Placing fandom, studying fans: Modified acafandom in practice

  • Abby Waysdorf Erasmus University Rotterdam
Keywords: Interviewing, Methodology, Online ethnography, Participant observation, Research design


For nearly three decades, the field of fan studies has helped to shift the conversation on fandom from a study of pathological individuals to exploring how groups make use of and transform the contemporary media landscape. Fandom itself is also changing. What was once a niche subculture is now a way for us to make sense of the mediated world around us. As the concept and structures of fandom expand, we as fandom researchers must broaden our methodology to analyze fans who aren't like us while also keeping the empathetic understanding of fandom that has made the field what it is. One attempt at this project is the modified acafandom approach developed as part of the Locating Imagination project. In researching film tourism, something I had little interest in personally participating in, I needed to go beyond the traditional autoethnographic acafan approach and develop my skills as a social sciences researcher. However, it was important to me to foreground the perspective of fan studies as a field throughout the project. The result shows how the modified acafandom approach can be useful in both qualitative media research and fan studies. The research modalities of the social sciences can usefully broaden the field of fandom research.

Author Biography

Abby Waysdorf, Erasmus University Rotterdam

PhD Candidate, Erasmus University Rotterdam