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.