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Spoiler Alert! The Digital Literacy Development & Online Language Learning of a Sherlock Fan

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This study is situated in prior work on online fan practices and computer-assisted language learning (Sauro, 2017) and reports on a case study of the informal language and digital literacy development of a Sherlock Holmes fan who engaged in the fan practice of spoiling. Presented as part of the invited colloquium on Fan Practices for Language and Literacy Development at AAAL on March 11, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

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Spoiler Alert! The Digital Literacy Development & Online Language Learning of a Sherlock Fan

  1. 1. The Digital Literacy Development & Online Language Learning of a Sherlock Fan Shannon Sauro Malmö University
  2. 2. “A fan is a person with a relatively deep positive emotional conviction about someone or something famous...” (Duffet, 2013, p. 18)
  3. 3. CALL in the Digital Wilds “informal language learning that takes place in digital spaces, communities, and networks that are independent of formal instructional contexts” (Sauro & Zourou, 2019, p.1).
  4. 4. “Online fan networks and communities represent one type of affinity space found in the digital wilds, where learners have engaged in language and literacy learning through their involvement in a wide range of fan practices.” (Sauro, in preparation) Art: Foxestacado
  5. 5. Fan Practices • Fan translation (Vazquez- Calvo, Zhang, Pascual & Cassany, 2019) • Restorying through fan works and fanart (Thomas & Stornaiolou, 2016) • Fanfiction (Curwood, Magnifico & Lammers, 2013; Thorne & Black, 2011) • Spoiling (see Sauro, 2017 for an overview) Art: Foxestacado
  6. 6. Spoiling “…the purposeful discovery of crucial developments in the plot of a fictional story of a film or TV series before the relevant material has been broadcast or released.” (Duffett, 2013, p. 168)
  7. 7. Art: Foxestacado Case Study of Steevee To explore the informal L2 language learning and digital literacy development of a Sherlock fan who was engaged in the fan practice of spoiling.
  8. 8. Steevee’s Fan History 1990s • A fan without a fandom 2009 • Joined Supernatural Fandom • Joined Twitter; Created a fan FB page 2010 • Joined Torchwood and Doctor Who fandoms • Created a fan Tumblr 2012 • Joined the (BBC) Sherlock fandom 2013 • Spoiling Sherlock (#setlock) Art: Foxestacado
  9. 9. Language Learner Autonomy Foregrounds the agency of an individual language learner in “identifying their own needs, devising an appropriate programme of learning, and following it through to a conclusion.” (Little, 2014, p. 15) Art: Foxestacado
  10. 10. I’m going to get online and I’m going to talk to people and learn English. And I’m going to learn new words. And I used to sit there with a notepad next to Twitter and write down words I’d never seen before, look them up, learn them. Because that’s how I acquired language because I was in a German country going to university where even the English classes were held in German. I was not learning anything and I wanted to learn. (Interview, 14 December 2015) Art: Foxestacado
  11. 11. Setlock A portmanteau of set and Sherlock used by fans to refer to those who went to the outdoor film sets for Sherlock and also as a hashtag to help share spoilers across online international fan networks.
  12. 12. Symbolic Competence “the ability not only to approximate or appropriate for oneself someone else’s language, but to shape the very context in which the language is learned and used” (Kramsch & Whiteside, 2008, p. 664) Art: Foxestacado
  13. 13. The non-native speakers are really the lose canon because they might understand something incorrectly because of their own lack of knowledge of the English language or sarcasm or whatever is being used as a metaphor for example. (Interview, 14 December 2015) Art: Foxestacado
  14. 14. Due to the massive increase of hits and followers due to setlock, I somehow became someone who was consulted on various things and I realized that if I wanted to help/give answers etc., I’d have to make myself understood in the way I wanted to be – that’s when my answers got longer and more in-depth, as I wanted to make sure my arse was covered XD (Email, 7 January 2016) Art: Foxestacado
