Introduction

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"The Comet", believed to be the first science fiction fanzine


Before the advent of the digital era, being part of a fandom was a lot like being part of a secret club. If you wanted to get together with some
fellow fans, you couldn't just google the location of the nearest convention. If wanted people to read your Kirk/Spock fanfiction, you needed toknow which fanzines to send it into, so that it could be published. Back then, being part of a fandom was a struggle in accessibility, for both producers and consumers.

Now, however, things are easier. Online, nothing is out of reach; all it takes is a simple Google search to find even the most bazaar Fandom interests. This new found accessibility has catapulted the production of Fandom-based works from adults, to children and young adults. Because most Fanworks produced are literature or art based, and are being produced by young adults, a valuable question must be examined: Can Fandom be used in education? In order to use Fandom within the confines of the classroom, one must first look at the demographics of these two intersecting interests.

Demographics

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Percent of students who did the activity on an average day


According to a study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 37% of males and 50%


of females do their homework in high school on an average night. Around 80% of both males and females, however, will watch TV. Females rated higher fo rsocializing, while males rated higher for playing games, or using the computer.

Subsequently, a site called FFNResearch.blogspot.com did a demographic study on Fanfiction.net. Fanfiction.net is a website where fans can post, what else, their fanfiction. FFNResearch went through 95,313 user profiles in Fanfiction.net, and compiled the data. They found that roughly 50% of registered users are between the ages of 10 and 18; approximately 47656 users, and that the average user in this age group will write four stories.


The average user on Fanfiction.net is 15 years old, with users swiftly declining after the age of 18.
The average user on Fanfiction.net is 15 years old, with users swiftly declining after the age of 18.

Fanworks


Fanfiction, along with any other fan-made work, is aptly known as Fanworks. Fiction, while being the most easily trackable, is just the tip of the iceberg for fanworks. Fans create videos, write poetry, handmake costumes (known as Cosplay in Fandom communities), build sculptures, produce art, the list goes on and on. Fanworks are a way for a fan to not only express their enjoyment with the subject matter; fanworks allow fans, especially high schoolers, to explore topics that might be considered a taboo discussion point in main-stream society. Adults might feel uncomfortable talking with a high schooler about sexuality, but Fandoms allows for a wider perception on sexuality to be discussed. A high schooler might not want to talk to an adult about the trials and tribulations high school brings about, but may find that their Fandom, and subsequently, their fanworks, can be used as a coping mechanism.

As stated prior, outside of fanfiction, fanworks become incredibly hard to track. Not only are there a multitude of websites a fanmay upload their work to, there are several blurred lines on what constitues as fanwork. Regardless, the creation of fanworks shows not only show a desire to produce, but also extreme creativity, critical thinking, and insight.

A 15 year old fan might not be able to tell you what the ducks symbolize in Catcher in the Rye, but they would probably be able to tell you what each wolf symbolizes in the show Game of Thrones (and that's without sparknotes). A senior in high school might not be able to articulate what the motivations were behind George shooting Lenny, but they could tell you all about what the sideways glance shared between Finn and Rachel means, and how that will affect every character in the show that has ever existed. Because of this, fanworks are the best way of truly seeing a high schoolers full potential in critical thinking and insight.

Education


As fanworks have a large range of mediums, Fandom could be incorporated in the classroom relatively easily. As can be ascertained from external image adventure-time_1_1.pngthe demographics above, high schoolers are more likely to participate in their fandom (either through watching it on TV, or producing fanfiction online) then they are to do their homework. Yet, if fanfiction was the homework, there would most likely be a surge in more positive numbers. One of the best ways to understand a character, what desires they have, what motivates them, etc. can be best found out through writing about them. Having high schoolers write fanfiction about The Crucible or Lord of the Flies might sound odd, but it allows them to interact with the characters on a level that is more familiar to them. A high schooler might hate math, but mix in a little Adventure Time Fandom to the mix, and the subject might not seem as intimidating as it did before. If a fan can memorize the complete fictitious history in the Lord of the Rings, then relating it to American history might not only help students understand it, but also like it.

Many might worry that introducing Fandom into the realm of education would dumb it down, or make it so that students took their schoolwork less seriously. Yet, as can be seen from the demographics, many students already take their Fandom more seriously then their schoolwork. As for dumbing things down, many Fandoms discuss similar things one might already find in the classroom. In the Harry Potter series, fans often explore what role the government should play in a given society, what the consequences are when journalism becomes corrupt, racism, the schism between rich and poor, and corporal punishment. The language used might be different, but the discussions are nearly identical. Moreover, the discussions held by fans about such topics are not led by a teacher, but rather, are fan-led. High school students often times come across as indifferent to socio-political matters; yet, in the light of such discussions being had amongst fans, it is clear that is not the core subject matter that they oppose, but rather, the way in which they are taught. Employing the use of Fandom within education keeps the intensity of the topic, while putting it in a way that teenagers not only understand, but care about.

Sources


Allard, Mary D. "How High School Students Use Time: A Visual Essay." Monthly Labor Review (2008). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nov. 2008. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. <http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2008/11/art4full.pdf>.


Kelvin. "Fan Fiction Demographics in 2010: Age, Sex, Country." : Fan Fiction Demographics in 2010: Age, Sex, Country. 18 Mar. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. <http://ffnresearch.blogspot.com/2011/03/fan-fiction-demographics-in-2010-age.html>.