well. The threat element is a risky assumption, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share the data. The chart below offers these four categories of the SWOT. As one can see, there is still more research to be done in this field, but it is important to note the weaknesses of fraud, stolen ideas, lack of advice and the threats of legal restrictions and the risk involved in small businesses, most of which were touched on during my case study blog posts.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 11.04.22 PMOnly time will tell if any of these sites mentioned above will continue to flourish, but there is the hope that these sites, which provide more than just backing for a movie, will continue to provide the livelihood and social capital for those people seeking a chance for a better life. Commercial motives fall into play for almost every kind of industry. Films are no different. Crowdfunding gives creators, artists, screenwriters, producers, and storytellers an alternative to going to a big studio to find an executive willing to support and fund one’s creations. The most crucial aspects of crowdfunding lay in the fan base of the campaign, and how the pressure from the fans, makes it all the harder for creators.

Crowdfunding and fandom have changed each other, both needing and exploiting one another in many ways. The real game changer in crowdfunding is the people who fund it, the fans, the everyday people who just want to be happy in providing a way for those seeking financial backing. There will always be fans and some who are willing to go the distance to see their favorite film, artist, TV show, or book, come to life. But today fans have more of a choice than I did back in the “Jerry Lewis Telethon” days. Today more than ever fans have a say so in the way they are able to view and support their favorite medium.

I have no doubt that fans have their agency and will always be willing to give of their time and money in future crowdfunding campaigns. It is my hope that reading this blog will offer some insight to why a fan gives so much of themselves, an understanding of how they can be exploited, and that the business of crowdfunding can take precedence over their own desires. When fans know what they are getting into with crowdfunding the better they will be.

 

References:

About Us. (2015). Crowdfunder.com. Retrieved from https://www.crowdfunder.com/blog/about-crowdfunder/

About Us (n.d.) About Kiva. Retrieved on December 15, 2014 from http://www.kiva.org/about/how

About Us (2014).About GoFundMe. Retrieved on December 15, 2014 from http://www.gofundme.com/

Bannerman, S. (2013). Crowdfunding Culture. WI Journal of Mobile Media. Vol. 7, No. 1. Retrieved from http://wi.mobilities.ca/crowdfunding-culture/

Galuszka, P. & Bystrov, V. (2014). The rise of fanvestors: A study of a crowdfunding community. First Monday, [S.l.], apr. 2014. ISSN 13960466. Retrieved from<http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4117/4072>. doi:10.5210/fm.v19i5.4117.

Howe, J. (2009). “Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business.” New York: Random House.

Lawson, R. (2013). Anyone Know of a Better Charity Than the ‘Veronica Mars’ Movie? The Wire, Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2013/03/kickstarter-kind-of-annoying-isnt-it/63060/

McMillan, G., (2013). Veronica Mars KickStarter Breaks Records, Raises Over $2M in 12 Hours. WIRED. (13, March 12). Retrieved November 26, 2014, from     http://www.wired.com/2013/03/veronica-mars-kickstarter-record/

Spirer, G. (2014). “Crowdfunding: The Next Big Thing. Money-Raising Secrets of the Digital Age” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition 

Valanciene, L., Jegeleviciute, S., (2013). “Valuation of Crowdfunding; Benefits and Drawbacks” Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania http://mechanika.ktu.lt/index.php/Ekv/article/view/3713/2499

Labors of Love and Why Fans Give to Crowdfunding Campaigns

Personal Photo at San Diego Comic-Com 2013
Personal Photo taken at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 #Comic-Con

In present day, fans are no different than they were in 1915 with the first fan club. Fans enjoy this participatory culture we now call fandom. Fans today have found a place to belong just as they did all those years ago. There is camaraderie and a sense of family within most fandoms, and they share their passions with like-minded people. With new technology and a better understanding of the psychology of those who participate in fandoms, we have become more educated on fan culture.

Are fans trying to find out what goes on behind the scenes as in old Hollywood? Hardly. Fans are savvy to the business aspects of Hollywood in the 21st Century. It is no longer about finding authenticity; it’s about being happy, sharing and providing a way to help those favorite media objects, which brings me back to the fan affect theory.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 11.46.48 PMMost fans find themselves wanting to provide for their favorite movie or celebrity campaign because they simply enjoy it. Fan clubs all over the world are rooted in “fan agency.” Fans will tell you they do it because they love it. No one is twisting a fan’s arm to donate or become a fan; they become fans because they love the medium, and they do it because, for whatever reason, it brings them joy. Basically… helping out a celebrity, television, or movie campaign can make one happy, and this is what many fan theorists call the “Fan Affect,” emphasis on the short “A.” In the book, The Affect Theory Reader (2010), it states, “Affect is the name we give to the ‘visceral forces’ that ‘drive us toward movement, toward thought and extension’” (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010, ch. 1).

 

Affect seems to be a state that one cannot quite put a name to, that moment when one is in the movement, acting upon one’s thoughts and feelings. It can make one euphoric, and it is emotional and strong. For example, the affect of joy brings a smile to a person’s face. So when a fan finally does get that joyful or “squee, OMG,” hand-over-mouth-in-shock moment, where they can’t contain their excitement or express it when they are meeting a celebrity in some way (like the Fangirls from Supernatural), the fan can very well have that “squee” moment of happiness. The fan’s pay-off is this affect emotion they receive for being a part of something bigger than themselves. Fans crave this affect and will do almost anything to continue to receive it (Gross, M., 2005).

Fan affect could very well be considered an obsession or an addiction of sorts. In Michael Gross’s book Starstruck: When Fans get Close to Fame (2005), he shares the story of Winona RyderScreen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.11.50 PM and how fans went out of their way to sit in the star’s courtroom to support her while she was being charged for shoplifting, mainly doing so just for the purpose of gaining Ryder’s attention. I’m sure they had several “squee” and “OMG” moments while sitting there during the court case. The fans knew what Ryder did was wrong, but they didn’t care; here again the affect took over. Ryder signed autographs for these fans right after her hearing, and they were so excited about it that they went outside to show off to all the press who were reporting on the courtroom drama. The Press wanted to know more, and the fans, realizing how much of an influence they had on them, asked the reporters just how much they would offer to them for a glimpse into the signed autograph book (Gross, M., 2005). These particular fans not only suffered from the joy of being near Ryder, they knew they could make money and also garner some attention, both from the celebrity and the media for their devotion. I couldn’t help but think of the Affect Theory Reader’s chapter four on “Cruel Optimism” with Ryder’s case.  This chapter goes into the “object of our desires,” and how those desires are really a cluster of promises we are hoping to fulfill with an attachment and close proximity to the object (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010, ch. 4). My research on fandoms resonates with this desire of our hearts. Fans willing to do anything for their favorite media object would be considered to have a cruel optimism. And because of these fans desires, most producers/creators of a crowdfunding campaign negotiates with fandom to get what they want, which includes fan labor.

