Okay gang, so this is not particularly well written – I’m going to need to make some changes in word choice, phrasing and such, but I just wanted to start getting my ideas out on paper in some sort of coherent fashion. Is it clear what ideas I want to explore in this paper? I’m trying to be really clear not to claim that I will be proving or explaining anything, particularly as I most certainly won’t be. Style aside, from the content, is it clear where this line of thinking might be headed?

The Sherlock Fandom, Para-social Interaction and the Production of Cultural Artifacts
by Shannon Schenck

                On 15th January 2012, the BBC aired the Series Two finale of its hit show, Sherlock, “The Reichenbach Fall.” The episode revealed Moriarty’s long withheld ultimate plan to destroy Sherlock by framing the detective as an elaborate fraud who committed the crimes he solved himself in order to make himself look clever. Virtually alone (save, of course, for the ever-faithful John Watson), wanted by the police, and unable to prove his innocence, Sherlock makes a desperate bid for freedom by jumping to his seeming demise. The season ended in an incredible cliffhanger, as we watched Dr. Watson give a tearful affirmation in his unwavering faith in his friend.

Almost immediately, a Tumblr was posted by Earl Foolish, asking fans to imagine themselves as characters within the world of the show. From this position, he asked that they imagine how they would have felt reading or watching the news and hearing the accusations that Sherlock was a fraud. He then prompted them to respond in this kind in real life, as a tribute campaign. Encouraging fans to make t-shirts, write on lampposts, hang signs, Earl Foolish began a movement by participatory fans that has caught on around the world. Within days a Facebook page and multiple Tumblr accounts were created, where fans could display their “I Believe in Sherlock” campaign photos and updates. Fans across the world were hiding sticky notes in library books, leaving notes on chalkboards, and sporting homemade apparel. With one simple Tumblr post, Earl Foolish had started a campaign that created a series of transmedia Sherlock memes.

There are two interesting ideas at play in a scenario such as this. The first – and perhaps, most apparent – are the actions of the fans themselves. What spurs people to cross the line from a viewer of a program to someone who actively engages in cultural production in support of these shows? There are numerous studies on fandom, parasocial interaction, and uses and gratifications that may provide some tools for understanding. The other, question relates directly to the cultural artifacts themselves. What do these memes mean? What is their significance? To this end, semiotics may offer some insight. Through the exploration of these two areas of study – semiotics, and media use and fan studies – we may begin to explore the unique interplay between user and artifact that is participatory fan culture.

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