Fan culture as informal learning environments

Fan Culture: The Use of Informal Learning
Environments by Dalarna University Language Students
Chatarina Edfeldt, Anneli Fjordevik, Hiroko Inose
Passionate affinity-based learning
”Passionate affinity-based learning occurs when people
organize themselves in the real world and/or via the Internet
(or a virtual world) to learn something connected to a shared
endeavor, interest, or passion. The people have an affinity
(attraction) to the shared endeavor, interest, or passion first
and foremost and then to others because of their shared
James Paul Gee, Language and Learning in a Digital Age 2011: 69
Fan culture
Fans are creating their own films,
translations, fiction, art, videos, blogs, role
play, music and also various forums that are
all based on familiar popular culture creations
like TV-series, bestsellers, anime, manga
stories and games.
Participatory culture
“This ability to transform personal reaction into social interaction,
spectatorial culture into participatory culture, is one of the central
characteristics of fandom. One becomes a “fan” not by being a regular
viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some
kind of cultural activity, by sharing feelings and thoughts about the
program content with friends, by joining a “community” of other fans
who share common interests. For fans, consumption naturally sparks
production, reading generates writing, until the terms seem logically
(Henry Jenkins, Fans, Bloggers and Gamers 2006: 41)
Fan communities as creative writing schools (informal
learning environment)
Fan fiction: Fans create and write new stories by adapting and
developing existing storylines and characters from the original
book or tv-series and publish them on an internet site.
Scanlation: Amateurs (and not professional translators) scan,
translate and publish comics on an internet site.
•Shared passion for the subject/fandom
•Feedback; Fanfiction writers comment on content, characters,
structure, grammar. Beta readers, tutors.
Purpose of the project
- to gather information about informal online
learning environments by finding out if our own
language students participate in fan culture
- if so, how they think the activity supports their
learning in terms of language, literature and
understanding of other cultures.
Stage 1: Questionnaire to all language students at
Dalarna University (March 2013: 2432 registered
students in Arabic, Japanese, German, French,
English, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, Chinese and
Spanish) to find out how widespread activity in
and practice of fan activities online are among our
Stage 2: Qualitative interviews with (until now) 7 of
the students who participate in the fan activities.
other fan activities such as:
LIngua italiana per stranieri on facebook
gatherings, expos, cons
fan vlogs, book blogs, cosplay (dress up)
Fan rewrite/slash literature.
Just following them on youtube, twitter and other fans’
Different websites where people write in the language you
study. You can compete with eachother
Respondenter: 6
What kind of fan culture activities are you consuming/participating in?
Why do you participate, and what makes participation attractive to you?
What kind of knowledge and skills (such as language or cultural or other
skills) do you think you have developed through participation?
Do you consider the online fan activities to be learning environments or
learning processes that can be implemented in university courses? Do you
see any connection between informal learning in the fan communities and
your learning at university / college?
Language skills
- English
“You learn passively through reading; you
read something you’re genuinely interested
in, e.g., when I learned English on the
internet, I didn’t have the feeling that I was
studying. And I think that’s how you benefit
from this learning” (Interview 131127)
“Most of the things we went through, I knew. I didn’t have to
study, even though I haven’t actively studied Japanese
before. Though now that the second term is more about
grammar rather than just words and expressions, it is more
difficult” (Interview 131030)
“I have a friend who learns Japanese through fan sub, and
then went to a class to learn Japanese. He found it very
difficult, because everything he had learned before then was
slang. He could talk, but he could not talk politely”
(Interview 131024 )
Cultural skills
“In lots of manga I read in the shojo [girl]
genre, I can see that female empowerment is
not really a big thing. I can see that the girls
have to make bento [lunch boxes] for the
guys. So there are a lot of small things that
you notice when you read manga”
(Interview 131024)
Cultural skills
• Cultural knowledge, gained from the
exchange of knowledge between the
community members, as a motivational factor
for language learning.
• Adopt a more tolerant and unprejudiced
approach to the world through these
transnational and transcultural communities.
Other skills
• Information-seeking
• Information seeking “school”: “sometimes I
do research on my own. If it’s difficult to
find, I just write/draw how I think it should be
and say that I don’t know if this is correct,
e.g., details on a door when I draw”
(Interview 131025)
Other skills
• Critiquing and commenting on the texts / drawings / movies,
etc. of others in a friendly manner
• How to interact socially with people from diverse social
backgrounds and different countries: “When you meet so
many people, you change your mentality and approach to
various things […] it can be all sorts of things from racism to
civil rights to international collaboration” (Interview 131115)
• Practical skills: Webpage management, web design, digital
cultural productions…
Link between learning in online fan
activities and learning on campus
- The importance of being able to search for
relevant and useful information.
- The opportunity for collaborative
production: for example, composing a text
together and learning from each other’s
The next step
Based on our interview analysis identify
elements that motivate students’ self-learning
and some course activities in the languages
French, German, Japanese and Portuguese
will be designed in an attempt to recreate the
relevant mechanism of the informal learning