OTW Guest Post: Agata Ewa Wrochna

Every month the OTW hosts guest posts on our OTW News accounts to provide an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom. These posts express each individual’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy.

Agata Ewa Wrochna (she/her) is a Lecturer in Communication Studies at Wenzhou-Kean University. She has a wide range of academic interests within media and communications, which include topics of celebrity, authenticity and identity (trans)formation in visual media, in particular those present in East and Southeast Asia. Her latest publication explores online fandoms of Chinese queer visual media. Today, Dr. Wrochna talks about her deep-rooted journey within fandom culture, tracing her evolution from an enthusiastic participant to a scholarly observer.

How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?

I have been part of various fandoms and created my own fan works for as long as I remember. Even before the steady digitalisation of fan communities facilitated long-distance information flow, I had often initiated or been involved in local activities that I would now, without hesitation, identify as fannish – I used to cosplay the yellow Power Ranger, write stories about Roswell (1999) characters and I even organised a Bollywood-theme party.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, a friend introduced me to the world of East Asian entertainment, including television and music celebrities. Later on, I also became active on websites like LiveJournal and Archive of Our Own (AO3), both as a reader and a writer. While the subjects of my interests might have changed, what has always been a huge draw for me is an opportunity for creative expression such platforms allow. The friendships and support I have found in these communities over the years definitely played a part in my interest to pursue similar topics in my academic research.

What inspired your research on collective identity in the Immortality twitter fandom?

Perhaps due to my own positive experiences in similar groups, I have always been more interested in fandom as community and the interactions among fans, rather than just their connection to the object of their affection. While said text undoubtedly constitutes the very foundation of their identity as fans, rarely ever does it end there. In fact, in many cases the consumption of the text seems to be only a small part as to why individuals seek connections with like-minded fans. In many fandoms, the proverbial ‘journey’ is often more important than ‘the destination’ – the latter might involve the final ‘reward’ that is consumption of the text, but the former seems infinitely more exciting: it is all about building up expectations of the text through discussions and predictions (and sometimes also pre-emptive complaints), imaginative world building through fan works like art and video edits, and more. The text might be the reason why fans enter the fandom, but the mutual interactions are the reason why they stay and continue to identify with it.

As a casual consumer of queer Asian texts and an academic working in Mainland China, I had always been somewhat aware of the precarious situation that forces audio-visual media contents to self-censor the more non-heteronormative narrative elements. That fact in itself had already significantly limited the number of similar TV releases that fans could enjoy and gather around.

However, after queer texts were effectively banned and planned releases scrapped from TV schedules, I noticed that not only did it not put a stop to fannish activities around Immortality, but it actually seemed to reinforce the emotional attachment fans felt towards said production. I thus became fascinated by the notion that a strong fandom identity and a sense of belonging to such groups can be formed even around a text that as far as we are concerned, does not really exist since it was never aired. As of February 2023, it has now been three years since the original planned release date of Immortality. Its fandom is still going strong.

Your article in TWC discusses emotional fulfilment in fandom. How do you think the connection and community aspect of online community shapes creation and engagement in these spaces?

I think since the COVID-19 pandemic started, people seem to be in need of a human connection more than ever. Be it on- or off-line, connecting with others also tends to be intellectually and creatively stimulating. When you enter a space shared by a passionate group, anything that you put out there will inevitably receive a response, and it is often a positive and encouraging one.

As I previously mentioned, in my experience consuming a media text might be the basis of one’s fan identity, but it is the interactions with others, bouncing ideas off them, etc., which influence them in a more significant way. Those connections inspire and validate one’s identity beyond that of a fan – for example, it can validate one’s perception of self as artists. The emotional fulfilment one receives through collective support in such spaces will then not only fuel their passion for the creative process but will additionally cause them to want to frequently return and ‘give back’ to the community through their time, knowledge or talent.

How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?

I have been aware of the Organization for Transformative Works for a while now. I was first acquainted with it through Archive of Our Own (AO3) around 2013, but as my academic career progressed, I also found myself reaching for the Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures more and more often.

While undoubtedly, the concept of fandom has been widely researched over the years, I often notice that this area is still somewhat neglected in university curricula when we teach media. Therefore, I genuinely appreciate the dedication with which TWC continues to influence the development of this field of study. It is certainly a communication platform and useful tool for both researchers and fans alike. Personally, I treat it as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

What fandom things have inspired you the most?

As I previously mentioned, the sense of community and friendships which I have fostered with fellow fans over the years is what continues to draw me into fan spaces even long after I happen to become emotionally disengaged from a particular object of interest. On a personal level, the pursuit of those connections has given me the opportunity and the ‘push’ to travel around the World in order to get to know certain people who I now consider life-long friends.

In terms of my research path, the study of fan communities inspired the choices of both my Master’s and PhD degree topics, and therefore indirectly influenced my current academic career.

We encourage suggestions from fans for future guest posts, so contact us if you have someone in mind! Or you can visit our Pinboard account to catch up on earlier guest posts.

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