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Affinity Groups

Affinity Groups, Expressions, Shared Pleasures and Desires

The formation of affinity groups that provide platforms for the expression of the shared pleasures of, and active engagement with "content worlds" emerge as a crucial node along the trajectory.  In some cases, the  affinity group forms in the context of fandom, and
satisfies the desire to continue, and simultaneously complicate, encounters with the content worlds. For example, Andrew Slack and others founded the Harry Potter Alliance after the last Harry Potter had been written, released, read, and discussed. The Alliance seeks to provide continuity to the content worlds created by the series  Similarly the practices of the Living Room Rock Bands extended the musical experience, while simultaneously providing opportunities to share these experiences.  Evident in all the communities included in our case study are Jenkins' characteristics of participatory culture described above. We purposely chose communities with these characteristics in order to investigate why and how they might contribute to the likelihood of members becoming involved in civic concerns. 

The creative expressions facilitated by communities based in participatory cultures  are well documented in the work of Henry Jenkins, Project New Media Literacies as well as the Digital Youth Project. While varied in scope, this existing research follows individual member's creative expression and the work  a group creates together, as well as the way in which these the shared creative process deepen social bonds through collaboration and exchange. We observe the importance of this community creation and personal expression in our case studies. For the Living Room Rock Gods, the creative experience happens with the "virtual bands" - collective performance - each musician playing one instrument, geographical distance transcended with technology.

In the case of Racebending, the existence of the campaign is an "an act of communal creation" itself, and boasts an abundance of enthusiastic, active and creative production efforts. A search of the word "racebending" on Youtube yields over eighty videos, including videos like "Fighting Casting Racism", personal pledges to boycott the movie, and a slideshow called "A Brief History of Yellowface in Pictures".
A visual essay posted on the Aang Ain't White LiveJournal account inspired Youtube user chaobunny12 to produce the video essays, including Asian Culture in the Avatar World, juxtaposing images from the Airbender cartoon with images showing the Asian architecture, dress, and practices which inform and style the story world. Chaobunny's work in turn roused doldolfijntje to create a response video, similar in construction but focused specifically on comparing images of Airbender's water tribe to images depicting Inuit culture. Pooling their skills in illustration and design, fanartists have created a compelling campaign of smart taglines paired with a simple representation of Aang, powerful in its recollection of street-art stenciling techniques. This collectively produced work has been distributed via postcards, banners, stickers, buttons, a visual guide to the controversy, and t-shirts. At the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, Racebending organizers Mike Le and Dariane Nabor invited artists to collaborate on a sketchbook, which they've now shared online. Response from the larger fan network included more creative endeavors: a comic titled "Heresies" at penny-arcade.com, blog posts at angryblackwoman.com, and more, and "a brief and incomplete history...of white actors taking strong Asian roles", featuring 10 video clips with commentary on Hyphen Magazine's blog.
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