What is fan labor? It is not uncommon for fans to become exclusive for a particular medium and for the medium to offer special perks to the fans for their loyalty. Herein lies the perplexity of fan agency and labor. Jennifer Spence says it best when she shares the theory of labor when it comes to fans. She says, “Fans who launch campaigns to ‘save our show’ or protest storytelling decisions typically see their efforts as standard fannish practices, but these ‘labours of love’ must also be considered, as the name suggests, as labour” (Spence, 2014, p.1).

Fans are happy to serve if they receive something in return, something exclusive that a non-fan would not be able to get. Exclusion can pertain to fan club membership, which can offer special announcements, events, and gifts for only those members. Media savvy celebrities and creators know their livelihood depends on their fans, so they provide “specials” to the fans in return for the fan’s labor. Earlier I explained about BNFs and hyper fans, as well as the hierarchy of fandom. Fans develop a hierarchy within their fandom community and with other fan communities for these particular perks and exclusions.

In the DailyDot article, “How the Corporate World Targets Fandom,” written by Gavia Baker-Whitlaw Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 12.48.09 AM(2014), she talks about the desire that people have to be closer to their idols and how the corporate world is taking advantage of that. She says that even when the most noticeable of signs of closeness is a retweet from a fan’s favorite idol, it is enough to make the fan happy and share in the excitement with other fans, and it gives the fans some clout over the other fans. She shares the case of The Hunger Games Exploiter…er…excuse me, I mean Explorer site that offers points and badges to its members if they share the movie on other fan sites and social media, effectively doing the publicity for the studio (Baker-Whitlaw, 2014).

Are the fans being exploited through this labor? Exploitation can mean the taking advantage of or the using of others for some sort of profit (Dictionary.com). In the case of Serenity/Firefly and Supernatural, fans were definitely exploited for their labor and treated unfairly for their efforts. In Winona Ryder’s case, fans went to the extreme to gain attention from her and the press. When fans blog about their favorite movie or show, share on social media, create sites, and devote much of their time to their favorite medium, fans are, in some respects, being exploited. Fans are performing as promoters and publicists and are doing it for free (Chin, B., 2014). Fans are willing to do the work if they believe in their favorite artist or celebrity, but fans also need to know that their work can be considered labor and exploitation.

I want to take this a step further; we’ve discussed why fans give, but why to crowdfunding campaigns? I believe that donating to crowdfunding campaigns offers a participatory culture in a more legitimized way. Call it capitalism if you will, but it is a way to gain something in return for a fan’s devotion.

First, fans not only become closer and have a shared interest in the campaign, but also I believe it is to further BNFs and super or hyper fans status in their participatory cultures, if they are part of one. Some of the BNFs may or may not realize it, but their status in the fandom offers them some influence and the possibility to become closer with their favorite media object. The fans who give can also claim bragging rights, with proof from the crowdfunding site they can let everyone know they were one of the ones who helped the campaign. It is a labor of love and agency, but the fan who donates is doing so because they will get a return on their investment and become shareholders.

Second, giving to an established group, producers, or studio brings about a sense of empowerment for the fan. As mentioned earlier, they have more of a say so because they believe that the money they have given allows them some vested interest with the project. They see their donation as something more tangible, the money they are giving isn’t being “wasted” on a futile transaction, and instead it is a vested interest. Funding a fan-based campaign on Kickstarter is much more tangible than standing in line at some convention waiting for an autograph. The signing of the autograph between a fan and his or her favorite media object is a transaction, but it just might be more of a fleeting experience, once the transaction is over, it’s over, whereas the funding of a Kickstarter for a favorite movie or celebrity becomes a long-term venture.

Finally,  investing in the media object seems to be more reputable. For example, when a fan has given a money for a t-shirt, all they get is the t-shirt and they are out of that money they just spent on it. To donate to a campaign gives the fan a sense of pride and ownership. Buying a t-shirt is considered a selfish act, whereas donating to a crowdfunding campaign is considered more like charitable work. It is like giving to the United Way because the fan may believe it is a better way of spending their money.

Fans love their media objects and are willing to do anything for them. Knowing and understanding the system of crowdfunding and the fact that it is for capital gains may give a fan second thoughts about why they give, and at least an understanding to how the entertainment industry relies on the fans for their labor and devotion for their own gains.

 

References:

Baker-Whitlaw, G. (2014).How the Corporate World Targets Fandom. Retrieved fromhttp://www.dailydot.com/geek/inside-fandom-media-campaign/

Barbas, S. (2001). Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity. Falgrave Publishers. New York, NY. Softbound Book.

Chin, B. (2014.) “Sherlockology and Galactica.tv: Fan Sites as Gifts or Exploited Labor?” In      “Fandom and/as Labor,” edited by Mel Stanfill and Megan Condis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0513.

Gregg, M., & Seigworth, C. (Ed.) (2010). “The Affect Theory Reader.” Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

Gross, M. (2005). Starstruck: “When a Fan Gets Close to Fame.” Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Kindle Edition

Spence, J., (2014). “Labours Of Love: Affect, Fan Labour, And The Monetization Of Fandom.” University of Western Ontario – Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. Paper 2203. Retrieved from http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/2203

Butterflies in the Sky and Why Fans Give

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.10.49 PM
Reading Rainbow Poster

I’ve given some examples of fandom and what happens when fans go the extra mile only to be exploited in some way, and my last case in point for the research of crowdfunding and fandom is the much-loved PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) series, Reading Rainbow.

