Return to Syllabus   Dr. Andrew Wood
Office: HGH 210; phone: (408) 924-5378

Shefrin, E. (2004). Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and participatory fandom: Mapping new congruencies between the internet and media entertainment culture. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 21(3), 261-281.

Note: These comments are not designed to "summarize" the reading. Rather, they are available to highlight key ideas that will emerge in our classroom discussion. As always, it's best to read the original text to gain full value from the course.

Lindemann explores as a site where people are able to experiment with the performance of their identities. To that end, the author argues that, "the success of user posts can be gauged by their communicative competence, including the use of figurative language and special codes" (p. 355). Of course, such success becomes measured within the mediated frame of internet communication. Here, Lindemann states, the perception of embodiment is altered from more traditional frames because, "[t]echnological advances present performers with challenges to traditional notions of presence and absence" (p. 358). Here, writers of online journals construct a textual body that, nonetheless, evokes a desire by both writer and reader to imagine a real body. Thus, "[i]n addition to competently establishing an interpretative frame that invites and invokes audience response . . . online journals may also be judged as skilled and competent if they create a desire for presence" (p. 359). Here, the mediated frame allows for feedback. After all, "Online journals offer readers the opportunity to post responses as soon as the entry is read, giving performers nearly immediate feedback on the ways their post has been received" (p. 359). At this point, Lindemann turns to the debate online community.

While some scholars of computer-mediated communication dismiss the potential for online community, others affirm its possibility, albeit in a different form than that notion of community found in the "real world." From this latter perspective, "the 'consensual hallucination' of cyberspace is made 'real' as members draw on, change, and reify the cultural meanings of their community" (p. 360). To Lindemann, the opportunity for LiveJournal users to comment upon each other’s presentations of self suggests the emergence of community in this site.

At this point, Lindemann focuses on two journals that offer illustration of effective and ineffective presentation of self within an online community. In this analysis, the author notes that effective presentation of self requires a degree of textual artistry, technological sophistication, and evocation of bodily presence. Critically, such presence must not be so literal as to eliminate the potential for a reader to place her or his self in the place of the writer. It must be somewhat ambiguous: "As an audience, we can imagine a generic 'city' and transform the authors space into our space" (pp. 365-366). Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, effective online personae must be accessible and (partially) editable by readers: "[I]t is the opportunity for calibration that in part frames online narratives as [successful] performances" (p. 367). Lindemann concludes by noting (among other implications) that this kind of scholarship cannot ignore the ethical implications of online "bodies." Even in the most ephemeral environments, words have power.

[Return to Syllabus]