Global Fandom Jamboree: Julián de la Fuente (Spain)
My name is Julián de la Fuente and I am assistant professor at the University of Alcalá (Spain). My research is focused on the media practices of adolescents and how they organize communities for purposes such as leisure, learning or civic engagement. Thanks to my mentor, Pilar Lacasa (Lacasa, 2020 16), during a longitudinal ethnographic study we discovered the importance of fandom for many adolescents. Since then, we have carried out various researchers:
First of all, we analyzed the relationship that fans maintain with their musical idols (Lacasa et al., 2016 17) and what we found was that girls used the Internet is a meaningful space where they looked for personal contact with their favourite celebrity. We looked at the ways in which adolescents in the fan community transformed the status of the object they loved from celebrity to hero, someone in whom they developed affective attachments of admiration and love. This encouraged us to investigate the identity processes that arise from fandom (Lacasa Díaz et al., 2017 18) We looked at the role of memories in the construction of the self, from the perspective of a subjective identity in which both personal and collective dimensions are present. For fans, the celebrity was more than a musician because the music becomes a vehicle for intimacy around which the adolescent identity is organised as a way of living in and understanding the world.
At this point, our interest turned to the civic activism of these groups through social media (Lacasa Díaz et al., 2019 19) We believe that social networks have transformed fan communities, and also teenagers' skills when it comes to managing these digital environments. The teenagers’ practices in relation to their presence in fan communities are dependent on the use of multimodal discourse, especially photography and remixes, which are associated with forms of creative expression. The study invites the reader to think about the new forms of citizenship in which young people are involved, far removed from what these concepts traditionally mean in social sciences, where they tend to be associated with adulthood.
More recently, we focus on the personal relationships of friendship that are established between members of a community (de la Fuente & Lacasa, 2020 20). We have find that contacts are sought by exploring the information provided by the participants in online and offline settings. It is this information that allows them to select who they want to interact with or which containment mechanisms they can use to avoid certain participants. However, these contacts can be established on a double level, which the researchers have called macro and micro. The macro level focusses on the broader fan community and the micro level deals with the interpersonal relationships, with interaction taking place between the two levels.
Finally, to these multiple perspectives adds the content industry, whose strategies for integrating media practices of fans are currently studying by our research group.
Regarding fandom studies in my country, their origin are relatively recent. We could point to its takeoff during the last decade, especially associated with media studies (Prego-Nieto, 2020 15) However, fan communities could be documented since the mid-70s of the 20th century, after a military dictatorship that during 40 years limited the right of assembly of people, as well as censored access to foreign cultural content. Until well into the 21st century, most of the most popular fan phenomena were associated with content from traditional culture, such as bullfighting, religious brotherhoods, sports such as boxing or soccer, and Spanish light music.
Even today, the word fan in Spain refers to the fanatical followers of some soccer teams or to the “frikis” (sic.) geeks of certain minority content such as role-playing games, science fiction or manga (Martínez, 2020 7). I can't say that being a fan in Spain is frowned upon, but it is true that in many cases there is no strong identity for this social phenomenon. For instance, as a result of the generalized political protests throughout the country as of May 15, 2011, the “indignados” movement emerged, which has hardly been analyzed since the conception of the political fandom (Hernández-Santaolalla & Rubio-Hernández, 2017 8 ) So there is still a long way to go for these fan communities to be recognized according to their social influence. However, among the youth these conceptions are changing. Thanks to social networks, many international fan phenomena have landed in Spain (Cassany, 2018 6) participating in much wider networks and establishing links with other Spanish-speaking countries, especially in America. In this sense, the impact of globalization on Spanish fandom is undeniable, with communities especially active around phenomena such as video games, audiovisual fiction, and musical groups. Among many other international phenomena, young Spanish people participate in the K-pop fandom (Rodriguez Castillo, 2021 9), especially significant in Latin America.
Likewise, you can highlight other phenomena international fandoms whose origins are Spanish influencers; As is the case with the Twitch Streamers, some of which are among the most viewed worldwide such as @AuronPlay or the Booktubers, which also have a large community of fans (de la Torre-Espinosa, 2019 12). In this sense, the globalization of fandom in Spain during the last decade has allowed both the introduction and export of these cultural phenomena to the whole world, especially among Spanish-speaking people.
However, the best-studied fan phenomenon in Spain, probably due to its international repercussion, is that of television series (López-Villafranca & Ruiz-Muñoz, 2017 3) The visibility of this phenomenon through social networks, together with the accessibility of these contents by TV platforms have created the conditions for a massive phenomenon whose target is also much broader than other content such as music or video games. Nevertheless, in many of these studies the social audience for these shows is confused with the development of a true community of fans.
Actually, in Spain one of the first examples of fandom on television would be the Eurovision Song Contest (EBU, 1956-current) but we would have to wait until the arrival of Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011-2019) to talk about a community of fans visible through social networks. In fact, the appearance of this fan community was encouraged during season 4 of the TV series in 2014, thanks to the creation of a transmedia strategy that under the title "Si lo vives es verdad" (If you live it, it is true) allowed fans to participate in live events, games through social networks and even star in the promotional spot of the channel that broadcast it in Spain: Canal + (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAehXcOstGo).
