How Do I Love Thee: A Synthesis in Three Parts

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Use fanworks to promote creative and social development while utilising the seven tools of creativity! http://j.mp/18nRu35

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In 1999, when I was fourteen, I was introduced to something called online fanfictions, which was discovered when I was surfing for webpages on animes, a newfound hobby my friends introduced to me. In one particular anime, Slayers, I discovered that I preferred the alternative pairing of Lina and Zelgadiss as opposed to Lina and Gourry, and I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. Thanks to the interwebs, I found other fans who supported that pairing, and I started to read and write fanfictions featuring that pairing. This was my first foray into the world of online fanworks, a hobby that forever changed my life to where it affected my creative and social development.

Some people may not consider fanworks to be “creative” since they are all based on media that already exist, so basically fanworks are reproduction created by fans. So some may argue that fanworks doesn’t promote creativity due to its “copying nature”, but I say it does. In fact, I want to promote fanworks as a tool to enhance creative and social development in adolescents (and even with people of all ages). It is commonly known that when children mature into teenagers, their cognitive thinking matures, they are able to think abstractly, and they began to see that the world is not simply black and white. They start thinking out of the box, and fanworks will allow them to do all that and more.

Fanworks opened a lot of new doors for me. I was introduced to a lot of writings by fellow fans — some of poor quality and some of excellent quality to where my mind would be blown away by the creator’s creativity. This exposure encouraged me to write my own fanfictions, and I also began to learn how to make and code webpages and teach myself to use graphic design programmes like PhotoShop. These activities allowed me to also communicate with other fans online where distance was a thing of the past. It was quite normal for me to have online friends in New York to Argentina to Germany to Australia, and we’d all squeal about the fandom that has brought us together. For me, Harry Potter fandom was the most influential. It was the fandom where I wrote a lot of fanfictions, participated in various online events like a writing festival (also known as “fests”), ran my own fests, helped others with their own writings by being “beta readers” (as in “proofreaders”), and befriended many like-minded fans who were there for me through my life challenges in the form of work and school. Fanworks taught me to be net savvy, to know how to be social online in ways that were very rewarding.

The world of Harry Potter allowed me to be creative through many approaches. When I think about the seven tools of creativity and how they apply to the world of fanworks, it all comes together in the end. Through CEP 818, I was given the chance to see how I could break down fanworks through these seven tools, and for the past several weeks, I’ve come to these conclusions.

Perceiving
Perceiving is the ability to use our five senses to “study” an idea or a concept that can be re-imaged or re-changed through our individual perspective. Creators who make their own fanworks are already doing that. They are taking something that already exists and are re-making and re-interpreting it into something of their own. For example, I believe that Luna Lovegood is a much better love interest for Harry Potter, but J.K. Rowling paired Harry up with Ginny Weasley. Being sorely unhappy about that outcome, I wrote fanfics that paired Luna and Harry together because in my mind, I perceived that these two are better suited for each other. That was what I came to believe in my interpretation of the original work, and that belief stimulated me to feature that pairing in my own fanworks.

Patterning and Abstracting
Patterning and abstracting are two tools that interrelate with each other — at least they do for me. When it comes to fanworks, tropes and clichés appear in works fans love. Whether it’s a movie or a book or a video game, they all have familiar tropes and clichés like the typical wise, old mentor such as Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings or Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Recognising these tropes help fans better understand the work, and understanding it allows abstracting to occur. Abstracting, for me, is to find the “essence” of the work, and once we find the essence in a particular movie or book or game, it will help us discern the “patterns” in the works in the forms of tropes and clichés. And from there we can create our own fanworks by deconstructing the original tropes and clichés and then change and re-pattern them into something different and familiar at the same time.

Embodied Thinking, Modelling, and Playing
Like patterning and abstracting, these tools also interrelate with one another. Fanworks in itself is a form of play. For many of us, fanworks are meant to be fun, a way for us to escape reality. As us fans imagine about alternate scenarios in fanworks, we can then model some of these concepts (through mediums like cosplaying), and modelling then allows us to use embodied thinking — meaning, as we model (cosplay), we combine our physical and emotional senses to bring abstract concepts to be more concrete. An example would be when I wore my Harry Potter costume on Halloween, a fun activity that allowed me to sense and feel to be a magical person, all the while wearing a robe and holding a wand. That experience is something that can then be translated into the fanwork I create, and by doing all that, I am having a terrific time.

Synthesising
Once we understand the six tools, we can then combine all of them into the final tool of creativity — synthesising. With fanworks, the finished product has gone through a synthesis. From the very first moment a creator perceive a particular work to finding the pattern and then abstracting them through embodied thinking, modelling, and playing — the finished story, art, costume, video, music, or any other medium of their choice are the synthesised product. Creativity itself is a complex journey, and thus a completed fanwork also goes on a long, fulfilling passage.

Breaking down fanworks through these seven tools of creativity has allowed me to see fanworks in a different light. Prior to doing these assignments, I’ve always been a proponent of fanworks as a way to encourage young people to be creative, but now I’ve come to appreciate fanworks even more after deconstructing them and applying the seven tools to further understand the concept.

Creativity is said to be trans-disciplinary in nature, where understanding arts, sciences, and maths is crucial to encouraging a well-rounded creative mindset. Fanworks itself is also well-rounded, too. Think about how many fanworks activity are done online. In order to participate in online fandoms, we’d have to be technologically savvy with computers and Internet, or at the least know how to use them to do minimal tasks. If we want to write fanfics, then we’d have to learn how to write and understand grammar and other literary devices to deliver a good piece of work. Same thing with fanarts, fanmixes, fanvideos, and cosplaying — one would have to learn the skills of drawing, song writing, video making, or sewing to create in these forms.

