Fans share goals and values through multimodal discourses in digital communities

We focus on fan communities from an ethnographic perspective. We are participating observers who explore multimodal discourses, supported by mobile devices

The One Direction’s fans

Our first approach to fan practice took place from an ethnographic perspective,  focusing on a small community of fans organized around the band One Direction. The research revolves around the fan practices of a group of seven teenage girls. Their activities involve interaction with cultural industries, which help to build popular culture, present in the communities emerging around the Internet organized around their idols.

Our main goals are organized around three thematic cores relating to fan practices and the way in which teenagers understand what it means to be a fan.

  • First, being a fan refers to a set of shared practices carried out in everyday life. This demands commitment and a shared ethical and aesthetic approach to life.
  • Second, being a fan involves building up significances together with other people through dialogue, supported by an environment that is built up around digital technologies and social networks.
  • Finally, these practices shared through dialogue help to construct the identity as an open, unfinished process, linked to change and which may coexist with other identities.

Fans and popular culture: Harry Potter

Looking at the Harry Potter communities, we consider close and distant communication environments in fans community practices, where people learn to share goals and support each other in the process of co-construction of knowledge. We concentrate on fan entertainment practices, linked to the development of critical thinking processes and conscientious participation in digital communication environments.

We explored Nadia’s practices, a girl who we followed for four years as participant observers. We understood her evolution as a fan, and how for at least a year she was a fan of Harry Potter, which came from the J.K Rowling books. She participated in fan communities, learning to share her values and goals using multimodal discourses. Her mobile phone and iPad became indispensable instruments to develop the practices as a fan.