Fan Culture with Chinese Characteristics: Participatory Engagement in the Web 2.0 Era
This thesis is centred on participatory fan culture in Chinese social media. It investigates how fans gather through social networks, how they produce creative work, and how they use different platforms to circulate their favourite media and fannish texts. By constructing, reshaping and spreading meanings through participatory practices, fans create their own cultures and gradually develop their own discourses. My theoretical approach can be classified as cultural discourse analysis (Carbaugh,2007; Scollo,2011), and I adopted the snowball sampling method to find interviewees and fan communities in which I have conducted observation to collect data for my analysis. On the basis of John Fiske’s concept of “textual productivity” (1992) and Henry Jenkins’s notions of “media convergence” (2006a) and “spreadability” (2013), the thesis is based on a platform analysis as well as two case studies about the Chinese reality TV show Where Are We Going, Dad?and BBC’s crime drama Sherlock. The platform analysis examines four platforms that Chinese social media fans use most frequently: Weibo, WeChat, Tieba and Bilibili. Through the analysis of the sociocultural contexts, user interfaces and primary features of these four platforms, it became clear that the platforms emphasise differentiated content (e.g. microblogging-style posts, instant text/voice messages, continuous updating posts, video clips and flying comments), and that each platform has its own search and recommendation services to guide users to their target content. By comparing five elements of social media including public posts, direct messaging, group chatting, search tools and information recommendation (Yoder and Stutzman, 2011), the analysis offers insight into the different affordances provided by these four platforms and how Chinese fans employ the platforms to develop fan culture. The two case studies investigate the formation, manifestation and influence of fan cultures on three levels: fan-platform interaction, fannish texts and fan identity. Analysing data collected from interviews and online observation in the Weibo-based fan chat group 刘诺一全球后援会1群(Liu Nuoyi Quanqiu Houyuanhui 1 Qun; “Liu Nuoyi’s Global Fan Community, Group 1”) and the Tieba-based forum爸爸去哪儿康诺吧(Babaqunaer Kang Nuo Ba; “Kangkang and Nuoyi of Where Are We Going, Dad?Forum”), the case study of Where Are We Going, Dad?demonstrates that the Web 2.0 services that fans use maintain an open structure, which attracts fans to contribute new layers of meaning and value. Discussing the fan-platform interaction, fannish texts and fan identities, the case study of Chinese Sherlockfandom demonstrates that Chinese online fans rely on textual productivity to establish their fan identities, and Chinese social media to facilitate the production and spread of fan translation, which not only bridges the language and cultural gap between the Sherlocktexts (the BBC episodes and the original novel) and Chinese fandom, but also connects different types of Sherlockfans online. I also compare the two cases from the perspective of narrative structure by drawing upon Jason Mittell’s “centrifugal and centripetal complex” model (2015) and argue that the different narrative structures lead a different sense of self-recognition for fans, gender dynamics, power differences in fan communities, and that they shape fans’ cultural citizenship.