Anything worth doing is worth studying too. Since dipping my toe into the culture of fandom and fanfiction, I have felt the call to investigate so many aspects of this experience. It wasn’t long before I was reading articles and dusting off my data collection toolset to learn more about the how and why of these communities built on shared enthusiasm.
On the empirical side, I’ve worked with the results of online surveys (collected by myself and others) and fanwork archive data scraped using python scripts (example). More theoretical musing have focused on psychological mechanisms and cultural parallels with other common human behaviours.
Fandom and Sexuality Survey
The TPP Fandom and Sexuality Survey was designed to learn about fans experiences of sexual content in fanworks and the impacts of this content on their lives. Developed with other fans in the Three Patch Podcast, the survey was constructed to be broad, touching on questions and beliefs shared by fans about their experiences as well as drawing material from academic studies of sexual behaviour. More on the survey and many results can be found on the Three Patch website. Slides from my talk at the 2017 Fan Studies Network conference, The extra(ordinary) sex lives of fanfiction readers, can be viewed or downloaded.
Fanwork Archive Analysis
How do fandoms grow? These creative communities are in constant flux on whatever technologies are available, and sharing the products of their love of the source media and for fellow fans. Fanwork databases are a goldmine of creative works and they are lovely things to scrape and explore. I have gathered metadata on many subcollections on these platforms have looked at some different pieces: the rates of new creators over time, the development of trope documentation through tags over time, the longevity of creator engagement, etc.
My lastest study looks at the timeline of fanworks posted and deleted from two of our largest multifandom fanfiction archives, fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. Their stories are quite different as one is known to delete users works much more often than the other. Working primarily with numbers gleaned through web scraping, the study also mixes in fandom history, the structure of these databases, and a lot of back-of-the-envelope calculations to describe how fans have and will continue to contribute to each.
More fandom stats work can be found on my tumblr.
Writing about Fandom
One example was produced for Powers of Expression magazine which connected a personal experience of fannish engagement with the psychological phenomenon of passionate love and the similar process of religious conversion. Here is a late edit of The Motivating Power of Fannish Love.