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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Gina L. DeBlase

Abstract

ABSTRACT

DIGITAL LITERACIES AND “GLEE”: THE ROLE OF FAN FICTION VIRTUAL WRITING AND SOCIAL COMMENTARY IN RESPONSE TO BULLYING THEMES WITH ADOLESCENT WRITERS

by

MANDY STEWART

May 2017

Advisor: Dr. Gina DeBlase

Major: Curriculum and Instruction

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

As the education system turns its attention to climate, bullying, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) issues in the classroom, there is a focus on developing our student population abilities to be more accepting and tolerant of diversity. This study explored how ten students, aged 16-17, interacted with virtual literacy events on www.fanfiction.net, and how that contributed to their refinements in understandings, perspectives, actions and tolerance of diversity, particularly as it related to LGBT teens and bullying, as demonstrated in original writing as well as in commentaries and responses to other writers. As these teenagers wrote about LGBT topics in their published writing, interacted with other participants through their reviews/online messaging, and read other fan fiction stories focused on LGBT bullying storylines, it allowed participants’ to have ongoing and emerging understandings of LGBT issues in an anonymous, virtual space.

This study explored how the participants navigated the www.fanfiction.net site, within a virtual fan fiction community devoted to the television program Glee, which features LGBT bullying plots. The study participants wrote original stories and published them on the site, followed other fan fiction authors, and actively read/reviewed stories on these topics. The norms of this virtual community discourages negative commentary, while favoring interactions that encourage writers, creating an affinity space that participants described as welcoming and supportive as they explored LGBT topics that might be perceived as offensive in the real world. With case studies on the three most prolific writers, this research demonstrates the diverse backgrounds, interests, and writing styles of fan fiction participants, even with writing focused on the same television show, and allows the reader to delve into what the experience of interacting on the site is like from the writer’s perspective. In analyzing all participant data, I found that literacy transactions on the fan fiction website allowed for participants’ ongoing and emerging understandings of LGBT issues, the anonymity of the website created a safe space which allowed for exploration of LGBT topics, and the positive acceptance of LGBT storylines during interactions on www.fanfiction.net gave opportunities to further explore LGBT issues/themes.

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