Fan cultures in radio
This week the Radio Labs blog is going to be leaving the world of technology we normally write about and will look at another side of the internet. For the past year or so I have been working with three universities on a study of the online behaviours of listeners and fans of BBC radio and over the rest of this week we're going to be publishing guest posts from each of the researchers on their case studies; interactivity on the BBC Radio messageboards, the off-BBC activity of fans of Terry Wogan, fan cultures around the Archers and how the BBC serves specialist music fans.
The project has been jointly funded by the BBC and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in an initiative aiming to enable collaborative arts and humanities research between the BBC and universities in the UK. At the beginning of 2007 the BBC's Innovation Culture team sent out a Call for Proposals. I had just read Henry Jenkin's Convergence Culture and I was interested in how fans of TV and radio programmes (but BBC Radio in particular) use the internet to interact around programmes and potentially extend the experience of the programme. Things like discussion forums speculating about the plot, fan fiction or user-generated videos based in the fictional world. I was hoping to answer questions like what benefit and value do the fans derive from this behaviour? Does it make them love the programme more? How can fans affect what programmes are made or how the story goes? What benefits are there for the programme makers? And what happens when programme makers try to stop fans making this kind of material?
I was then lucky enough to get into contact with a number of leading researchers in the fields of radio, music and fan studies and we were successful in our bid for funding. Many rail journeys between London, Birmingham and Cardiff ensued and we've ended up with four linked case studies - linked but running fairly independently and using different methods. The culmination of the project happened last week when we had a day presenting the findings to my BBC colleagues and now, over the course of this week, there will be four Radio Labs posts, one from each of the case studies...
"Contrasting Interactivities: BBC Radio Message Boards as an Extension of and Break from Radio's History of Listener Participation"
Bethany Klein, University of Leeds
"TOGs - 'This Ordinary Group'" - Official and Unofficial Listener Activities around Wake Up to Wogan
Matt Hills and Amy Luther, Cardiff University
"Online fan cultures around The Archers"
Lyn Thomas, London Metropolitan University
"Specialist Music and Public Service Media"
Tim Wall and Andrew Dubber, Birmingham City University
I hope you enjoy them.