“Butterflies in the sky, I can go twice as high, it’s in a book, just take a look, a reading rainbow” (Smule.com, 2015, p. 1). This song conjures up nostalgia for people. Many of us grew-up watching the PBS show. So, come with me now as we go back in time to 1983 when PBS began airing Reading Rainbow. The show was an American made children’s television series dedicated to encouraging and helping children develop a joy for reading. The series aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) from 1983 to 2006 (Wikipedia, 2015). Each episode focused on a shared theme within the books showcased and the books were shared in an entertaining way with the viewers. Actor LeVar Burton, who had then recently come off of a prestigious acting gig as “Kunta Kinte” in the miniseries Roots (1977), adapted from the book by Alex Hailey, brought a trusted voice and persona to the show. Like Sesame Street (1969) before it, Reading Rainbow  developed a big following of not only children, but also their parents, and it became a beloved series all over the world.

Fast-forward to 2014, LeVar Burton the actor, who hosted the television series, is more established. He’s older and is part of a big movie franchise known as, Star Trek. In May of 2014, he is on Kickstarter and he’s asking for donations to bring back Reading Rainbow. Wait. They are bringing back Reading Rainbow? I’d pay for that, wouldn’t you? Well, that wasn’t quite what Mr. Burton meant. The wording in the tagline for the Kickstarter campaign was, “Bring Reading Rainbow back for every child, everywhere” (Kickstarter, 2014), which was a bit deceiving. It definitely sounds like the show was going to be back on the air. But, sadly this was not the case. According to Burton it was going to be better, it was going to be an app for the iPad that children could use in classrooms and in their homes. The app was going to be used in low income school areas. It wasn’t just any app but an app that would provide children with the chance to become literate. You can find out more about the app on Burton’s Kickstarter video below:

Much like the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter, the Reading Rainbow campaign received donations quickly even beating Veronica Mars meeting their goals a full month before the deadline. The campaign started on May 28, 2014 and hit $1 million in less then one day, and their original goal was $1 million in 35 days. The fundraiser earned $6.4 million in donations in just five weeks and is one of the 5th largest grossing campaigns for Kickstarter (Ramisetti, 2014). What most people don’t know is that the company that headed the campaign, “RR Kids,” is headed by none other than LeVar Burton, and it is a for-profit enterprise. They plan on developing the app and opening it up to give to teachers in schools, but for a monthly subscription cost (Dewey, 2014).

Burton’s campaign again poses the question as to why people donate. Was it the nostalgia of watching the show during one’s childhood? Would people have donated if they knew that Reading Rainbow is already accessible to classrooms via computers and the Internet with many episodes available on YouTube? It’s hard not to be swayed by the positive message given by Burton for the campaign; he is a very charismatic person. Wanting to help kids to read, well that’s just down right admirable, but we definitely need to read the fine print and air on the side of caution. More than anything, we must make knowledgeable and informed decisions when giving of ourselves, be it monetarily or emotionally.

 

References:

Barbas, S. (2001). Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity. Falgrave Publishers. New York, NY. Softbound Book.

Dewey, C. (2014). You might want to reconsider that donation to the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/28/you-might-want-to-reconsider-that-donation-to-the-reading-rainbow-kickstarter/

Ramisetti, K. (2014). ‘Reading Rainbow’ Kickstarter campaign raises $6 million with help from Seth MacFarlane. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/reading-rainbow-kickstarter-campaign-raises-6-million-article-1.1853788

Smule.com (2015). Lyrics to the theme of Reading Rainbow. Retrieved from
http://www.smule.com/song/reading-rainbow-reading-rainbow-theme-song-karaoke-lyrics/_reading_rainbow

Wikipedia (2015).  Reading Rainbow. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Rainbow

 

Supernatural and the Exploits of The Fangirls

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.22.26 PMWith the discovery of fan exploitation through the case of Firefly/Serenity, there is another case that probably shares a personal point-of-view of a particular fan, their fandom and their experience with fan labor. The ones I am talking about are Katherine Larsen and Lynn Zubernis; remember me mentioning these two ladies before? These two professors became enamored over a television show called, Supernatural (Kripke, 2005). These Fangirls loved the show so much they even wrote a book about it.

Larsen and Zubernis were smart academics and thought to be too smart to fall for a television show, let alone become fans. They started out just like most fans, by watching the show. The more they watched, the more obsessed they became. Over time they became, in some sense, hyper fans. A hyper fan is someone who is more actively involved with their favorite media object than the regular fan. Much like the BNFs (Big Name Fans) I mentioned in my other post, the hyper fan is hyper attentive, is much more involved, and at times, can be made fun of and even ridiculed because of their over-the-top actions and emotions for their favorite media object (Barton, K. M., & Lampley, J.M., 2013).

Katherine Larsen, Jared, Jensen, and Lynn Zubernis
Katherine Larsen, Jared, Jensen, and Lynn Zubernis

Before I share the events of the two Fangirls, I need to share some info about the show they love, Supernatural. The television show, created by Eric Kripke, began airing on the WB/CW (Warner Brothers, and CBS) in 2005. The show follows two brothers, played by actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, who are usually in pursuit of all those supernatural unexplained monsters out there in the world. The brothers call themselves “hunters,” and they hunt for those monsters, demons and evil that can hurt and ruin mankind. While they hunt, they are also trying to find their father. The show is currently airing on the CW and is in its tenth season. Supernatural is one of the most popular for the network and has built a huge fan base over the years (Wikipedia, 2015).

The fans of the show do not necessarily have a nickname for themselves; most just call themselves part of the Supernatural (SPN) Family. In Larsen and Zubernis’ book, Fangasm, Supernatural Fangirls (2013), they share their trip down, what they call, the rabbit hole. They began following the show after a friend convinced them to watch, and once they watched, they were hooked, even saying that they didn’t necessarily choose the fandom the fandom chose them (Larsen & Zubernis, 2013). They attended many conventions for the show, including the mother of all cons, the San Diego Comic-Con.

The Fangirls noticed something during one such convention held in Vancouver. The ladies shared the fact that a fan bid $8000.00 for Jared Padalecki’s 30th birthday goodie bag and a hug. Although the money went to charity, what the fan was really vying for was the hug from the star himself. Is a hug from a celebrity worth 8000 bucks? Since it went to a good cause, some would say “yes.”

