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 affinity”. 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 inseparable…” (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. •Anonymity Purpose of the project - to gather information about informal online learning environments by finding out if our own language students participate in fan culture activities - 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 students. 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’ pages. Different websites where people write in the language you study. You can compete with eachother Respondenter: 6 Interview 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) Japanese “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 feedback. 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 environment.