Are you planning on redoing the survey at any point? I love what you have up, but I think it would be fascinating to see more quantifiable information about how things have changed.


I think that’s a really great question/problem to tackle. WIth fans so dispersed across different sites these days. I actually wonder if we could do this with any validity today. I got about 7700 participants and the survey was shared on multiple websites and fan communities beyond LiveJournal. Nonetheless, I still don’t know if the original ‘08 survey would have worked or have gotten the response rate it did if so many fans hadn’t been connected on LiveJournal at the time. 

Have you seen Centrumlumina’s AO3 Census? That’s the most recent analysis I’ve seen with a really significant number of participants. They report getting 10,005 survey responses. I’m not entirely clear what their recruiting method was (the write ups on Tumblr don’t seem to say) but the limitations post seems to imply it was promoted heavily on Tumblr. 

Overall, each of these surveys can probably only be said to speak to a particular body of survey participants. Given the websites being used, it’s also probably a particularly Western/American and English language speaking body of fans. (I’ve got some geographic data from my ‘08 survey that reinforces this re. my survey. I’m just speculating that it would be similar with Centrumlumina’s research.)

Ultimately, my work is much more qualitative than quantitative so I’m not sure I’d be the best person to do it either way. However, I think it’s a fascinating question/problem to wrestle with. How would we do this today? I suspect many of us would turn to AO3 for numbers (I’ve already seen academics doing this at conferences). And, it would certainly be possible to do repeated check-ins on AO3 every 5-10 years to see changes in popular fandoms etc. 

I wonder about that the implications of that though…  AO3 represents a particularly long-lived and robust network of fan activity. (One very intertwined with the Transformative Works and Cultures organization.) It’s just one node of activity though. The question that always nags at me is: Are we repeatedly conflating one particularly visible portion of fans with all fans? I’m not sure there’s a clear way of resolving this problem, but it is part of the reason I’m so interested in getting different fan’s reactions to projects like mine. I’m always looking to see what other experiences might be out there. 

(I had a similar experience reading Sheenagh Pugh’s Fanfiction: The Democratic Genre in 2007. It’s particularly focused on the UK and I remember being confused and fascinated by how certain fandoms were represented by Pugh. The picture it painted of certain fandoms just didn’t represent what I was noticing. However, it also made me aware of fandoms that I didn’t realize were around and active.) 

Actually, I’m about to post something moderately connected to all of this. I did take a look at the current numbers on AO3 to see what they looked like in relation to the numbers I got in ‘08, but this also raised a lot of questions for me. If you’re interested, keep an eye on this space. I’ll be posting it in a few minutes. :)



Over the next few weeks I’ll be crossposting pieces of the Fandom Then/Now webproject here. I’ll be moving in order through the site, starting with information about the project and ending with some of my ongoing questions. I’ll link back to the site in each post. Please consider commenting here or on the site to share your thoughts and ideas. But, before we begin, let me introduce myself.

About the Project

Fandom Then/Now is an idea I’ve been sitting on for a while. When I completed my MA Thesis in 2008, I shared the final thesis project with individuals who asked to see it. However, I’d done a large survey as part of the thesis project and I really wanted to share the results with fans. At the time, I got the idea to put all my results online and open them up for fans to look at and give input on. I was getting ready to do start this in 2009 but then SurveyFail happened.

SurveyFail was incredibly unsettling to me. Roughly one year after I launched my 2008 project, here were these two individuals (Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam) calling their survey project the same exact name as my 2008 survey and using eerily similar methods to reach out to fans and request for fan participation. And yet, Ogas and Gaddam’s motives, politics, and research ethics seemed to be completely contrary to my own. 

At the time in 2009, my response was to duck and hide. I didn’t want to give Ogas and Gaddam any publicity and I didn’t want any research I’d done associated with them. The SurveyFail incident also made me particularly concerned about the ways research on fans is conducted. I felt strongly that research on fans and digital cultures is a process that must have more dialogue built into it. In October 2010 I presented “Fen Responses to Fan Research: Methods of Participation and Engagement” at the Midwest Popular Culture/American Culture Association’s annual conference. In this paper I reflected on my 2008 survey project, the 2009 SurveyFail incident and called for fan researchers to design more participatory and conversational research projects. I hoped that this participatory approach would help to counterbalance some of the issues that internet/digital culture researchers were struggling with at the time.

Fandom Then/Now is an experiment. It’s my way of testing out what a participatory and ongoing research project might look like. As a scholar, I begin any new project by building on my past experiences and research. That’s where Fandom Then/Now begins. I’m starting with past work that has been integral to shaping my thoughts about fan fiction and romantic storytelling. Into this, I’ve woven in many of the questions and ideas that are driving my current research project (my dissertation).

I want to share these initial thoughts and ideas while I’m working on my dissertation. I’m hoping that fans will be able to add their own thoughts along the way and help to shape the research. My goal is for fans to participate not as research “subjects” or bits of data, but as peer reviewers. 

About Me

I am Katherine Morrissey, a PhD Candidate in Media, Cinema and Digital Studies in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I also have a Master’s in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University. My research focuses on production networks for popular culture, representations of female desire, and the ways that digital production is reorganizing romantic storytelling. My research is grounded in my experiences as a queer feminist, geek girl, and acafan. I have been actively participating in fan communities since 1996.