As the Fangirls continued on their sojourn of fandom with the television series, they became more involved with the promotion of the show. They discovered that “Creation Entertainment” had a lot of clout and were the big guns when it came to conventions, scheduling events, and getting to meet the celebrities. The ladies went on to create a blog about the series and its stars, and with a little finesse and new connections, they began interviewing key players and sharing upcoming events. Zubernis and Larsen had become what they didn’t necessarily want to be, BNF’s (Big Name Fans). The ladies wrote so well in fact, that they garnered the attention of the show’s producers and were asked to write for their Supernatural Magazine, and the Fangirls did so for free. They had an “in” now and were invited onset to talk to the actors, writers, and creators of the show.

What the ladies didn’t realize was that they would be heading down into another rabbit hole, a much darker one. In the final chapter of Larsen and Zubernis’ book, they tell about the story of their last trip to the series set in Vancouver. They were allowed onto the set, not because they were wanted there, but because two out of the four people who had bid for, won, and paid to attend had to pull out. They had been informed by some of their connections about the situation, and they went and vied to fill those voids. They were given a yes were invited to go to the set, and were told they had permission to interview and talk with certain staff members (Larsen, & Zubernis, 2013).

They believed all was fine since they had gotten permission from TPTB (The Powers That Be). What they learned was that what the TPTB approved wasn’t necessarily what the staff on set approved. When they arrived, they went around the set to say hello and talk to the crew and staff that they became so familiar with over the past few months. The atmosphere was subdued, one of the directors had just passed away, and they were quickly ushered into a room where a producer of the show told them they could no longer speak to the people they had just spoken to, and that once they left the room they could only observe from a distance. The Fangirls were shocked and even more so when they found out the other two winners of the bid had not yet gotten to meet Jensen and Jared, with whom they were promised to meet as part of their bid they so graciously paid for.

Zubernis and Larsen were disappointed and felt badly for the two paying fans who waited all day for a visit with the stars of the show. Instead, the two winners got an autographed copy of the Supernatural Magazine for their troubles. The Fangirls realized that TPTB don’t really understand fans. Surely TPTB had to know that going on set to get an autographed magazine was not acceptable, when a fan could go to a convention and stand in line to get that for free, a set visit should have constituted a face-to-face meeting, the fans paid good money for it after all. Weren’t they the customer? Shouldn’t they have been treated as a paying customer would; didn’t TPTB want their love, their loyalty, their MONEY? The Fangirls left dejected, and the other two winners were angry and frustrated, swearing to never support another Supernatural event ever (Larsen, & Zubernis, 2013).

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 11.46.36 PMOne more important issue that came into play was the fact that the Fangirls were writing a book about fandom, and their publishers at the time weren’t happy with what they had written. The publishers wanted a fun book, not the one the ladies gave to them. There was too much information about the behind-the-scenes and fandom, and not enough fun and excitement about the show. They were in the throes of trying to convince their publisher at the time that what they had written was acceptable, when they received that dreaded email – the email from the studio to cease-and-desist their correspondences and writing for the television series magazine. Here they had written articles for the show’s magazine, interviewing and establishing a relationship with the crew, and now they were asked to stop all contact. It was a blow to the Fangirls, one they took a long time recovering from. The ladies gave so much of themselves to the show just to be kicked in the gut. They were at a loss as to what they had done wrong because they had gotten permission by the studio for all their interviews and set visits. They feared legal entanglements and fees.

In the end Zubernis and Larsen were able to write and publish their book, and held no animosity toward the show’s stars and staff. They believed all that happened to them during their trek through the SPN family did them a favor. Their jump into the rabbit hole had taught them a lesson about fandom, celebrities, and The Powers That Be. They remain fans of the show and still write about it on their own blog. Their take away was to continue to be passionate, cautious and to be themselves at the same time (Larsen, & Zubernis, 2013).

**Update: March 26, 2015, this just in…#Supernatural alums Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr. (actors who had recurring roles on Supernatural) are now starting a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for a webseries that is much like #Firefly stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion’s “ConMan.”  Here’s the Variety article about it and their Indiegogo campaign.  I’m starting to see a trend happening.

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And….here’s the new trailer to their Webseries…

 

References:

Barton, K.M., & Lampley, J.M. (2013). “Fan CULTure: Essays on Participatory Fandom in the 21st Century.” McFarland. Kindle Edition.

Kripke, E. (2005). Director. Creator. Supernatural. Retrieved from
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460681/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Larsen, K., & Zubernis, L., (2013). “Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls.” University of Iowa Press. Kindle Edition.

Wikipedia (2015). Supernatural. Television show. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernatural_%28U.S._TV_series%29

Firefly, Serenity and Exploitation

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 3.23.26 PMI would like to discuss a few case studies on exploitation, outside of crowdfunding with fandoms. The first will be about the movie Serenity created and directed by Joss Whedon in 2005. The movie was a sequel to the popular cult show Firefly (2002) also created and directed by Whedon

The television show aired on the FOX network in 2002. The show only aired for one season, but it was enough to garner a strong fan following. The space western, science fiction drama consisted of an ensemble cast with the main character, played by Nathan Fillion, as a spaceship captain by the name of Malcolm (Mal) Reynolds who was a shell-shocked soldier and a reluctant hero. He and his crew of rag-tag individuals, which consisted of a thief, a harlot, a preacher, a pilot, a fellow soldier, and siblings with a mysterious past, go traipsing around the universe to find black market cargo to haul, and they usually find themselves in some sort of danger at every turn along the way.

The show had an unusual premise and never quite found its footing due to the multiple themes of the show. The ratings were low for a better part of the series, which didn’t do themselves any favors with the network. After 14 episodes, Fox decided to cancel the show. After the cancellation, the series found new life at the advent of their video sales, which sky rocketed and brought them a strong cult following. The fans of Firefly began calling themselves, “Browncoats” (Barton, K., & Lampley, J.M., 2013). The name “Browncoats” was used for the brown coat the star, Nathan Fillion, and other soldiers wore on the show.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 3.37.33 PMBrowncoats wanted more and asked, nay demanded, a movie version. Creator Joss Whedon was able to convince Universal Pictures, thanks to the hefty video sales and strong fan-base, to back the film version of the TV series. In 2005 Whedon and the Browncoats got their wish: the movie Serenity (the name of the ship from the series) was brought to life and showed in movie theaters all over the country and overseas. It ranked #2 in the box office their opening weekend, which is not bad for a series that was cancelled after one season (Wikipedia, 2015).

