Fan labor audio feature introduction

Bob Rehak

Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, United States

[0.1] Abstract—An audio recording of the Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old Workshop from the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference, hosted by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

[0.2] Keywords—Fan community; Fan fiction; Fan vid; Filking; Games; Gender

Rehak, Bob. 2008. "Fan labor audio feature introduction." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 1.

1. Introduction

[1.1] In summer 2007, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Henry Jenkins invited more than 30 academic scholars and researchers to participate in a series of discussions about fandom, fan studies, and gender on his blog, Confessions of an Aca-Fan ( The months that followed saw 22 rounds in which the participants—sorted into male/female pairings—exchanged ideas, explained positions, and compared perceptions, engaging in a wide-ranging debate in which some tensions and conflicts were eased as others grew in scope and complexity. Although these sparring matches produced some light (as well as a fair amount of smoke), perhaps their most important outcome was in bringing together a large group of fan scholars whose commitment to exploring the intersection of fandom, fan studies, gender, and power extended beyond the summer's experiment.

[1.2] In April 2008, five participants in the gender and fan culture series—Julie Levin Russo, Sam Ford, Suzanne Scott, Bob Rehak, and Louisa Ellen Stein—presented a workshop at the Console-ing Passions conference, hosted by the University of California, Santa Barbara ( Each of us spoke briefly about a current research interest or project based on a text or artifact that raises questions about creative media fandom in both its historical and contemporary dimensions. Our talks focused on gendered labor as it intersects multiple concerns: taxonomies of fan practice; shifting economic relations between consumers and producers; questions of legitimacy and legality; the impact of new technologies; and the increasing visibility in popular, industrial, and academic discourses of heretofore marginal(ized) fan communities. Specific topics included user-generated promotions of The L Word; surplus audiences in wrestling and soap operas; performance and power in Harry Potter wizard rock, or wrock; the blueprint movement in 1970s Star Trek fandom; and the discourses of distinction and canonization around vidding.

2. Goals

[2.1] The overarching goal of the workshop was to conduct a kind of postmortem on the summer's debates, highlighting certain structuring themes, tendencies, and absences, unpacking problematic motifs, and reflecting on both what went better or worse in the past, and where we might productively go in the future. In this spirit, we kept our presentations short in order to leave the maximum time for audience discussion. We directed interested participants to more formal write-ups hosted on LiveJournal ( Our hopes were amply rewarded by an expansive conversation with enthusiastic and insightful contributions from both sides of the conference table.

[2.2] Some of the areas our workshop touched on included:

  • [2.3] Acafan identities: constructions of "fanboy" and "fangirl" as they play out in our own work and professional relationships.
  • Acafan ethics and responsibilities: protocols for doing fan studies (issues of attribution, citation, neglect of existing scholarship).
  • Symptoms of mainstreaming: convergence culture and transmedia theory as the masculinization of fan studies.
  • Divisions of power within academic institutions: bias, (in)visibility, promotion, and publishing.
  • The impact of discursive space: differences between the environment of Jenkins's blog and its LiveJournal mirror, in terms of authority, community, and technology.
  • Intersectionality: how gender issues intertwine with other dimensions of power (race, class, sexuality).

[2.4] The conference workshop aimed to open our dialogue to the community of fan scholars at Console-ing Passions, and we hope that sharing it will likewise open the discussion to a broader community beyond the event itself. We are pleased to offer an audio record here, to document and further inspire connections and conversations around this critical axis of fan-academic labor.

3. Presentations

[3.1] Clip 1: Presentations (40 minutes, 55 MB)—Audio clip of workshop presentations, held at the Console-ing Passions conference at the University of California, Santa Barbara, April 2008. The following voices are heard, in order: Julie Levin Russo (Brown University), Louisa Ellen Stein (San Diego State), Bob Rehak (Swarthmore College), Suzanne Scott (University of Southern California), Sam Ford (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

4. Discussion

[4.1] Clip 2: Discussion (33 minutes, 46 MB)—Audio clip of discussion, held at the Console-ing Passions conference at the University of California, Santa Barbara, April 2008. The following voices are heard, in order: Alexis Lothian (University of Southern California), Catherine Tosenberger (University of Winnipeg), Lindsay Brown (University of Florida), Andrea Wood (Georgia Institute of Technology), Conseula Francis (College of Charleston), Heather Hendershot (Queens College, City University of New York).

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