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The Internet and Television Fans

It is important to clarify the difference between television viewer and television fan since this research will be analyzing mostly messages posted by fans of the telenovela “El Clon”. According to Bielby et. al. (1999) television viewing is a relatively private engagement. On the other hand, television fans participate in a variety of activities that go beyond the private act of viewing instead, reflecting a deeper emotional involvement with a television narrative. These activities might be purchasing or subscribing to fan magazines, writing letters to actors, producers, writers, or to fan publications, attending events, and certainly exchanging messages with other fans on electronic bulletin boards.

Nancy Baym (1997) conducted an initial research on the online communication of soap opera fans through participant observation and discourse analysis of posts and online surveys of the rec.tv.soaps Usenet newsgroup. Baym focused her studies of the newsgroup as a community, narrowing the research to the sub-group of the soap opera “All My Children”. Some of her conclusions about the Internet influence in changing fan groups are as follow:

… First, the Net has allowed audience communities to proliferate. Where geography might not have allowed the critical fan mass to let a community coalesce, the removal of that boundary lets fans of even the most obscure shows, films, bands, and the like find one another. As fans access one another with greater regularity and frequency, interpretations of the media are increasingly collaborative (Bayam, 1997, p. 215).

The melting of geographical barriers can be observed in the forum for the telenovela “El Clon”. Even though this forum is for the US broadcast by Telemundo, many posters disclosed that they were participants from different countries, such as Venezuela, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Turkey.

The research conducted by Bird (1999) of the television series “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” reports an ethnographic study of an e-mail list devoted to fans of the show. For three years, the researcher observed and participated in this electronic fan group. Her conclusions suggested that there is a sense of community expressed by the members, and that ethnographic study can indeed be conducted online.

While there has been little research on message boards for telenovela or soap opera audiences, studies of online message boards have been conducted to evaluate different subjects such as the impact of a specific message board on the stock market (Turmakin &Whitelaw, 2001); to evaluating how NFL (National Football League) fans use the message boards to publicly display their association with their teams (End, 2001), or studies of the X-Files fans’ community (Wakefield, 2001; Nellis, 2002) among others.



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Acknowledgements / Dedication - Abstract





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