The Browncoats are a very die-hard fan base. They love the lead actors and its creator Joss Whedon. They were willing to do anything to get Serenity off the ground and back up in the sky, and the studios played on that devotion. It’s what Professor Bertha Chin calls the gift economy (Chin, 2014). The gift economy is one of giving, receiving, and reciprocation. When all these are met, there is a complete and social relationship between giver and receiver. The gift economy in fandom appears in the form of fan art, fan fiction, web sites, wikis, forums, blogs, social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, dedicated to a specific fandom. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the fans become a fandom, and they in turn become a participatory culture.

Chin shares the gift the Browncoats offered in her Transformative Works article, “Sherlockology and Galactica TV: Fan sites as gifts or exploited labor?” Universal Pictures capitalized on the passion of the fandom of Firefly (2002). In the months leading up to the premiere of the movie Serenity, Universal created a members only online community where fans were encouraged to promote the movie, its products, and recruitment of more fans for points. Fans were also encouraged to create products and items themselves to accompany the DVD release of Firefly the television show to coincide with the movie (Chin, 2014). The fans were happy to accommodate the studio.

However, after the release of the DVD, fans were presented with another gift, that of a cease-and-desist order to the whole Firefly fan community. Fans were given letters from Universal to stop any production or creations and demanding retroactive licensing fees for fans that used any copyrighted materials and licensed products and images. This left the fans who participated in all the marketing, making it go viral by the way, feeling exploited by Universal. The fans were first courted by the studio to market for them and then in turn paid the cost of legalities and demands for fees. Chin says this is a worrisome trend – the commercial culture invading onto fan culture (Chin, 2014).

It is important to take into account fan agency. In the case of Firefly, fans were happy and more than willing to do what was asked of them, even going above and beyond what was asked of them, but I am sure they were expecting more of a thank you, not legal troubles. I will discuss further about fan agency, and the fan affect of being happy to serve, when I give my final discourse.

** UPDATE – This just in: March 2015 
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I must share an update about Firefly, which brings us full circle in some ways to crowdfunding and fandom. A few weeks ago, Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, stars of Firefly/Serenity, started an Indigogo (another crowdfunding platform) campaign for a new project. The project is very meta to say the least. The campaign is for a series of webisodes starring these two actors as the main characters. Both stars will basically be portraying an alter ego of themselves, as two stars that were in a sleeper hit TV show that was cancelled all too soon, sound familiar? It is reminiscent of the plot in the movie Galaxy Quest (1999), where they are spoofing their Firefly/Serenity personas, much like the Galaxy Quest actors were spoofing Star Trek. The characters in the webisode series were on a Sci-Fi show called “Spectrum,” and after it’s cancellation, Nathan Fillion’s character goes on to stardom and celebrity, while Alan Tudyk’s character is stuck doing small roles and attending many fan conventions, much to his chagrin. The name of the webseries will be called, “ConMan.” To date, the campaign has reached over 2 million and hasn’t even hit their deadline of April 10, 2015 yet; their original goal was $425,000.00. The two actors and their producer are even doing live stream feeds and talking to fans in real time on an app called, “Hang w/” so that the fans can feel closer to them as they make more episodes.

Now are these two celebrities and the people they asked to help them with this project (producers, writers, director, actors, staff, etc.) taking advantage of their fan base? I would say yes. They aren’t foolish, and they know with the established fan-base they will probably succeed. Are the fans now being exploited once again from the same people who asked for help with their first project? What do you think?

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Watch the promo video for their Indigogo campaign…

******UPDATE–Oct. 2, 2015******

So Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion have done it, they’ve created their web series, and have begun airing them on their own website, with the help of Vimeo. “ConMan” looks funny, meta, and very clever…but here’s the catch – even though they earned more than they needed on their Indiegogo campaign for crowdfunding, they are still charging $14.99 to watch the streaming videos on their site. They have three episodes up right now with ten more on the way through October and November, the $14.99 is only good for 3 months.  *Sigh* so you fans who gave money to the crowdfunding campaign, guess you have to give money again if you actually want to watch the show!  See the link below for their new web series site–

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/conman.

 

References:

Barton, K., & Lampley, J.M., (2013). “Fan CULTure: Essays on Participatory Fandom in the 21st Century.” McFarland. Kindle Edition.

Chin, Bertha. 2014. “Sherlockology and Galactica.tv: Fan Sites as Gifts or Exploited Labor?” In “Fandom and/as Labor,” edited by Mel Stanfill and Megan Condis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0513.

Wikipedia, (2015). Firefly. Television Series. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly_%28TV_series%29

Wikipedia, (2015). Serenity. Motion Picture. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_%28film%29

Amanda Palmer: When Good Things go Bad

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Amanda Palmer 2012 (photo from article on Digital Trends)

Singer/Songwriter Amanda Palmer’s main claim to fame may be her marriage to author Neil Gaiman. But, she was also half of the cult music group The Dresden Dolls. Yet, Palmer is probably most famous, or infamous, to those who know about, and possibly participated in, her Kickstarter campaign. Labeled by many as a hypocrite and the most evil person on the Internet (Clover, 2012), Palmer has created a controversy about whether musicians deserve to get paid for their work.

In April of 2012, Palmer launched her Kickstarter, here’s her promotional video for the campaign:

(*Warning there is adult content in the video, so watch at your own discretion.)

The campaign was for what she called “help to launch her new album” with a new band called “Grand Theft Orchestra.” Palmer had just left her label and had decided to go independent with a new band, but she needed funding. She claimed going independent cost her a lot. She even asked for musicians to join her new band. If you go to Palmer’s Kickstarter Campaign on the Kickstarter website, she promises all kinds of gifts and rewards, including a special book written by her husband and a colleague if people donated.   She even advertised for “professional-ish” musicians to join her band, she needed string instruments and more orchestra-based musicians. She would buy them food, beer, and offered them other sundries, but… she couldn’t pay them. Her reason behind not being able to pay them was that Palmer spent all of her funding on producing her album, as well as the fact that she needed money for things like airfare, mailing costs, and all her personal debt, and so she couldn’t afford to pay anyone (Clover, 2012).

