robin_anne_reid: (Default)
robin_anne_reid ([personal profile] robin_anne_reid) wrote2010-12-03 12:07 pm

Racefail 09 Pilot Project

While fan studies has existed for at least two decades (and can be seen as a development or new direction in Reception Theory, few publications on constructions of race and ethnicity in fandom(s) exist at the current time. [There is a growing body of work in internet studies that deals with critical analysis of race; I'm preparing a bibliography on the topics for a grant. In fact, there's a growing body of work on internet communities and social networks and activities that has nothing to do with fan studies; I’m wondering how many of us in fan studies are aware of all the work being done in academic computer science and related fields.]

The work I have done so far (a handful of presentations delivered at a number of conferences) is solely in the Pilot project or proof of concept stage. It is exploratory. It is not meant to be final or authoritative (we may get somewhere in the next five years, if things work out).

I am working with faculty in psychology and sociology and linguistics on various parts of this project which might be described, broadly, as addressing a major gap in fan studies scholarship: the lack of analysis of interactions between minority group and majority group members in fandoms.

The text I have begun to analyze is a part of a large data-set gathered from online discussions (this methodology is opposed to the artificial method of surveys and interviews often used in social sciences).

Part of the text includes posts that were part of a three-month debate that took place from January through March in 2009 about cultural appropriation and racism in science fiction and fantasy fandoms and publishing, collectively known as Racefail 09. However, since I do not see that three-month discussion as a discrete event that began and ended in that year, the project could potentially draw on earlier and later internet discussions referenced during Racefail 09 and developing from Racefail 09.

I do not claim to be unbiased (I am influenced by recent work that argues no human being lacks bias, and that has critiqued the false objectivity of the academy). However, the methodology I am using draws primarily from sociology and linguistics (specifically, sociolinguistics, stylistics, and corpus work) and is designed to analyze patterns in what was actually written online rather than the intentions or motivations of the participants.

My analysis will not focus on individuals so much as pattern analysis of aggregated data, eventually from at least 100 posts and discussion threads.

What my work so far has done is to develop background on race discussions in fandoms, my theoretical and methodological framework, and cover the results of my first descriptive analysis of patterns in two posts. These pilot results will be retested and retooled in the larger data collection and analysis later on, especially in the lab project which will involve a number of people working with the data.

Links Page with all Racefail Scholarship Entries.