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While I'm still working on my paper about this stuff, I need to vent a little.

Acafans or fanscholars or just researcher into fandom and fan spaces sometimes talk about the idea of 'teaching students to become better fans' by using the structures and roles found in fandom, especially fanfiction, in their teaching. Thus hoping to engage and motivate students to participate actively both in the classroom and on-line life, as well as teaching them about writing, editing, and reviewing.

Well, intentions are good, but - there is a big 'but' in this.

You can teach literacy, you can teach what motivation is about, how to motivate and what kills motivation. But you can't teach anybody to actually be motivated. You can use extrinsic motivation - better grades if students write their own fanfiction, reflect on other students' work, and the like. This does not turn a student into a fan. Yes, it may end with some of the students becoming interested in fandom, but you can't as a teacher put intrinsic motivation 'into their heads'. Doesn't work that way. Quite contrary. The times, I have used computer games in the classroom I had the undivided attention from my students. Even when they got assignments like 'play two games a day and reflect on what makes it fun', they were quite motivated to begin with. But then fun turned into duty - and suddenly the intrinsic motivation vanished, being replaced by extrinsic motivation (getting a good grade). As one student put it: it's no fun if you have to play a game.

Yes. Could be, I'm a 'no good' teacher. But let's think about it. Motivation is one thing. But what are you really teaching students when you equal a beta-reader with a reviewer on an academic paper? You are actually telling the student, that beta-readers have a duty to perform. Have to make sure that a writer gets to know their grammar faults, plot holes, and so on. We are perpetuating an academic way of thinking in our classroom teaching. And by using fandom roles and structures within this context, we are invading fandom space with an academic way of thinking and behaving. Because students are told that those things are the same. And if those students start reading and commenting on actual fanfics, they will use what they have learned in the classroom.

But that's good, right? Why? Why is it good? Because academics know how to be good fans, and we can teach all the not-so-good fans how to behave and become better people, right? Make them write, comment, beta-read in the appropriate academic kind of way? Right.

Just like back when all those nice colonists told all those native people how to behave properly, how to just have one God, how to organise their society.

But surely, acafans can be fans as well. There is no such thing as a 'real' fan or some kind of 'list on how to be a proper fan'? Because fandom is for everybody? Well. Yes? Maybe? Thinking about some of the latest upheavals in fandom, one might start to think fandom is fighting back - against the colonisation of its space by academia.

"Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust"
(In me there are two souls, alas!)
Goethe's Faust - the classical academic action hero if there ever was one. And look how well that went down (spoilers: it didn't! Murder, suicide, mayhem ensues throughout the whole play).

*Throws away pen and paper to go, live in a cave, watching shadows on the wall. Only to realise, Platon's been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Utterly disillusioned, she walks out of the cave, throws away the key (the key? What am I drinking??), finds an old horse, befriends a guy on an ass, and starts fighting windmills. Hey. I'm on a horse!*


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January 2016


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