Chicago-based musician Steve Albini was infuriated by Palmer’s request. In an article written by Michael Nelson on the music website “StereoGum,” Nelson shares what Albini told Palmer – Albini called her an “idiot” for thinking that she could ask for professional musicians to work for free. Palmer did not respond directly to Albini, but she did give the New York Times a statement by saying, “To me it seems absurd. If my fans are happy and my audience is happy and the musicians on stage are happy, where’s the problem” (2012)?

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Cover Poster on Palmer’s personal website

Palmer didn’t realize that there was a problem and only saw this as a win/win for herself and her fans, which tends to be the case with many of the promoters of fan-based types of crowdfunding campaigns. According to Graeme McMillan, a writer for Digital Trends, an online tech magazine, Palmer managed to take advantage of her online fan-base by having them fund all of her own work and also decided it was not wrong to ask musicians to play for free (2012). The irony was that Palmer thought it would be a privilege for local musicians to come and play with her for free, and in so doing, she saw herself as a benefactor to musicians because she was offering them more musical experience. Palmer was able to make 1.2 million dollars on her Kickstarter, yet she couldn’t seem to pay the musicians she invited to come and play with her.

Certainly this led to a huge backlash for musicians who are paid for their services and how crowdsourcing/funding may need to be regulated. Yet again we get into the conundrum of fan agency and labor. Supposedly no one was twisting Palmer’s followers to pay or play; they did this of their own free will, and this is the excuse that Palmer gave readily. Something that McMillan points out is that the fan agency idea is a cop out; professional musicians who were asked to come and play with Palmer are just that, professionals, and they should be compensated for their labor.

Palmer did eventually send out a rather passive/aggressive retraction stating:

I’m sad to realize that our creative intentions of crowd-sourcing – something that I’ve done for years, and which has always been an in-house collaboration between the musicians and the fans, never a matter of public debate or attack – are getting lost in the noise of this controversy (McMillan, 2012, p. 1).

Palmer also went on to add that she would be paying her musicians after all, but by then it was too late; she had musicians angry with her. There are still many of her critics that are outraged and find her words insincere and disappointing. Many people no longer believe her, and because of this, she’s lost a lot of fans.

This incident of Palmer’s opens up the issue of outsourcing to people who will work for less because it just makes them happy to do it (remember the affect theory), but it is an issue between what fans are willing to do and the labor they provide. I believe McMillan says it best when he mentions fan labor in his article in The New Yorker:

Ideally, you don’t even know you are working at all. You think you are keeping up with friends, or networking, or saving the world, or jamming with the band. And you are. But you are also laboring for someone else’s benefit without getting paid. And this, it turns out, was exactly Amanda Palmer’s hustle (McMillan, 2012).

**Update: March 16, 2015. Amanda Palmer is crowdfunding again, this time on a crowdfunding site called “Patreon.” It’s a site where artists can go and receive funds from patrons to continue to create their artwork. Her Patreon campaign is a bit different from her Kickstarter, she wants to produce art now. The video in her campaign is similar to the one up above, and she has a rather long diatribe as to why she’s an artist and why you should support her and her art. She started the campaign. As of March 26, 2015 she’s got 3925 patrons, earned $29,139.25 and has produced only one “thing,” a single for her new album, but the single is not quite ready yet, so the thing isn’t quite a thing yet.

 

References:

Clover, J. (2012). Amanda Palmer’s Accidental Experiment with Real Communism Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/amanda-palmers-accidental-experiment-with-real-communism

McMillan, G. (2012). Kickstarter Queen Amanda Palmer, Meet Your Internet Backlash.
Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/kickstarter-queen-amanda-palmer-meet-your-internet-backlash/

Nelson, M. (2012). Where’s the Beef? Steve Albini: Amanda Palmer Is An Idiot. Retrieved from http://www.stereogum.com/1151562/steve-albini-amanda-palmer-is-an-idiot/franchises/wheres-the-beef/

Kickstarter,Veronica Mars and the Question of Fan Labor or Agency?

(Let me preface by saying that Kickstarter was not the first online crowdfunding platform, but it has become the most prominent and the majority of my case studies are from this website.)

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Kickstarter Founders

Kickstarter is a global funding platform that was created in 2009 by Charles Adler, Perry Chen, and Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter.com, 2014). Their motto is “Bringing Creative Projects to Life” (Kickstarter.com, 2014, p. 1). In the past five years Kickstarter’s brand has grown, with the Veronica Mars movie becoming one of their first big high profile campaigns and one that was funded completely by fans of the television show (Kickstarter.com, 2014).

 

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Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars is an American television show created by screenwriter, producer, and director Rob Thomas (Wikipedia.org, 2014). The show aired on the UPN/CW network (United Paramount Network/CBS and Warner Bros.), from 2004–2007 (Imdb.com, 2014). Fans tuned in every week to watch the young and quirky teenager Veronica Mars, played by actress Kristin Bell, solve a mystery in the affluent town of Neptune, California. The show was considered a sleeper hit and began to accumulate a rather large fan base. The neo-noir-ish mystery and semi-comedy drama continued for three seasons on the network before it was cancelled (Wikipedia.org, 2014).

Fans petitioned UPN/CW for a revival of the show but without much notice from the network. With the fans’ support, Thomas wrote a screen adaptation of the popular TV show in the hopes that the studio would back the film. The network didn’t believe the show would bring in a profit, since the last season showed such low ratings. Thus, Thomas decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.com (McMillan, G., 2013).

Thomas noticed how crowdsourcing helped sports groups, tech groups, and independent filmmakers for documentaries, and he figured it could work for a mainstream movie (Widjaya, I., 2013). The Kickstarter was Thomas’s last-ditch effort to make the movie a reality, and he took over a year to plan it out (John, 2013). Thomas never imagined the outcome. Thomas surprised everyone; even himself, as on the first day of the launch, and just within the first 12 hours, the Veronica Mars movie “became the fastest Kickstarter to reach both $1 million and $2 million, and the highest goal to be met by other campaigns” (McMillan, G., 2013, para. 1). Thomas definitely did not need the studio to help him. The final tally earned for Veronica Mars was 5.7 million dollars and arguably became a game changer for how one can fund a film (John, 2013).

