Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fan types

In reading "Pinning Down Fan Involvement", a couple of things struck me. Once again, I was very interested in application of ethnography to wrestling. In the Mazer article, the ethnographic study resulted in an incredibly personal, experientially-based text. It seemed appropriate, given Mazer's role as a woman and presence in the gym, a more intimate setting than the arena.

In Sam's article, I felt a more carefully constructed insertion of authorship, a real cognizance about role of fan-as-theorist. The relevance/ subjective lens of the author is recognized, background explained, but it doesn't take over as the framing of the work. I think this is particularly important when the ethnographer is also a fan. For Mazer, it was possible to insert herself so heavily in the article because she had the pre-existing critical distance of not being a fan. For Sam, being a fan/ participant, the critical distance comes through the methodology of the ethnographic process instead of the personal distance. It seems effective to define the terms and questions of the interviews with fans, and then allow some expansion of the study to happen naturally, in a more objective, way.

Just as the author must play the double role of fan and ethnographer, I am curious to hear that the fans seem to switch roles from moment to moment. The moment of transfer from one fan type to another has a surreal feeling to it. "Some fans could talk to me even during a match, performing one minute and then stopping to continue our conversations. Other fans, unable to switch so fluently back and forth bewtween these two modes of engagement, explicitly told me that they could not talk to me when the matched were occurring so that some conversations had to halt and then pick up again between matches" (22). It is amazing to me that the fans can be so aware of their own performance, something that goes unsaid in the arena, where everything is played out as though it were real despite the common knowledge that it is not. The adoption of different roles, and the ability of fans to move between these roles, shows the tremendous level of participation and agency the fans have in the wrestling world.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Kate, your take away from the work I did is very accurate. First, the audience of this piece is ethnography journals, many of which take a more social science bent, so while I could present a more subjective writing as Jim Freedman and Sharon Mazer does, the methodology becomes important for not clouding the validity of the research. Audience is key in these types of questions, as well as the background and perspective of the author, as you point out.

I was interested in watching these fans actively switch roles as well, and I actually only recently came up with the final framework for that piece. For a while, I could sense that some important shifts were taking place in trying to understand HOW these people describe their own engagement with the work, but I wasn't sure how best to document it.

That last category, fans as theorists, becomes key. The fact that fans can articulate some fairly complex points on their own, during their viewing experience, between matches, after the show, etc., is key.