The begin with an understanding of the current fandom

The media audiences have been found to interpret the content that is being produced to them, and draw meaning out of the signs, symbols and places depicted in them, that together make up the media text. These interpretations drawn by the people are not only connected to the people personally, but also to the larger social context of the society. With the advancement in technology, and the easy accessibility of all the information and people over the internet, fandom has reached a very different level now, then how it used to be a few years back. The internet has provided the people with an expansive, accessible and malleable form of media, to extend their experience, and they are not just the receivers of the content, but are also able to develop a form of belonging to it and can even come up with place based identities related to the media content. This essay is being compiled to carry out an empirical study on how the audience and the fans of the media content interplay with the place, characters and space depicted in the content, and how they develop forms of belonging and place based identities for them. For understanding this, we begin with an understanding of the current fandom and fan culture that is prevalent among the people, and understand why their study is necessary, in order to boost the relevance of the media content being offered (Bennett L. , 2014).  

 

The fandom, with the advent of technology and globalisation has enabled the media with the dissemination of material from any location to any geographical nook and corner, and as more and more people consume the global media, the participation in the online forums and places related to media fandom have made internet an integral tool for all the engagement and fun activities related to the intercultural aspects of these interactions. A detailed study of fandom has challenged the perceived stereotype that were initially mostly negative for the fans, and has categorised them as unimaginative, uneducated, irrational and passive mass audience. These studies are encouraged by the media professionals, since they also help in purposeful intervention related to the content being served if required (McCudden, 2011).

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The interpretive activities of the fans can also be contributed to the social aspect of media, and can result in the development of subcultures and communities within the society. This culture also results in the development of identities and forms of belonging, that later contribute to development of media content for catering this specific set of audience.

 

Understanding the audience sub culture: The fans and media audiences make use of the interpretive power that they have, to distort, subvert and sometimes even construct the mainstream media content to make it suitable as per their own needs and desires. This can be understood only by exploring the fan communities, and how they can extend the interaction with the media. Fandom has gone far from the collection of artefacts, autographs and merchandise related to the media content. Today the fans are much more invested emotionally in the media content, and are able to think about the characters, plots, storyline and places depicted there. The internet has also enabled the fans to reach out to other fans, and has enabled them to discuss and critique on, what may be the mutual object of affection. This leads to the building up of interpretive communities which are built in and around the media programming (UPM, 2008). While fans are always appreciated by the providers of the media, there have been a number of negative notions for them in the past, where they are observed through a lens of psychopathology and extremism. The media fans are mostly considered to be brainless consumers of the content, who buy anything that is served to them with the image or the logo of the media person or the program that they are following. However, the fan culture has evolved to a great extent now, and people are more careful and thoughtful as fans. The intellectually mature fans tend to easily separate the fantasy from the real world, and are not irrational. Mostly, the fans are deeply engaged with the media content and they interpret the content being served to them, for creating their own cultural productions. It becomes very important to study the fan culture since it helps in understanding the stereotypes, as well as the fan behaviour and activities better (Cassella, 2010).

 

A detailed study of fandom has challenged the perceived stereotype that were initially mostly negative for the fans, and has categorised them as unimaginative, uneducated, irrational and passive mass audience. Therefore, these studies are encouraged by the media professionals, since they also help in purposeful intervention related to the content being served if required. The normative conceptualization of the fan culture and media fandom has been long questioned, as a lot of enthusiasm and mainstream awareness has been observed across the various sociodemographic groups for the movies and television programs. This has also resulted in the expansion of the category of fans, as the different levels of admiration, passion and involvement that people display cannot be converged and measured on a single scale (Abercrombie & Longhurst, Audiences: A Sociological Theory of Performance and Imagination, 1998).

 

The deep interest that people display in the media content, and the involvement with which they become a part of it, is demonstrated by the fans, and has always been an area of close attention for the people working in the field of media. Fan culture has a social as well as interpretive aspect and the systematic analysis of the same can help in understanding both of these. In the society, fans have occupied a very interesting position. They are active participants in the social activities that the media thrives on. Fans represent mainstream culture and most of the media activities are built loosely around the fandom, and the closer connection that people are willing to experience with the popular people and shows that they are following (Abercrombie, Television and Society, 1996). The fans spend a lot of time going through the media content in the form of text, audios and videos, and look for greater nuances and details in them. They not only are enthusiastic about the consumption of the content, but are also actively looking for sharing this passion with other people, and having debates and discussions over them. All this has given way to the development of fan pages, websites and sometimes even formal and informal gatherings, which give them a chance to do the same. The most common example of formal gatherings are the elaborate conventions that are held from time to time. The biggest example of this is the world famous comic-con event, which has gained a lot of popularity in the recent years. This helps them in the demonstration of the prevalence of social element of fandom and this culture being developed (Alasuutari, 1999).

