Writing and Remixing

For the past year, I have been studying adolescent literacy and fan culture.  I am interested in how online affinity spaces shape the way in which young people read and respond to young adult literature, such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

Around the world, fans are writing Harry Potter-based and Hunger Games-inspired stories, creating art, producing videos, composing music, and designing role-playing games. These remixing practices blur “any clear-cut distinction between media producer and media spectator, since any spectator may potentially participate in the creation of new artworks” (Jenkins, 1992, p. 247).

The Potter Games, an online choose-your-own adventure story, is a great example of how young fans are engaging in writing and remixing. It features 24 stories, each written by a different fan. Writers were assigned a specific Harry Potter character, required to use a choose-your-own adventure format, and asked to imagine what would happen if this character was placed into The Hunger Games arena. How would they respond in this new and unfamiliar setting? Would they sacrifice their friends? Would they kill or be killed?

Since its launch in mid-2011, The Potter Games has had half a million visits and 40,000 Facebook likes. Cassie (a pseudonym), one of the young women in my study, recently contributed a choose-your-own adventure story for Colin Creevey. She’s an active participant in The Hunger Games fandom, and she was excited for the opportunity to consider how Colin would react if he found himself in the Arena.  Cassie believes that the online fandoms related to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games changed her understanding of the plot, characters, and themes. She says they “allowed me to explore perspectives other than my own… I see more of the world that the author has created.”

In order to write her choose-your-own adventure story, Cassie conducted a character study of Colin Creevey. She re-read all seven Harry Potter books in order to understand his motivations and goals as a character. Next, she re-read The Hunger Games trilogy and reflected on the setting of the Arena. She asked herself, “What would it take for Colin to win? How could he betray Harry, Ron, and Hermione? As a writer, how can I design a victory path for him?” Moreover, Cassie used J.K. Rowling’s and Suzanne Collins’ novels as mentor texts in order to learn more about writers’ craft.

Cassie’s story, in many ways, reflects her advanced understanding of genre and narrative. As a literacy researcher, it was incredible to hear Cassie describe her writing and remixing process. Young adults’ out-of-school literacy practices can shed light on how they engage with modes, semiotic resources, and authentic audiences today.

Fan art by woshibbdou

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