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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fielding fandom : reading childhood through popular and participatory culture Iftody, Tammy


The phrase "fielding fandom" intends to take advantage of the many entailments of the word field. Designating at once a space or sphere of interest characterized by joint activity and the processes of picking up, putting into action, and responding skillfully, this research includes a consideration of the data gathering techniques, re-presentational strategies, and interpretive skills the contemporary researcher of popular culture can bring to both playing the field and interpreting a particular field of play. In general, this research is an interpretive account of my own close reading strategies and experiences in relation to those popular cultural texts and discourses around childhood that have compelled me to “read wrongly” (Weber & Mitchell, 1995). More specifically, it considers various close encounters that shaped the interactions between other readers in a participatory context (the online fan community Television Without Pity) and, as shaped by a particular text (the Reality TV program Kid Nation). I argue that during these contemporary literary engagements, the subjects of and for reading were discursively formed as individuals employed various strategies to negotiate the inherent paradoxes of the Reality TV text. Emphasizing the ‘real’ in reading popular cultural texts suggests that it is not an a priori form, but rather, must be bracketed from the everyday ways in which we come to know the world. I suggest that reading these texts as a fan-tellectual evokes game-like epistemologies and situated discursive strategies that may also be used to inform the ways in which popular and school-based ways of knowing and forms of knowledge are addressed in the context of teacher education. The image of the researcher as fan-tellectual suggests that educators, too, should strive to recognize and take advantage of the many ways of knowing “(other)wise” (Vinz, 2000) and tolerance for ambiguity and paradox being a fan entails.

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