 

Developing belonging and place based identities: The fans very often, not only engage with the media content that is being offered to them, but also with one another, to regularly compete and challenge each other. Different communities have been found to have developed in order to foster a feeling of belongingness with the shows, for the people being represented, and also lead to the development of place based identities with the media content. The fans regularly engage in enunciated productivity exercises, and share the meaning and thoughts among the people, that leads to building of a shared space of the fan community (Ang, 1996). This has been found to be the key component of most of the fan communities and an intrinsic part of the fan experience. This not only helps in building social relationships, but also helps them in expressing their thoughts, mostly through words, and sometimes also through their style and physical appearances (Barker & Brooks, 1998).

The fans have also been observed to find ways to amass the knowledge related to the object of their affection. This knowledge can take on a number of forms, and it depends on the individual preferences of the fans and the community to which they belong. It also depends on the fan object, and the various subgroups that they are a part of. This knowledge in the fan community is considered to place the person in the position of power, and improve their overall position in the group. The fans connect with the media content and set expectations for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, which shapes the role of not just the fan community, but the entire society over a period of time. By eliminating the barriers of time and space, the internet has enabled more rapid and widespread dissemination of the cultural materials from different countries otherwise not easily accessible (Thomas, 2002). As a growing number of people today consume global media and participate in online fandom surrounding them using the Internet, scholars have highlighted that the Internet has become an integral tool for intercultural fan activity. The fan community is based on authenticity, which is the construct of the fandom. A truly devoted member of a fan group has a different identity, for example, when compared to a person who is new to the community or has recently joined them. Consistency also perceive to be a construct in the identity formation.

 

Among the fans, globalisation has led to the convergence of the media context and content, and the flow of the global media has not only theorized it, but has also lead to interconnectedness of the global culture, with the flow of media content. Although this may seem to be an over simplistic view of this entire study, the singular focus on the structural issues help in gaining an insight and a more detailed understanding of this situation. The fandom, with the advent of technology and globalisation has enabled the media with the dissemination of material from any location to any geographical nook and corner, and as more and more people consume the global media, the participation in the online forums and places related to media fandom have made internet an integral tool for all the engagement and fun activities related to the intercultural aspects of these interactions (Baym, 2000). This technology also helps in the construction of an environment where there is a lot of information that can be circulated, exchange, interpreted, reworked and recontextualized by the media, as well as by the fans. The fans can now interact with each other with a greater frequency and on a more regular basis, and while the technology has intensified collaboration as well as interaction among the people, it has also enabled them to have an exchange of transnational flow of material in more ways than one. The online communities not only encourage regular interaction between the fans, but also help in making the fandom and the media content that they are offering, a part of their everyday lives. The Identity formation and engagement of the fans, in writing online fan fiction is also common practice. The fan writers make use of their linguistic competencies and cultural skills while experimenting with language, to actively collaborate with various other fans, as well (Lee, 2016).

 

The cross cultural fan activities give rise to the development of different environments which become responsible for the construction of multilayer identities highlighting the importance of cross cultural knowledge, language skills and the development and negotiation of an entirely new identity that the fans collaborate and develop. Cross-cultural fandom is a rich site for identity exploration and underscores that learning a new language through the media, in particular, can be a significant part of the construction of multi-layered identities. People have multiple identities in relation to race, gender, class, nationality, and others, which are changing constantly due to the shift in contexts, it may also be that media, as one of the most important socialization institutions in the life of young people, just add to their senses of selves and evolution of who they are (Bell & Hollows, 2007).

People experience, understand, utilise, view, hear and take in the information being served to them by the media people, in various complex and unique ways, and the culture and nation where they are living and that they are a part of hypodermically injects the meaning of this content into the people, which helps them in drawing meanings and conclusion out of the media messages. Thus, the audience should not be considered passive, vulnerable and monolithic, and the content being served to them should be customised, instead of having a singular focus or aimed at catering to a specific set of audience (Bennett, Kendall, & McDougall, 2011).

 

This essay has been compiled to carry out an empirical study on how the audience and the fans of the media content interplay with the place, characters and space depicted in the content, and how they develop forms of belonging and place based identities for them. For understanding this, we began with an understanding of the current fandom and fan culture that is prevalent among the people, and understand why their study is necessary, in order to boost the relevance of the media content being offered. The fans and media audiences make use of the interpretive power that they have, to distort, subvert and sometimes even construct the mainstream media content to make it suitable as per their own needs and desires. This can be understood only by exploring the fan communities, and how they can extend the interaction with the media. The media fans are mostly considered to be brainless consumers of the content, who buy anything that is served to them with the image or the logo of the media person or the program that they are following. However, the fan culture has evolved to a great extent now, and people are more careful and thoughtful as fans. The intellectually mature fans tend to easily separate the fantasy from the real world, and are not irrational. Mostly, the fans are deeply engaged with the media content and they interpret the content being served to them, for creating their own cultural productions. The fans regularly engage in enunciated productivity exercises, and share the meaning and thoughts among the people, that leads to building of a shared space of the fan community. This has been found to be the key component of most of the fan communities and an intrinsic part of the fan experience. This not only helps in building social relationships, but also helps them in expressing their thoughts, mostly through words, and sometimes also through their style and physical appearances. The fans of the media content together represents a mainstream culture, and most of the media activities are built loosely around the fandom of these groups. It builds on the closer connection that people and the fans are willing to experience and share with the popular people, characters, celebrities or the shows that they are following.