The case study of Sherlock Holmes (2009): an ethnographic investigation into the systematic cultivation of a fan

Coelho, Samantha
Treadwell, Gregory
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This study investigates a consumer's relationship with mass media and the cultivation of the consumer's consequent state of fandom. The scope of this study encompasses the commercialisation of storytelling's social functions, the media's ability to manipulate both viewers and scholars, and an examination into the practice of cultivation theory and its relationship with culture. Within this study, the definition and application of the term "fan" is questioned, and both the theoretical and commercial value of studying this particular part of the audience is examined. Both the objective and scope of this study is inspired by Abercrombie and Longhurst's audience continuum (1998) and by Bourdieu's economic class system (as cited in Hills, 2002). Abercrombie and Longhurst (1998) place fans along a five-stage continuum, which includes the consumer, the cultist, enthusiast, and petty producer. Bourdieu, from a cultural studies perspective, defines fandom as a working class interaction with a text, and places them last on his own scale after the dominant bourgeoisie, the dominated bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie (as cited in Hills, 2002). The practical objective of this study is to expand upon these theories and to construct a working model of the fan cultivation process. In terms of methodology, this study is an instrumental and collective case study about a consumer's cultivated response to the movie Sherlock Holmes (2009). It is designed to be a qualitative humanistic examination of fan cultivation, adopting pure participant observation and variation of observant participation ethnography as its primary method of research. The researcher undertakes the ethnographic position of the cultivated consumer and documents her journey in an ethnographic journal divided into three sections: substantive, analytic and thick description field notes. The researcher, while on her ethnographic journey, engages with various franchise-related products. These products are divided into categories: the primary product, original products, and official secondary and unofficial secondary products. The field notes collected undergo a reflexive examination and a cultivation analysis. As a result, the researcher is subsequently cultivated to the degree of an educated academic-fan, revealing that consumption coupled with consistency cultivates a consumer's investment and loyalty towards a product and ultimately fandom, and that fandom is the emotional consumption of consistent enchantment. In turn, a consumer-to-fan cultivation continuum and model is designed, and a creative component critique is constructed to exemplify the model. This case study therefore answers the question: When does a consumer become a fan, and what happens next?

Fan , Cultivation , Ethnography , Fandom , Sherlock Holmes , Consumer , Case study
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