Hello my loyal readers!
As many of you already know, I'm a post-grad student working on a thesis. Its title is:
CREATIVITY, FANFICTION, & RHETORICAL FLUENCY:
DOES REMIX WRITING CULTURE COMPLEMENT THE CLASSROOM?
That's right - I'm writing my thesis on fanfiction, & why it matters. However, I need your help. I'm conducting a survey & I need participants to answer some questions about their history & involvement with what I call the 3 R's of fanfic - Reading, Reviewing, & wRiting. To give you a bit more background on what is expected of you if you decide to participate, here are the relevant excerpts from the draft of my thesis:
Data Collection Methods:
Snowball sampling will be utilized to recruit volunteer subjects through social media sites such as Tumblr, where the reblogging feature inherent to the site will make it easy to bring my study to the attention of fanfiction authors who will be receptive to participation. A small number of participants will be invited to participate directly from FF.net; these will be authors and reviewers I have had contact with through reviews and back-and-forth communication, whose writing styles I believe would fit the study. Using qualitative methods, I will collect coding data on the ongoing stories that these authors write, including insights into their rough drafts, and reviews. Through semi-structured interviews, I will use these bodies of data to clarify and inform my coding process. These will focus on participants' experiences with and impressions of fanfiction writing as they relate to rhetoric literacy. To provide context, biographical questions, such as asking what a writer’s first language was and their GPA in school before and after discovering fanfiction, will also be included. Signed human subject forms from research participants will serve to verify identities (which will otherwise be obscured), as well as establish guidelines for the protocol of this study.
Those involved in this study must be of legal age, and still involved in school at some level. The accepted range will be from high school to the college/post-college level, or the international equivalent thereof. Acceptable applicants will clearly give their consent for participation, which will include online real-time interviews, access to their published stories as well as any existing rough drafts, and any supplementary material such as fanart.
Data Collection and Analysis:
Since my study seeks to determine qualitative correlations between improved literacy and fanfiction-related activities, I will restrict the scope of my questions to that topic as much as possible. Pieces of my research will likely resemble genre analyses, due to the uniqueness of fanfiction as a rhetorical activity. Tardy’s interpretation of Bazerman’s (1997) “familiar places” is a promising starting point for coding, encompassing formal knowledge, process knowledge, rhetorical knowledge, and subject-matter knowledge. Formal knowledge refers to structural elements of genre, or that which makes up the quintessential fanfiction. Procedural knowledge is the act of knowing how fanfiction functions in fulfilling its role — to tell a story, practice writing, or for self-fulfillment. This element describes and looks at relationships between the rhetor (author) and audience (readers and reviewers). Rhetorical knowledge scrutinizes the intended purposes of fanfiction as a genre, pairing that insight with how it persuades and acts as a social link within the sociorhetorical context. Finally, subject-matter knowledge looks at the deep historical context of this genre; since fanfiction has and still does operate in a grey area of legality and with varying levels of societal acceptation, this facet will provide an anchor for the others.
The analysis portion of this study will consist of samples from actual stories and reviews published on FF.net, as well as textual analyses of interviews with the writers. I will only look at the digital spaces that encompass one popular fanfiction-hosting site, as to look at others in the same study would prove to be a Herculean task. Based on Tardy’s four spheres, I will code for content, such as typographical errors in a published story, and context, such as purposeful misspellings as part of a meme or inside joke.
This study will use closed-ended questions via questionnaire (see Appendix A), and segue to open-ended follow-up interview questions. The codes will follow Tardy’s four spheres, such that each initial question fits into one of the categories. Formal knowledge will be tested through queries such as, “Describe what elements every good fanfiction has to have.” Process knowledge questions will be items such as, “Do you write just for fun, to improve your writing skill, or for some other reason?” Rhetorical knowledge will be tested through questions like, “Would you say that you’re part of a community of fic writers?” Finally, subject-matter knowledge questions, such as “Do you do a lot of research on a series before starting your stories, or just dive right into writing?” will provide an anchor for the other categories. The purpose of this data collection is to elucidate what fanfiction writing does for literacy, and how it does it — affecting rhetorical literacy by aiding the development of expertise. This expertise in turn has measurable effects on more important literacy, used in school, work, and social environments outside of fanfiction writing.
Process and Limitations:
The study will begin with a social media solicitation for volunteer participants (see Appendix B). Closed- and open-ended survey questions will comprise the first questionnaire that suitable volunteers then receive. Personalized follow-up interviews with authors will help to narrow down response codes that have to do with rhetorical literacy. Depending on the data collected, there may be only one follow-up interview, or multiple sessions, all conducted online through either a service such as Gmail Chat, or FF.net’s internal messaging system, whichever the participant is comfortable with, in order to reinforce anonymity.
By observing digital spaces that encompass only one popular fanfiction-hosting site, FF.net, this study will have a limited scope in terms of community, behaviors specific to fanfiction.net, and the pool of interested applicants who will volunteer. Due to fanfiction being a hobby, some participants may drop out of the study to have more time for work, school, or their writing. The process may necessarily be extended over a long period, depending on the update schedules and availability of participants.
In summary, if you agree to help me out, you'll be signing a consent form, then filling out a questionnaire & answering more targeted questions. What I'm trying to get a picture of will be your involvement in the 3 R's, as well as your background in the fanfiction community & how that may have influenced your writing abilities & confidence. If you only do one of the 3 R's, don't worry! Your data is just as enlightening to me, & I'd love to include you in the study.
If you would like to participate, please contact me by responding to this journal, posting on FF.net in the SoD Special Forum Topic, or messaging me on Tumblr. My contacts are listed below; if you would prefer Gmail Chat, please send me your e-mail address as well. Thanks for your support!