Fandom Is Good for You: The Educational Implications of Fan Engagement

Now that this semester of grad school has ended, I finally have time to write a post! It just so happens to be our last post before our holiday break, too, which tells you a bit about the craziness of my schedule…. You see, I’m a PhD student studying Learning Sciences, which is all about researching how people learn and how we can use those findings to reform the educational system. Trying to balance my online fandom life with my grad school life has been an ongoing struggle, but surprisingly, one of the things I’ve learned in my program is that many researchers in and around this field study the educational implications of fandom. Well, now I’m here to cross over between my offline and online life by sharing some of that work with you, as well as some findings from my own research!

It may come as no surprise to you that fans learn a great deal from engaging in fandom, whether they’re writing fanfics, composing meta, creating fanart, making cosplays, or heck, even writing essays from a critical lens like on this blog! But fandom still tends to be viewed dismissively by mainstream culture, and even we fans sometimes devalue our engagement as a mere “hobby”. Modern learning theorists now acknowledge the importance of learning outside of school, and are calling for in-school learning to be more like the interest- and peer-driven realm of outside-of-school learning, including hobbies like fandom. There are so many ways that fan engagement is related to the kinds of subjects people learn in school and to skills that are generally useful in life. And better yet, it’s in a context that people really care about, rather than the decontextualized content conventionally presented in schools, which can seem random and unconnected to students’ lives.

So, this fandom thing you’re doing right now? It’s totally legitimate, important, and socially responsible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!


Let Syng-sensei educate you!

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Magical Mondays: Linguistics in No Man’s Sky

At its core, No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration and, yes, colonization to some extent. Hello Games gives their players essentially no guide on how to traverse the systems of planets surrounding them, and this becomes especially apparent when interacting with the few intelligent species you come across on the way. You can choose to ignore these fellow travelers entirely, putting your mark on everything by renaming landmarks and entire planets with seemingly no consequence outside of other players being able to see what you named it if they arrive there themselves. Or, you could simply button mash though the dialogue options you’re given during a conversation with one of the other races, and hope you choose the right answer (or just one that doesn’t spark some sort of galatic hostilities between you and that race). Yet doing either of these would mean that you’d miss out on one of the most compelling parts of the game. Every space traveler starts out knowing nothing about these other cultures, but with a little effort—and a little magic—No Man’s Sky gives a highly accurate analogy to what it’s like to learn and use another language.

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