Applying Brenda Dervin's sense-making methodology to fan studies


  • CarrieLynn D. Reinhard Dominican University



Attitudes, Definitions, Identity, Lifespan, Nontraditional fandoms


Communication scholar Brenda Dervin created sense-making methodology (SMM), an approach for conducting interviews that draws on metatheoretical concepts such as hermeneutics, phenomenology, and the humanistic approach to psychology. Since its formulation, SMM has been utilized across different disciplines through the development of interview protocols for both one-on-one interviews and focus groups. Among these studies are those that focus on people's engagement with media products or with each other in relation to media products. These SMM audience and reception studies demonstrate that the methodology can be useful for studying fans by bringing a more systematic, and thus quantifiable, approach to a phenomenological, interpretive study of fan behavior, be it mental, emotional, physical, or social. SMM would allow for studies that analyze how fans make sense of a situation involving their fandom and fan identity. After explaining what SMM is and how it has been used to study fans, a case study demonstrates how SMM may suggest a way to define being a fan and applying the concept of fandom beyond the traditional domains of sports, media, and popular culture.