This precedent in the interaction between fans and the content industry has become increasingly common, especially among national productions such as "El Ministerio del Tiempo" (RTVE, 2015-2020) whose fan community has stood out above the audience reached by this series (Torregrosa-Carmona & Rodríguez-Gómez, 2017 21) Among other unprecedent milestones in the Spanish fandom, was organizing to demand the production of a new season or the agreement reached with the producer to market the fanarts uploaded to social networks.
These same transmedia strategies have been applied to personalize the remake of other series such as SKAM Spain (Movistar +, 2018-2020) whose international fandom has had an important epicenter in Spain thanks to a community of fan girls with a civic commitment regarding sexist violence or LGTBI + rights (Gutiérrez et al., 2019 1) In this case it is noteworthy how the production company has adapted the series to the consumption of these fans, programming content at any time of day and week and even allowing fans broadcast the live experience live during a sequence specially recreated for them.
As a result of all these experiences, television series in Spain are not understood today without the creation and participation of their fandom. In fact, platforms such as Netflix have especially intensified their communication strategy in this regard (Barrientos-Báez, 2021 11) which may partly explain the success of some Spanish shows around the world such as Money Heist (2017-2021), or Elite (2018-current). These fan phenomena of Spanish origin reflect the impact that globalization has had on the appearance of the fandom in Spain. Dalí masks and the song "Bella Ciao" now serve as vindication of human rights in many parts of the world, the same as those rights are vindicated in Spain just 40 years ago.
In conclusion, the media fandom in Spain is a relatively recent phenomenon with a clear influence from the globalization of cultural industries. However, that same globalization is what is allowing some Spanish content to generate fans beyond its borders, especially connected to Spanish-speaking followers. These participation and appropriation processes have been achieved thanks to the connivance of televisions and digital platforms that have found fans an ideal audience model for productions that, due to their limited budgets, could hardly reach prominent audiences due to lack of publicity. In the same way, fans use these cultural products symbolically to generate claims related to civic commitment and human rights, wherever their voice is not heard.
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Cassany, D. (2018). El fandom en la juventud española. FAD.
de la Fuente, J., & Lacasa, P. (2020). Teens’ Fandom Communities: Making Friends and Countering Unwanted Contacts. In L. Green, Holloway, D., Stevenson, K., Leaver, T., & Haddon, L. (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Digital Media and Children (pp. 161-173). Routledge.
de la Torre-Espinosa, M. (2019). El fenómeno Booktube, entre el fandom y la crítica literaria. Álabe(21).
Gutiérrez, J. S., de la Fuente Prieto, J., & Borda, R. M. (2019). El ecosistema mediático juvenil en España: Un estudio de caso sobre el fandom de la serie “SKAM”. In Comunicación y pensamiento. Relatos de la nueva comunicación. (pp. 33-52). Egregius.
Hernández-Santaolalla, V., & Rubio-Hernández, M. d. M. (2017). Fandom político en Twitter: La Cueva y los partidarios de Alberto Garzón en las elecciones generales españolas de 2015 y 2016. El profesional de la información, 26 (5), 838-849.
Lacasa Díaz, P., De la Fuente Prieto, J., García-Pernía, M., & Cortés Gómez, S. (2017). Teenagers, fandom and identity. Persona Studies, 3(2), 51-65.
Lacasa Díaz, P., De la Fuente Prieto, J. n., Cortés Gómez, S., & García-Pernía, M. R. (2019). Adolescents as cultural activists: Remixing celebrities in fandom communities. In S. Duvall (Ed.), Celebrity and Youth(pp. 81-101). Peter Lang.
Lacasa, P. (2020). Adolescent Fans. Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b14291
Lacasa, P., Zaballos, L. M., & de la Fuente Prieto, J. (2016). Fandom, Music and Personal Relationships through Media: How Teenagers Use Social Networks. IASPM@ Journal, 6(1), 44-67.
López-Villafranca, P., & Ruiz-Muñoz, M. J. (2017). La ficción televisiva española en el contexto latinoamericano (2011-2016): mercado global, narrativas transmedia y comportamientos del fandom.
Martínez, C. (2020). Féminas del fandom: outsiders entre los outsiders. 3Acción colectiva, movilización y resistencias en el siglo XXI. Vol. 3: Estudios de caso, 61.
Prego-Nieto, M. (2020). Tendencias epistemológicas de los fan studies en la investigación en comunicación: una propuesta de clasificación. Anàlisi(63), 101-114.
Rodriguez Castillo, J. (2021). E K-pop y la Interacción Parasocial en España: el fenómeno fan en Instagram.
Torregrosa-Carmona, J.-F., & Rodríguez-Gómez, E. (2017). Comunidades de fans y ficción televisiva. Estudio de caso: El ministerio del tiempo (TVE). Profesional de la Información, 26(6), 1139-1148.
Julián de la Fuente is Assistant Professor of Audiovisual Communication the University of Alcalá, Spain. His research is multidisciplinary, sharing perspectives and approaches from psychology, anthropology, history and sociology. Often collaborating with architects, engineers and artists, he uses qualitative and ethnographic methodologies and the analysis of multimodal discourse. He has authored and co-authored numerous publications examining social media, technology and young people’s digital engagement. He has also conducted several outreach projects for film heritage.