The Everyday Life of Media Fans: Ritual and Sacralisation in Online Media Fandom

Summary

Digital mobile media have made it possible to engage in new, consuming ways with fictional worlds like those of Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, or a Netflix series. This is especially true for media fans, who routinely explore fictional worlds through online fan spaces, like Tumblr. Often, such involvement raises concern: do people disconnect from the ‘actual’ world?
Various authors have argued that fictional worlds are symbolic resources that can instigate personal or social change by helping people reflect on the world. Research on fandom largely focuses on online fan culture to study this process. However, this fails to adequately address the processes underlying the interrelation between online engagements and the complex interactions between fictional worlds and people’s daily lives.
This project departs from the premise that ritual theory provides a valuable perspective that fills this gap. Ritual studies has always been concerned with the relationship between realities. Ritual is understood to be about ‘framings’: contextual delimitations that communicate what reality people are in, involving practices that set cultural forms apart, ‘sacralising’ them.
Using a non-media-centric, ethnographic approach, this project will examine the fictional engagements of media fans, asking how fans relate fictional worlds to everyday life, and how theory on ritual framing and sacralisation helps understand the ways this is shaped by online fan spaces. The aims are to develop a new framework for studying the interaction between fictional worlds and everyday life, to gain deeper understanding of the cultural significance of media fandom, and to advance ritual theory building.

Details

Project number

PGW.19.024

Main applicant

Dr. K.E. Knibbe

Affiliated with

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit Godgeleerdheid en Godsdienstwetenschap, Godsdienstwetenschappen en Geschiedenis van het Christendom

Duration

01/10/2019 to 29/09/2023