Sorry for slacking off on posting recently; we’ve both been super busy with teaching and schoolwork. Last weekend, however, we were able to travel to the Ray Browne Conference on Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University, where we gave our first official presentation using the research we’ve been doing on this site. Overall, the presentation seemed to go very well; everyone seemed very interested and we got some good questions (and even a twitter shout out) at the end.
Unfortunately, our recorder died so we could not record the presentation at Bowling Green. However, we wanted to share it with you, so we’ve re-read and recorded the paper here and synced it with the powerpoint presentation. The presentation is posted below. We hope you enjoy and would love to hear your thoughts/questions/concerns/etc.
So, without further ado, here is our 2014 Ray Browne presentation entitled “Learning How to Live/The Magic of Friendship: Ethnographic Methodology and the My Little Pony Fandom.”
After reading Kathleen Stewart’s book Ordinary Affects in the class that this study ultimately arose from, we’ve been very interested in the ways in which MLP and the Brony fandom influence and affect peoples’ daily lives. We caught up with Danny, whose earlier posts on this blog on these matters caught our attention, to talk about the ways in which being a brony has changed his outlook on life and served as a safe space to express emotion. We had to end the conversation a bit earlier that we would have liked to due to space and time concerns, but we are hoping to revisit for a Part 2 soon.
Sorry for the brief hiatus (at least we finally posted about the conference); things have been busy for both of us. We are wrapping up everything on a new post that should be published later tonight and we already have several cool things in the works for the very near future, including an upcoming interview with Dr. Patrick Edwards (a.k.a. Dr. Psych Ology, of Brony Study Fame).
In our earlier conversations, Dr. Edwards mentioned that The Brony Study has a new survey out, looking at the ways that being in the fandom has changed peoples’ lives, and asked that people try to get the word out to as many people as possible.
Here is what they say about the new survey:
We have launched a new survey entitled: How the Fandom has Changed my Life. We have received many questions concerning the impact (both positive and negative) of the fandom (and MLP:FiM) upon members of the fandom. This survey has been designed to help us answer these question. Please help us by completing the survey. In addition, please spread the word to other members of the fandom.
In addition to conducting the above mentioned ‘How The Fandom Has Changed My Life’ Survey, which will give us information about several general areas of the fan’s life (emotions, thoughts and behaviors). We have also established an email ([email protected]) where Bronies can send us more detailed and personalized descriptions of the impact that ‘being a Brony’ has had on their lives. These ‘personal stories’ (minus personal identification) will be used in our presentations and publications. Please consider taking the survey and then sharing with us your personal story.
The Brony Study team has done some interesting work with the fandom and have been huge advocates of bronies for quite a while now both in the academic world and at the cons and other events they have attended. They’ve been trying to change the (largely negative) ways that psychologists look at fandoms and showing the positive aspects of being a brony and this survey will help them back some of their observations up with some solid numbers (which are all-important in their particular sphere of psychology). If you have some time, take the survey, post your story (you know you want to… all the ones we have encountered are super interesting) and, most importantly, spread the word. They welcome anyone in the fandom to take their survey and are especially looking for people that are newer to the fandom (in order to help them balance out their sample).
Knowing How to Live/The Magic of Friendship: Ethnographic Methodology and the My Little Pony Fandom
While technologically-mediated interfaces are often understood as producing a different order of anxiety about human socialization, we wish to denaturalize the notion underscoring this view: that media interfaces are strange, foreign, and mysterious in a particular way unique to modernity. Are current media ideologies categorically different an interface than the vernacularization of biblical knowledge spearheaded by the Gutenberg Bible1, the encounter between the colonial west and the non-west2, or the Cold War promise/nightmare of atomic power3? While historical and cultural specificity must be maintained, the encounters are surprisingly similar: early-adopters integrate and mediate the interface as part of their social habitus just as others have their ideologies and ways-of-being jilted by the very same possibilities.
In this paper, we counter Henry Jenkins’ notion that “[n]one of us really know how to live in this era”4 by insisting that people are remarkably adept at living their lives, technologically mediated or otherwise. Technologies result in new ways of doing old things—expressing oneself, forming communities, and interacting with others—and while these new forms can be troubling for some, they quickly become home for others. Using our collaborative ethnographic project with fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (or more affectionately, “bronies”) as a point of departure, we argue for an ethnographic methodology that emphasizes not the strangeness of media technologies to those in online communities, but rather their mundanity and everyday-ness. Our blog, Research is Magic, represents an attempt at participant-observation5 that collapses the boundaries between academic and interlocutor based on those grounds—that we need not “do” the Internet in different ways and places than our interlocutors, and that a more productive way to interact with ethnographic subjects might be to theorize, create, and write with them, in their midsts, rather than far away and long after the ethnographic encounter.6
As the first book printed in the West in any kind of major scale, the Gutenberg printing of the bible made church leaders anxious since it represented a threat to the church’s power in social life. ↩
The colonial gaze and colonial power changed the ways people on both sides understood themselves and others. ↩
Views of atomic power were utopian on one hand, since it meant this amazing new form of energy, and dystopian on the other, since the destructive power of the atomic bomb was scary for everyone involved. ↩
Participant-observation is a form of research that involves deep “hanging out” with the people you want to understand: both participating and observing. ↩
Anthropologists have traditionally had a tendency to go to some far-flung corner of the world, live with the people there for some number of years, and then return and write books that the people they study never come into contact with. ↩