Creators are not just limited to being in a single medium. Many fans do multiple mediums of their choice. Some may write fanfics and also draw fanarts, and others may do cosplaying and video making. Like myself, I primarily write fanfics because writing is something I do best. I cannot draw at all, but I enjoy graphic manipulation through PhotoShop, so I can also create icons and other graphics in the fandom of my choice, and I use that skills to create graphics for my webpages that can then be a showcase of my fanworks.

Fanworks encompass many other positive attributes that contributes to one’s creative development. Online fanworks promote global and cultural exchanges. I mentioned before that I made friends all over the world, and I thank fanworks for that. My interest in animes, mangas, and video games influenced me to love Japanese culture and language, and same thing with me liking Harry Potter, which led me to adore British culture. These exposure has allowed me to experience diversity, and whatever I learn about food, the language, the culture — I can then share them in my own fanworks. Even my own location (that being Seoul, South Korea), my own experience of living in a different culture can be brought over into fanfics that takes place in South Korea, and by doing that, I share Korean life and culture with other fans who read my work.

Sharing what I know through fanworks and consuming through fanworks have been an enriching experience for me since 1999. I have seen this in many fans online, and all of these can also be done offline, too, amongst friends who share fanworks and create fanworks together in a face-to-face environment. Understandably, fanworks will not be for everyone, but it still can be something we can allow people to try. And if they do like it, then why prohibit them from expanding their creativity? Let them explore the endless boundaries of creativity. Let them discover the infinite possibilities of what fanworks and technology can offer as they use the seven tools of creativity in their own ways. And let them break down physical barriers such as distance as they “meet” fans from all over the world and become worldly in their own self-development. And lastly, fanworks is great for people of all ages. Whether they are twelve or forty, anybody can create their own works if they want!

Modelling and Dimensional Thinking Reflection

CosplayIn my previous post, I introduced the concept of cosplaying as a way to incorporate modelling and dimensional thinking, which is to bring 3-D thinking and action in a creative medium. Cosplaying falls under the fanworks genre in a way that brings an old adage to mind: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Fans who are fans of a certain character, pay homage to them by becoming them. They take a 2-D or 3-D character and bring him/her/it to life.

Ergo, cosplay is a way to model and bring dimensional thinking together. When cosplayers make or put their costumes together, they study the character’s outfit and design. They look at every known drawings and photographs of their characters, and they note the most minute details of the outfit such as the colour, the doodads like buttons and buckles, the materials, the pattern — all of these are important to the cosplayers because they want their outfits to be just right. Even hair becomes important. Many characters from animes, mangas, or video games sport unusual hair colour and/or style. Some cosplayers dye their hair, but many hunt down a wig they can model after their character. Once their costumes put together, cosplayers then act like their characters. They meet at conventions to cosplay with other fans, or they come together to do their own rendition of what they are cosplaying. In fact, see how fans decided to cosplay and re-enact this Alvin and the Chipmunks video scene! As someone who’ve seen the original film, I have to say that this real-life rendition is brilliant!

Now, in my own Hogwarts Student cosplay, I didn’t go into that much details like some cosplayers do. I just had to gather five items to complete my costume. But once I got in my costume, I felt like I had become a Hogwarts Student. My experience led me to see how it feels to wear a robe, to see how a wand feel in my hand as I pretended to cast spells, and wearing a scarf and tie at the same time made me feel claustrophobic, and I wondered how anybody could stand that. As brief as this cosplaying was (I only wore it for that Halloween since I cannot find that robe anymore!!!), it has allowed me to experience what a typical Hogwarts Student may experience, and I was able to translate that experience when I am writing Harry Potter fanfics. After all, I write what I know, and if I’ve lived through something, then it’s easier to write them out!

Therefore, modelling and dimensional thinking are two cognitive tools that should be encouraged in everyone. Even people who have form-blindness like me can use these tools. As a child and an adult, I hate building things with Lego and other building materials. I think part of my dislike stems from my poor fine-motor skills and the fact that I just cannot see 3-D in games and films that support them. Instead, I’m a very 2-D person. Even with animations, I prefer 2-D designs over 3-D. However, that doesn’t stop me from dimensional thinking and modelling through words when I write. Still, though, not everyone will be like me, and those who do not suffer from form blindness, I’d encourage to use Lego and building materials to enhance their creative development. After all, why should people limit their thinking to one dimension, when they can be capable of more?

Modelling and Dimensional Thinking Graphical Depiction

Modelling and Dimensional Thinking Graphical Depiction

I am a Hogwarts student, hear me roar! These two photos show my Halloween costume from 2006, and this right here is a form of cosplay. Cosplay is where fans put together costumes of their favourite characters (or create a character within that fandom’s universe) and they wear their costumes in public (like at a convention) to show their love of that particular fandom. Cosplaying is not limited to Halloween, and it can occur anytime of the year. I chose to cosplay a Hogwarts student that year, and this took months of preparation. I bought the robe, the tie, the wand, and the patch separately online, and my awesome friend knitted me that scarf. I chose my Hogwarts House to be Slytherin because I identified myself as as that back then.

Some cosplayers are real professionals who take the time to sew their costumes from scratch, and they even purchase wigs and style them! See below a group cosplaying characters from Persona 4, a video game, compared to the original character designs. Such attention to details are commonplace for cosplayers.

persona4 Persona 4 Cosplayers

Original cosplay photo found via Platinumukatsuku’s Tumblr and character design photo found here.