Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fan Male

Images on the World Wide Web such as the one above seem to indicate that Alice Robison isn't alone when she posts blog entries like "I Heart Paul Dourish" about UC Irvine Informatics professor Paul Dourish.

I've served on committees with Dourish and think Where the Action Is is a good read, but I probably couldn't tell you his height, weight, or eye color. Have I missed something about my supposed heartthrob colleague?

So, the follow-up question might be: what is a rhetorician supposed to make of this kind of online profession of fandom among self-described academics? Is it a violation of scholarly decorum and gravitas or is it a kind of new celebratory genre that's completely appropriate to the prosumer ethos being manifested in the broader culture?

After all, Henry Jenkins says unapologetically that he is an "aca-fan," and academics who use Facebook show their fandom for famous dead philosophers, theoretical schools, university presses, bands, or sports teams all the time.

On the other hand, traditionalists might argue that these kinds of emotional display show that the idea of the academic "star" is being taken too literally or that this digital commodification of a personality by faculty and graduate students is not becoming that different from the trivialization of academic work that comes into play when undergraduates give chili peppers for "hotness" on a ratemyprofessors profile.

For the meantime, my impulse would be not to judge and simply to observe how these discourse practices are taken (0r not taken) as conventions among those who take themselves to be part of the scholarly tribe. And I say this as someone who has never, ever been given a chili pepper on my ratemyprofessors page.

Update: This item was picked up here in the Wired Campus blog from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Ironically, the writer excerpts my comments so that it is not clear that I am making an argument for critical distance about academic fandom.

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Blogger Lupton said...

I have also seen Facebook pages set up around attractive male instructors, such as "The Future Mrs. **** [Name of Male Instructor] Fan Club" or the "We love **** [Name}." The flip side are the mean groups .... All I can say is, it wasn't like this when I went to school!

9:47 PM  
Blogger William Allan Kritsonis, PhD said...

Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, PhD, Professor, PhD Program in Educational Leadership, PVAMU, The Texas A&M University System.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out the too-often adolescent banality of the aca-fan. Jenkins' work in many ways is liberating and in many ways remind me that the real world is in fact not like high school, but middle school. I thought notions like 'critique' imply a respectful distance. Instead, academics want to insert themselves into the frame.

6:54 PM  

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