Fandom : a Third Space for Self-Expression and Community
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In this paper, I will describe how fandoms serve as third spaces that exist outside of academic and religious spaces. These spaces simultaneously provide participants with similar resources and benefits that more traditional spaces afford while additionally encouraging self expression. Specifically, fandoms are spaces in which members can freely express themselves to an extent that is not possible within the more constrictive expectations of traditional academic and religious communities. As a third space, therefore, fandom engagement can be invaluable for people who are dissatisfied with or marginalized by traditional communities. Through devoted community, creative storytelling, and shared values, fandoms provide participants with social spaces in which they can be entirely themselves. Through shared culture, fandom spaces create passionate, creative activists and provide safe and welcoming community to all participants. In order to properly illustrate the unique benefits of fandom participation, I will provide an exposé of fandom culture as I, other fans, and other scholars have experienced it. Since fandom participation can affect every part of a fan’s daily life, it is important to understand the nuances of fandom culture. Fans make friends, find community, build identity, share stories, and shift their values for these online communities. I will describe how fandom communities are formed, the unique vocabularies used by fandom communities, the vibrant storytelling device of “fanfiction,” and the uniquely progressive shared values of fandom communities. Throughout, I will highlight how fandom spaces are both similar to and distinct from traditional academic and religious spaces. In the end, it is the separation between traditional spaces and fandom experience that appeals to many fans.