Fanfiction is writing in which fans use media narratives and pop cultural icons as inspiration for creating their own texts.(Black, 2006, p.172)
Rebecca W. Black conducted a case study about a girl named Nanako, a native Mandarin Chinese speaker who had moved from China to Canada. When she first arrived in Canada, she struggled with her courses and making friends since she did not speak any English. Later, by joining fanfiction.net and creating a personal page on which she posted her own fanfictions in English, Nanako was not only motivated to improve English through interactions with her readers, but also better affiliated herself to the new community.
The study shows that online fanfictions have the following affordances:
- Both native and non-native English speakers can acquire the abilities to appropriately use multiple languages, social Discourses, school-based forms of writing and knowledge of popular culture.
- Members can build a positive self through representing themselves as experts in popular cultures they are familiar with.
- Unlike traditional school settings which involve barriers such as social class, gender, race etc., the online environment provides a safe, supportive and meaningful place for language learning and communication.
- With the increasing engagement in the online community, writers can gradually change from “writing for fun” to “writing with specific purpose”.
However, we believe that online fanfiction has some constraints as well
- As teenagers have low self-control ability, they may be addicted to online fanfiction.
- The language quality of fanfictions online can not be guaranteed since everyone has access to social networking.
- Without strict censorship online, content of those fanfictions involving violence, pornography and crime etc. can mislead impressionable youth.
In your opinion, what are the affordances and constraints of online fanfiction? How can online fanfiction be used in language education? Do you have any experience relating to fanfictions?