Here’s the promotional video from the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign just to give you an idea:

 

Setting aside breaking records for Kickstarter, the Veronica Mars movie brings up the question of fan agency and labor. Could fans very well be fooled into spending their hard-earned money by studios and networks (Chin, B., et. al., 2014). Bertha Chin, PhD from Cardiff University, mentions in her and her colleagues’ Dialogue Journal online interview, “Veronica Mars, Kickstarter and Crowdfunding” (2014), that the fans are not fooled. Fans have, what Chin calls “fan agency.” Chin also adds, “No longer merely acting as grassroots promoters, celebrity gatekeepers, subtitlers, and such, fans are now financing feature-length film projects on crowd-funding platforms…” (Chin, B., et. al., 2014, Para. 1.3).

I agree that fans do have agency, but are they informed enough to know what they are getting themselves into? It was originally thought that the fans that funded Veronica Mars were also the ones paying the ticket prices at the box office, which is partially correct. Some fans did pay to see the movie in theatres, as well as donate to the campaign, but the majority of them were allotted a gift for their donation. Many of them opted out from seeing the movie in theaters for the promised reward of the complete season set on Blu-ray of the TV show if they donated at least $15, and with a $35 dollar donation they received an exclusive digital download of the movie before it was released (Chin, B., et. al, 2014, para. 2.2). Those who donated $1000 were invited to attend the premiere and the after party (Solomon, D., 2014). Fans still had to pay their own way to Los Angeles to actually see the premiere though.

I remember the MDA (Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon) sending me a bumper sticker when I donated my babysitting money; I was happy to receive the sticker, but I would have rather gotten the chance to talk to John Wayne. I believed a sticker for $10 was not much of a trade off for a young 11-year-old girl in 1973, and my mother determined that it was one expensive sticker.

Fan labor is not just about the donation of money but of time. The resurrection of a show and turning it into a movie is a triumph for any fan that curses “the powers that be” for taking their favorite show off the air. After the cancellation of the Veronica Mars television series, fans laboriously signed petitions and sent emails and letters to the network, begging the studio to bring the show back on the air (Jagernauth, K., 2010). Some even created a Facebook page to keep the campaign alive (Jagernauth, K., 2010).

As noted in my previous post, fans can become super fans and have an invested interest in all aspects of the production, and some fans believe donating their time gives them a piece of the stock. Should fans have a say so in all aspects of the film? Probably not, but this does give fans a sense of freedom and closeness unlike any time in the history of film. Donating time gives fans a familiarity to the stars, to the people, and to the production of these films.

Next time I’ll share a case study on a rising music star named Amanda Palmer who used the Kickstarter platform to promote her music and created some negative fan labor issues of her own.

 

References:

A Brief History of Kickstarter. (n.d.). About Kickstarter. Retrieved from      https://www.kickstarter.com/stories/fiveyears

Chin, B., et. al. (2014). “Veronica Mars Kickstarter and Crowd Funding” [dialogue]. In “Fandom and/as Labor, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0519. Retrieved from http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/warner_bros._sets_up_official_petition_email_for_  veronica_mars_film

John, E. (2014). Veronica Mars, the movie: ‘Fans gave the money, there was all this pressure.’ Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/mar/13/veronica-mars-movie-fans-money-pressure-return-kickstarter-funded-marshmallows

McMillan, G., (2013). Veronica Mars KickStarter Breaks Records, Raises Over $2M in 12 Hours. WIRED. (13, March 12). Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2013/03/veronica-mars-kickstarter-record/

Solomon, D., (2014). “Veronica Mars” Creator Rob Thomas On How To Give Fans What They Want, But Not What They Expect. (Blog Post) Retrieved from http://www.fastcocreate.com/3027625/veronica-mars-creator-rob-thomas-on-how-to-give-fans-what-they-want-but-not-what-they-expect

Veronica Mars (TV Series 2004-2007) – Trivia. IMDb. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412253/

Wikipedia, (2014). Veronica Mars. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_Mars

 

 

Fans, Fandom and Participatory Cultures

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Fan Art

Another interesting aspect of Crowdfunding is that it is a type of “participatory culture.” People have to participate in order for the campaigns to succeed. No campaign can work without the crowd.

Why should we discuss participatory culture? Because one must understand how people in a fandom participate within its culture to really understand why fans give of themselves so much. Fans participate in just about any way possible when it comes to their favorite media object and I hope to explain why, but first let’s talk about the fans.

What or who is a fan? The brief definition of a “fan” is: someone who is devoted to a particular object, be it a celebrity, artist, genre, book, movie, or TV show. The fan is part of a bigger culture known as a Fandom.  This video below explains just what fandoms are and how they work:

Fandoms have been around for quite some time. The first noted fandom involved British writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and his character of Sherlock Holmes in 1887. Fans of the book were known to write their own fan fiction and even mourned after Holmes was killed off in 1893. The fans of the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, were the first recorded fandom (Wikipedia, 2015). From Sherlock came the Western modern science fiction fandom, which started around the 1930s with the first science fiction convention in 1939 (Wikipedia, 2015). The 1970s gave way to media fandom, which split from science fiction to other mediums focusing more on the characters within movies and television shows, such as Star Trek or Dark Shadows, and the characters of Captain James T. Kirk, Spock, or Barnabas Collins. Fan art, as well as fan fiction, also came about at this time because of the fan’s idea of how their favorite characters should be depicted in these mediums. Western culture was not the only one building up fandoms; in Japan there was a huge following for Anime and Manga as far back as the early 60s (Wikipedia, 2015). Fans are joining fandoms all over the globe.

So why does one become a fan and join in on a fandom? In a nutshell, fans join for a place to belong. Katherine Larson and Lynn Zubernis are two college professors; they are intelligent, strong empowered women who have a love for a TV show called, Supernatural. They loved being fans so much that they wrote a book about it. In their book, Fangasm, Supernatural Fangirls (2013), they explain why a person becomes a fan and joins a fandom. First and foremost they found a community, a place where they could share their love of all things Supernatural. Secondly, they were accepted for their self-expression and were able to find kindred spirits who shared the same love. Most importantly they realized that being a fan was not just about being accepted for differences, but also receiving validation for those differences (Larson, K., & Zubernis, L., 2013).

