The Critical Fan Toolkit

The Critical Fan Toolkit

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The Critical Fan Toolkit (CFT) is a digital dissertation created by Cara Marta Messina that explores and highlights critical fan practices, specifically fanfiction, for a diverse audience. Critical fans are fans of any cultural material or icon(s) who challenges or subverts systems of oppression–such as racism, misogyny, heteronormativity, homophobia, and ableism–through their everyday fan engagements, such as writing/reading fanfiction, posting on social media or forums, and creating fan art.

This toolkit is a collection of resources designed for fans, teachers, and researchers who are invested in integrating critical fan practices into their online and in-person fan interactions, their teaching, and research. These resources include:

  • interactive data from Archive of Our Own,
  • interviews from fans who implement critical practices into their everyday work,
  • media and fandom analysis posts for fans who want to continue investing in challenging systems of oppression,
  • teaching materials.

Critical Fan Toolkit Goals

There are three overarching goals for this toolkit. Click the buttons below to learn more about each goal:

Define and trace composing practices that critical fans use. These composing practices are traced through an analysis of two fandoms from Archive of Our Own as well as interviews from individual fanfiction writers. Critical fans challenge the systems of oppression that are represented in either the cultural materials they take up or the actual fandoms in which they participate. While you may not be invested in TLoK or GoT, each of us have our own fan communities (from fans of a particular cultural material to political fans to sports fans) in which we’re invested. By defining and tracing critical fan composing practices and uptakes, we can bring these practices into our own fandoms.

Provide critical fan pedagogy resources for both outside of and within traditional learning spaces, such as classrooms, such as classrooms. Pedagogy, in its simplest definition, is the methods and theories around teaching and learning. Critical fan pedagogy centers challenging systems of oppression through fan practices; this pedagogy can also help learners develop their own data literacies and research skills by teaching them how to analyze and implement critical fan practices.

Demonstrate how to conduct research and make arguments using data. This project uses a mixture of a large corpus (The Legend of Korra and Game of Thrones fanfiction published on Archive of Our Own) as well as interview data. Even though this toolkit specifically focuses on the composing practices from two fandoms and writers from each, these methods may be applied across fanfiction and other fan genres. Computational essays are provided for those interested in replicating the results or practicing data analysis and transformation.


Getting Started: Choose Your Path (Coming Soon)

Dissertations are typically written with an academic audience in mind. One of this dissertation's main goals, however, is to reach a wide audience, recognizing all those who may find this resource valuable. Below are three separate identities: fan, scholar, and teacher. The CFT is a resource for teachers, students, and fans alike. Because of the broad audience, each visitor may each have particular purposes for coming to this toolkit. You may be a fan interested in further developing your own critical practices; you may be a teacher interested in integrating critical fan pedagogy into your classroom; or you may be a researcher invested in fan studies, rhetoric/composition, or a similar discipline that analyzes fandom composing practices.

These identities are not necessarily exclusive but each choice gives you a path to navigating this toolkit based on your particular position you most want to explore. You may be a scholar, teacher, and fan, so you can explore all the different paths. Even if you do not directly identify with one of these positions, you may still find these different paths relevant to your own position.