ENGL 1101 and the Online Class: Part 2

Hi there, everyone.

Welcome to the second (and final) online class. 

Fan Publics, Communities and Relationships

Today, we’re discussing a little more about the socio-cultural impacts of fandom, particularly publics and audiences.

Essentially, we will be looking at socio-cultural impact through the lens of fan activism, or “engaging in activism through storytelling and fandom by drawing parallels between popular media and real world issues” (@HarryPotterAlliance, #AASL17).

That is, using a shared interest to inspire people to action with real world topics. This can range from action regarding childhood hunger to LGBTQIA+ support to anti-violence campaigns and the formation of local meet-ups. We’ve been discussing versions of this all semester, right? Audience action, participatory culture, community-building, knowledge communities…

To give us a bit of context, here is a particularly salient quote from your next reading by Melissa M. Brough and Sangita Shresthova:

Traditionally, audiences were conceived as passive receivers or consumers of content (a notion the field of fan studies has contested), while publics were construed as active citizenry. Although not all audiences are fans, Dayan argues that “even the crudest of quantitative audiences”—audiences understood as aggregates of individual viewers—”share at least two characteristics with publics”:

[3.6] 1. Like that of publics, the experience of audiences involves a dimension of imagination, concerning the others who share with them a given participative frame…or whom they join in “audiencing.”

[3.7] 2. Like that of publics, audiences embody a fundamental dimension of social experience: collective attention, “watching with.” (2005, 55)

In the most basic sense, a public is a group of people or a community.

Publics shift and change depending on how they are defined. What is most defining (like with all things) is the actions that they take and how those actions affect the community writ large. This might be in participation or in active production. This could also be the simple action of observe, absorbing, and “audiencing.”

Being present.

And then, acting in that presence.

Notice that on The Harry Potter Alliance website, they cue a number of publics– from literacy to anti-bullying. However, it is also very much community-based in the way it communicates it’s importance and mission. There may be “communication barriers” in the website, as your WOVENText book notes beginning on page 201.

So, I ask this question:

How many of you know enough about Neville Longbottom (see below) to understand why he is titular character for The Harry Potter Alliance’s #NevilleFightsBack campaign?

Or, if you are part of a different fandom, let’s say– The Hunger Games–then would the image below, playing on the second movie’s ad campaign, be more poignant? 

Chihiro Geuzebroek

These cue particular audiences, ones who know the stories enough to see the implications in utilizing the Neville Longbottom character alongside a campaign for net neutrality or making a connection between The Hunger Games and the United Nations.

The campaign page for #NevilleFightsBack explains the implications, even throwing in direct quotes from the books to add even more pathos (emotional appeal). By aligning the movement with a specific character, a sort-of fandom public becomes “activated.” This is one form of the socio-cultural impacts that fandom can have.

Readers of the original series and viewers of the films become emotionally connected to the campaign by identifying with the campaign’s titular character. Another relationship emerges– one between the audience and the campaign for net neutrality.


As we begin to leave the “convergence culture” and “fandom” focus of the semester, this is the ultimate lesson: relationships.

Your relationship to the media you consume and engage…

Your relationship to others who consume and engage that same media…

How that media changes, mediates, engages, impacts, influences your relationships…

The relationship between communities, media, modes, materials, and topics…

The relationship between corporate and grassroots structures and movements…

The relationship between different media, modes, methods, and means…

This list could keep going. You get the point.

Ultimately, as convergence continues and as media develops, we continue to renegotiate and situate ourselves within a network of relationships. Each relationship influences others– across stories, across media, across platforms, across modes, across communities, across nations, across experiences and individuals.

Tasks for today:

  1. Read the prompt for Composition Project #3.2. Link here.
  2. In blog post, reflect on the transformative work you are creating. This is a slightly different task than your project statement and analysis. Consider how you might take what you learned in completing the transformative work project and apply it to your future. Consider how you might apply it to your area of study, perhaps in approaching a project from a creative angle or considering how to cue a specific audience. Consider how it affected the way you understand communities or have socio-cultural impact. Your blog post should be at least 250 words. (Note: You can also say that you felt you learned nothing. Explain why though. This is a completion grade, so not seeing any knowledge gained does not impact your grade.)