  15. 15. Digital Literacy “…a vast amount of information is now available in written form and this writing varies tremendously in terms of quality and trustworthiness. When learning to read, language learners need to develop a host of information management strategies: how to find texts online, evaluate those texts, distinguish genuine from fake websites, and so on.” (Hafner, Chik & Jones, 2015, p. 1) Art: Foxestacado
  16. 16. The first thing for interviews that I usually look for is who’s the author, what else have they written and how have they written it. Are they trying to create some panic or some sort of media attention…. What is the paper trying to reach, the writer trying to reach with it? Did they have their own agenda because they always do....Trying to take a step back and for me not immediately joining the gossip and rumour fun but rather waiting for a minute or two and trying to critically approach everything, especially where it’s from, what is the agenda behind it, what is their usual reputation regarding fandom. (Published Podcast Interview, 6 January 2015) Art: Foxestacado
  17. 17. Critical Digital Literacy “As a convergence of both digital and critical literacies, critical digital literacy examines how the operation of power within digital contexts shapes knowledge, identities, social relations, and formations in ways that privilege some and marginalize others. It equips learners with the tools to examine the linguistic and nonlinguistic features of digital media, to identify their embedded biases and assumptions, in order to access the truth.” (Darvin, 2017, p. 2) Art: Foxestacado
  18. 18. Being in fandom and being in that kind of diverse group and experiencing all that has helped a lot to prepare for here [London]…And that’s a life lesson. Especially now seeing all the Syrian refugees coming and seeing my uncle being almost like a Neonazi on Facebook… And he has no tool, neither via communication or critical thinking to deal with it, to work with it, to learn from it, to profit from it…. To think differently. To think critically. Especially to try to see it from a different point of view. And fandom has provided me with so many tools regarding my own everyday life and also accepting the other lives around me as part of the whole. (Interview, 14 December 2015) Art: Foxestacado
  19. 19. Case studies such as this one make explicit the sophisticated language and digital literacy practices developed by autonomous learners in online international affinity spaces when engaged in different fan practices. Art: Foxestacado
  20. 20. Sherlock Graphics Fox Estacado of The Art of Fox Estacado: Fine Fan Art and Geekery ( All rights reserved and used in this presentation with permission. Photographs of #setlock Shannon Sauro. Art: Foxestacado
  21. 21. References Curwood, J. S., Magnifico, A.M., &, Lammers, J.C. (2013). Writing in the wild: Writers’ motivation in fan-based affinity spaces.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(8), 677-685. doi:10.1002/JAAL.192 Duffett, M. (2013). Understanding fandom: An introduction to the study of media fan culture. New York/London: Bloomsbury. Darvin, R. (2017). Language, ideology, and critical digital literacy. In S. L. Thorne & S. May (Eds.), Language, education and technology, encyclopedia of language and education, vol. 9, 17–30. Switzerland: Springer. Hafner, C.A., Chik, A., & Jones, R.H. (2015). Digital literacies and language learning. Language Learning & Technology, 19(3), 1-7. Kramsch, C. & Whiteside, A. (2008). Language ecology in multilingual settings. Towards a theory of symbolic competence. Applied Linguistics, 29(4), 645-671. Little, D. (2014). Learner autonomy as discourse: The role of the target language. In A. Burkert, L. Dam, & C. Ludwig (Eds.), The answer is learner autonomy: Issues in language teaching and learning (pp. 15-28). Faversham: IATEFL. Sauro, S. (2017). Online fan practices and CALL. CALICO Journal, 34(2), 131-146. doi: 10.1558/CJ.33077 Sauro, S., & Zourou, K. (2019). What are the digital wilds? Language Learning & Technology, 23, 1, 1-7. Thomas, E. E., & Stornaiuolo, A. (2016). Restorying the self: Bending toward textual justice. Harvard Educational Review, 86(3), 313–338. 5045- 86.3.313 Thorne, S. L., & Black, R. (2011). Identity and Interaction in Internet-Mediated Contexts. In C. Higgins (Ed.), Identity Formation in Globalizing Contexts (pp. 257-278). New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Vazquez-Calvo, B., Zhang, L. T., Pascual, M., & Cassany, D. (2019). Fan translation of games, anime, and fanfiction. Language Learning & Technology, 23(1), 49–71. @shansauro l l Art: Foxestacado