Affinity spaces and pop culture

I’ve enjoyed investigating moments where fans have sidesteped the official tourist book or school textbook and instead turned to pop culture to understand the spaces and practices around them.

The concept of play to experiment and explore the spaces around you. Maybe an enthusiasm for popular culture may be a very effective way to foster deep knowledge and practice in an area (history, geography etc). I’m thinking here about the significance of Godzilla in giving fans a knowledge about Japanese geography and archetecture, or Japanese anime giving Japanese tourists a way of creating engagement with foreign locations they visit.

These pop culture texts create very engaging worlds that fans can feel an emotional connection to. Gee (2004) uses the term Affinity Spaces to describe the commitment and engagement fans can have through a shared interest in pop culture. He outlines the following advantages of an affinity space for learning over more traditional spaces of learning:
– it’s sustained by a common endevour that bridges boundaries
– people can participate how little or much they wish
– limited barrier to entry
– can constantly learn new skills or refine existing
An interest in Japanese anime and manga, Godzilla films, samurai TV shows, may foster better participation and engagement in geogrpah, history, cultural difference, etc. Recognising the importance of this pop culture and how it is used will show some of the benefits pop culture can give – it may show the platforms that exist for voices to be heard that are useually marginalised – non-English speaking tourists, children, etc and a way to understand how they perceive the world around them.
Of course it is important to explore these pop culture texts more deeply and ask what commercial, historical, social and cultural forces frame the product we engage with, and what is left out of these texts as much as what is present.


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