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Fandom has grown quite a bit since Sherlock Holmes’ day. Currently, there are all kinds of fandoms and some even overlapping each other. We have Bronyies – grown men who like My Little Pony, Potterheads – fans of Harry Potter; and Whovians– fans of Doctor Who. There’s also a growing fan-base for the MTV produced television show called Teen Wolf, and yet again another growing fandom for Sherlock Holmes who call themselves “Sherlockians” from the BBC television series called, Sherlock (Moffat, 2010). All of these fandoms provide a participatory culture.

What exactly is a participatory culture? Fandoms are an organized subculture, a participatory culture involving people who enjoy and share the same likes of a particular medium. In the Henry Jenkin’s edited book Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education in the 21st Century (2014) it states, “A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices” (Jenkins, et.al., 2014, p.22).

The 21st century offers participatory culture in a new way: online. The positives of participatory culture are the sharing of knowledge, creativity, and learning that takes place. Some fandoms offer substantial creativity and learning, for example the online fandom of Homestuck.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 2.02.11 AMHomestuck is an online webcomic that is rather lengthy (it’s compared to the book Ulysses) and very much a fandom that requires interactivity with its fans. Fans help create storylines, add new characters, and offer ideas to the author, Andrew Hussie. Hussie’s stories are reader driven. Within his story, Hussie also offers little games and quizzes that the participant must finish before moving on. Homestuck fans are young with most still in high school (Hussie, 2011). The fans of Homestuck are creating art, developing strong literacy skills, as well as creating interactive medium ideas of their own. One of the most poignant of Hussie’s ideas is that of inclusion and offering characters that have disabilities or other issues that young people in the real world can relate to.

Along with participation, there is a hierarchy in fandoms; there are those fans that hold a lot more importance than others. Fandoms are like any other culture; they are rife with attitudes, opinions and yes – even some of their own controversy and politics. One can be merely a member of a fandom, but there are those fans that wield more power, those fans are called “BNFs” (Big Name Fans). These fans receive more perks and are usually closer to their media objects than other fans. BNFs are given more notice than the average fan of any particular medium (Wikipedia, 2015).

I liken BNFs to high school popularity. They are the cheerleaders, working and campaigning for their favorite team. Like the cheerleaders, the BNFs are the ones who are usually planning and creating the most for those fandoms, they are the ones that are the most involved. BNFs are celebrities in their own fandoms as well, with other fans seeking them out and even wanting autographs from them. Most other fans have ambivalent feelings, to put it mildly, toward these BNFs, and the BNFs themselves do not always want to be deemed arrogant or self-important (Wikipedia, 2015).

BNFs are extremely devoted and see themselves as benefactors to the rest of their participatory culture. They may not necessarily vie for attention from the other fans, or want popularity within their culture, but they do want notice from their favorite media object. The higher the fan is in their culture, the more likely they will receive more from the media object, and I believe most BNFs know this. The important take-away here is that participatory culture and the hierarchy of fandom is an important factor to know when studying fans and why they give so readily to favorite media objects. Once a person discovers why a fan gives, it brings about a better understanding of who those fans are and essentially what makes them tick. Therefore, understanding fans and their culture will also bring about awareness and tolerance of those who are fooled by certain types of crowdfunding campaigns and may give too much.

*Sidenote: Believe it or not there is a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign going on for the creation of a BNF magazine. Check it out here. So far the campaign only has two backers and has earned 11 dollars of the $6000 it is asking for. The campaign has six days to go.

 

References:

Hussie, A. (2011). Homestuck. Retrieved from http://www.mspaintadventures.com

Jenkins, H. (Ed.), et. al., (2014). “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.” (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning). Kindle Edition.

Larsen, Katherine. and Zubernis, Lynn S. (2013). Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. (Kindle Edition)

Novaonline (2015). History of Anime and Manga. Retrieved from http://novaonline.nvcc.edu/eli/evans/his135/events/anime62/anime62.html

Wikipedia (2015). Big Fan Names. Retrieved from   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Name_Fan

Wikipedia (2015). Fandom. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fandom

 

Fan Labor Back in the Golden Age

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.51.51 PMBack during the Golden Age of Hollywood, some of the first fan clubs were created and with them fan labor. In Samantha Barbas’ book, Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity (2001), she explains the beginning of fan clubs and fan contributions as early as 1910 through to the 1940s. She shares the account of silent movie star Rudolph Valentino (arguably the first fan heartthrob) and the fans that mourned his untimely death; critics at the time were upset that the coverage on his death took precedence over the death of then Harvard President Charles Eliot (Barbas, 2001). Fans became more than just celebrity watchers, they actively became contributors and gave their advice to the studios and dollars to the fan clubs, some fans even creating activities and events, devoting a better part of their daily lives to their passion (Barbas, 2001). This early fan involvement indicated that fans refused to accept fan culture passively; they became actively involved in their favorite entertainment.

Barbas believes the reason why those first fans participated as they did was because of what she calls their “search for authenticity” (Barbas, 2001, p. 5). She shares the theory that fans wanted to know exactly what was happening behind the scenes. Fans in early Hollywood were fascinated by moving pictures, and they wanted to know if what they were watching on film was real or not. The fans wanted verification that what they were seeing on screen could be the real thing, so they devoted as much of their time to find out what went on behind the cameras. Fans barraged the studios to find out more about how they created their films and just who those celebrities acting on the big screen were, off screen. By 1915 magazines and newspapers were realizing the draw of fans wanting to know more and created the first movie fan magazines (Barbas, 2001).

Fandom, according to Barbas, was a “quest for authenticity, influence, and involvement – in other words, an attempt to understand, control, and participate…” (Barbas, 2001, p. 6). Fans became important to Hollywood, and what the fans did was more purposeful than Hollywood power players had once thought. They learned that without fans and their labor, they could not function as an industry so a new culture began, that of Hollywood or entertainment fandom and with that a new kind of “participatory culture.”

 

References:

Barbas, S. (2001). Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity. Falgrave Publishers. New York, NY. Softbound Book.