At UWM, I’ve taught courses on film, television, and digital media, participatory culture, and romance genres across media. I will be starting a Visiting Assistant Professor position at the Rochester Institute of Technology in fall 2014. I also have professional experience in web and graphic design, as well as communications and marketing in the non-profit sector.

If you’d like to check out some of my other recent work, you might be interested in the following:

Fan/dom: People, Practices, and Networks.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 14, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2013.0532.

Fifty Shades of Remix: The Intersecting Pleasures of Commercial & Fan Romances.Journal of Popular Romance Studies. 4.1. (2014) 1-17.



For many people, fan fiction is as much a part of their reading as commercial literature. Fan fiction websites and archives provide readers with novels, serials, novellas, romantic and erotic stories, non-romantic stories, experimental literature, video and visual art, etc. While fan writers and readers are certainly not exclusively interested in romance, fan writing frequently explores the romantic potential between two characters and fan fiction is often built on romantic foundations. The shift to digital publishing and reading is having a dramatic impact on commercial romance literature. However, what about the kinds of romantic and erotic stories fans produce? How is fan work being affected by the rise in digital publishing? The Fandom Then/Now project is designed to facilitate fan conversations and collect ideas from fans about fan fiction’s past and future. 

What do you notice in the data from 2008? What do you think about the intersections between fan fiction and romantic storytelling? Now, in 2014, what has and hasn’t changed about fans’ reading and writing practices? 

Please visit the Fandom Then/Now website to look at the project and share your thoughts. 

Please help me spread the word about this project. I’m also happy to answer questions if you want to send them my way. 

Industry Studies and/as Audience Studies #scms14 (with images, tweets) · melstanfill

Nice overview of the “Industry Studies and/as Audience Studies” panel at SCMS this year. My favorite new terms from this panel included Suzanne Scott’s fantrepreneur and Mel Stanfill’s fangelism.

One of the interesting things I noticed about the panel was the way the panelists focused on child and adult audience communities. I talked about this during the Q&A, but that morning on NPR there had been a whole report about Young Adults as the “hot” new audience to sell products to. And, here we were as a group seemingly (strategically?) avoiding this exact demographic. Something about that keeps itching in my brain. It seems worth pondering further. 

Fifty Shades of Remix: The Intersecting Pleasures of Commercial and Fan Romances by Katherine Morrissey

Fifty Shades of Grey’s past as a work of Twilight fan fiction has turned a spotlight onto the conversion of fan works for the commercial romance market. Fifty Shades reminds us of the increasing flow of texts, readers, and writers across these two categories of storytelling. Blurring traditional genre categories, stories like Fifty Shades represent a challenge for fan and popular romance studies. While scholars need to be attentive to medium specific contexts, the impulse to deny intersection may signal problematic assumptions and artificially segregate these storytelling forms. This paper reexamines past work on the differences between fan fiction and romance, arguing for greater attentiveness to the ways these two modes of storytelling intersect. Focusing on the importance of intertextuality and play with form in romantic storytelling, the paper argues that greater attention to these qualities offers new ways for us to study texts like Fifty Shades of Grey and may help scholars reconceptualize the relationship between fan and commercial work.

My article on Fifty Shades came out in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies this week. :)

Fan/dom: People, practices, and networks | Transformative Works and Cultures

Fan/dom: People, practices, and networks | Transformative Works and Cultures

A focus on fandom from multiple perspectives is critical, given ongoing challenges in conceptualizing what it is to be a fan. How do we attempt to process a concept that is simultaneously claimed as an activity, an identity, and a connection to others? Rather than seeing this confusion as a problem, perhaps it is more useful to see it as precisely the point. In trying to understand an aspect of media culture that we all, to some degree, engage in, the field of fan studies needs to approach fans and fandom in a variety of ways: at the level of the individual, at the level of practices, and as a framework in which the self encounters media culture. In our current moment, the media environment is undergoing dramatic changes. It is critical that fan studies continues to question the control of cultural production and consider the ways that today’s media industries are working to accommodate both fans and fan practices.

[ read more ]

Totally forgot to post this back when it was published in TWC. Oops! 

Popular Romance Project: Archive of Our Own

Popular Romance Project: Archive of Our Own

Fandom is a world that has produced more than one professional romance author. Whether you’re a long-time fan or simply interested in taking your first step into the world of fandom, Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a great place to start.

[ read more ]

The Popular Romance Project is making a real effort to include fan work in the project as it’s developed.

From audiences sitting in the dark of the theater, to impassioned fans at conventions, there are many ways for us to engage with media. Popular culture inspires our passion, our anger, and sparks public conversation. 

This class explores different ideas about audiences, viewers, and fans. The class will look at a variety of film, television, and digital media texts, including: Hard Days Night, The Blair Witch Project, Battlestar Galactica, and the Harry Potter franchise. We’ll also check out what’s happening on YouTube, play digital games, and look at remix projects like Wizard People Dear Reader

The class asks students to take an active role in discussions by reflecting on their own experiences as viewers and by producing their own creative/critical digital projects in response to different media texts.

more info & registration ]