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Canon vs. Fanon: Folksonomies of Fan Culture
MIT Media in Transition 5 (2007)
  • Raizel Liebler
  • Keidra Chaney
There is an often unacknowledged symbiotic relationship between creators and owners of mass media works and the fan communities inspired by their work. The nature of participatory fan communities makes it possible for both authors and fans to be active agents in collectively determining the validity of the “official” storyline. The interaction
between creators and fans illustrates John Fiske's idea of a “semiotic democracy,” the power of media in enabling audiences to become involved in the creative process of constructing cultural symbols rather than serving merely as passive consumers.

This paper will explore the concepts of pop culture canon and “fanon.” “Canon,” from a pop culture standpoint is defined as the official storylines and back stories invented by the creators of television shows, movies and books. Relatedly, “fanon,” is described as the ideas and concepts that fan communities have collectively decided are part of an accepted storyline or character interpretation. We propose the idea that the concept of fanon is best illustrated as an example of folksonomy, a user-generated classification used in Internet social communities; or as a "tag:" an aggregation of content emerging through bottom-up consensus by the public/fan communities. We will also discuss the impact of fanon folksonomy on the future of participatory fandom and popular culture.
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Raizel Liebler and Keidra Chaney. "Canon vs. Fanon: Folksonomies of Fan Culture" MIT Media in Transition 5 (2007)
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC_BY-SA International License.