K-12 Educator Workshop (10.1.16, Smith College)

Anti-American Boardgame

I’ll be talking on the subject of “Childhood, Play, and Twentieth-Century Chinese Nationalism: History and Curriculum” on Saturday, October 1 at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

Links for participants:

The “Chinese-American Boardgame” at ChinesePosters.net – See for a full-sized copy to print, along with translations and instructions, and historical background.

Morningsun.org – Website to accompany the documentary film Morning Sun (d. Carma Hinton, Geremie Barme, Richard Gordon; 2003) with useful textual, audio, and visual resources on the subject of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Susan Fernsebner, “Chinese Propaganda Posters,” Teaching Case Study in Children and Youth in History, Item #269, https://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/case-studies/269

Susan Fernsebner, “Late Imperial China,” Teaching Module for in Children and Youth in History, Item #221, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/case-studies/221

 

 

Final Project!!

Note: I had to cut some of my project from the presentation because it was too long! :( So I will include the original here, and Dr. Fernsebner also has the original. Basically, I cut the third focus question, but kept some of the information from it.

Prezi Presentation

Script for the Presentation:

Recently, more and more cosplayers are choosing to make a separate, public Facebook page in order to post their newest costumes, share information about upcoming conventions and events, and update their viewers on progress of their cosplays. The fact that it is a trend and is used to maintain relationships between cosplayers indicates a sense of community. Therefore, the use of Facebook in this way provokes an interesting question; does the community of cosplay mean that they share a common identity? After delving into a myriad of cosplayer pages in order to determine the answer, I came up with three central questions through which I could explore this topic.

(Next slide)

  1. Why do cosplayers make public Facebook pages?
  2. What is the process of making an online identity as a cosplayer?
  3. To what extent do people identify online as a person (the cosplayer) or the character they are playing?

Once I had answered these questions, I realized that although cosplayers did share this common hobby and therefore seemed to share a common identity, there exists distinctions in the ways in which cosplayers create and display their identity on Facebook.

 

            (Next Slide)

 

Before we get into these questions, however, I will provide you with some background.  “Cosplay” can be defined as “the practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from popular culture. The word cosplay is a combination of the words costume and play.” [1] The Internet and specifically, social media, has allowed people with this interest to connect and turn something that was once assumed to be a niche interest into a complicated and intricate sub-culture.  In my research, I came across cosplayers not only from American, Australian and the UK, but also places like South Africa, Japan, and Germany. I chose to limit my subjects to native English-speaking countries, however, because I analyze word choice, and translations into another language can lead to significant changes in the meaning behind words. Additionally, out of the many profiles I explored, the vast majority were female, and even a google search of the word cosplay (shown) shows overwhelmingly female representation. I could write a whole ‘nother project analyzing why this may be, but given the time and size parameters of this project, I decided to focus on the female cosplayers to give me a larger selection with which to explore and answer my focus questions.

With this information in mind, I will continue onto to my first question;

Why do cosplayers make public Facebook pages?

I originally intended to interview cosplayers I knew, however, the limitations of the project made this difficult. By chance however, I managed to find an interview by a cosplayer named MangoSirene in an online magazine where she describes the link between Facebook and Cosplay. Her public page, she claims, is a “mix of behind the scenes shots, photos shoots, and general shots of real life as a cosplayer.”[2] Her mentality towards cosplay is that she’s “doing this to show my love of these characters, to help other cosplayers, and to be a source of positivity in the cosplay community.” [3] She states that being “relatable” is important, and that these profiles on Facebook can be used to “organize your work and act as a portfolio; connect with other artists, and …share your artwork and creativity.”[4] All of these claims from MangoSirene indicate a broad sense of community within the cosplay culture. By noting how cosplayers should “help” one another and be a “source of positivity,” she reinforces this sense of community while also implying that cosplayers have a sort of responsibility to each other.

(Next Slide)

 

Let us now look at an example in order to breakdown a cosplayer’s public page on Facebook, in order to answer the second question; What is the process of making an online identity as a cosplayer?  Here is DoubleHelix Cosplay’s page. Much like my own and others’ private Facebook pages, public pages contain a profile picture and a background or “cover” photo. However, it also has other features that private pages do not have, like the title of a page instead of a person’s name, how many likes the page has, and a short description that the account holder writes. This description will be important later on in the presentation, as word choice can tell us much about the way the author identifies. Likewise, the subtitle underneath the title is something the author chooses and when analyzed can tell us much about the cosplayer.

(Next Slide)

There were other similarities between cosplayers besides this common formula of format. Some cosplayers chose to make a specific kind of cover photo, and I noticed this was kind of a pattern. These cover photos were divided into sections of three or more and displayed different costumes the cosplayer had worn or made. Examples shown are FriscoBlondie and Double Helix Cosplay.  Every cosplayer I researched also partook in “Photo Shoots,” where they had some sort of photographer take their photo in order to show off their cosplay. Sometimes this was alone, and sometimes they were taken with others. They often included tagging the photographer and fellow cosplayers within the post, as shown with the posts of MangoSirene and Kayla Erin.

 

The similarities in types of posts and cover photos, as well as the common format might lead us to the conclusion that these cosplay profiles are largely the same, but with deeper research I realized this was not accurate. Cosplayers vary on everything from their choice of name, subtitle, description, use of social media, number of likes, and amount of personal life included.  Let’s look at some examples. Kayla Erin is different to many other cosplayers; she decides to call herself “Kayla Erin” rather than *blank* cosplay, like Ferret Cosplay. Kayla Erin appears to have a larger fan base, with many more likes than Ferret Cosplay. Further proof of her larger fan base is demonstrated in her listing of a PO Box for “fan mail” as well as a link for booking her as a cosplayer. In terms of social media, Kayla Erin and FerretCosplay both use YouTube, but Kayla uses deviantArt as well, while FerretCosplay lists her Twitter and Instragram accounts. Both Ferret Cosplay and Kayla Erin identify as “cosplayers” but FerretCosplay calls herself a “journalist, [and] writer first, and also a “gamer [and] nerd.” Distinctions such as these allow us to realize that there are differences in the ways cosplayers choose to display their identities online.

 

Perhaps the most fascinating question follows; to what extent does the cosplayer identify as the character? The different profiles I examined provided me with plenty of content to explore this question. The answer I determined was that, the language cosplayers use to describe themselves when dressed as the character varies. Let us use the example of a single cosplayer by the name of AspenCosplay. Here is her profile, and as I explored further, I noticed that some posts would lean more towards assuming the character’s identity, while others described it as more of a costume. First, she describes how she “made” her first cosplay, discussing how it was something that she “work[ed]” on. She describes it as “doing” a “costume” in the next post. Subsequently, she cosplays as Pinkie Pie, while using the pronoun “I,” implying a degree of taking on the identity of this character, rather than it just being a costume. The final post prompts her followers to help her choose a costume to “take” to an upcoming con.

AspenCosplay followed a pattern I noticed across many cosplayer’s profiles; some posts would take on the identity of the character, but other posts focused on the cosplay as a costume or a product or piece of work rather than an identity. Based on this research, it seems as though cosplayers are able to distinguish that they are not the character, and they are aware of the degree of “pretend” or imagination involved when cosplaying. The word cosplay being a combination of “costume” and “performance” is therefore an accurate description. Some cosplayers, however, focus more heavily on the performance or costume aspects of the word. For example, CosplayChameleon uses her subtitle to identify herself as an “Artist,” indicating that she chooses to focus more heavily on the costume aspect of cosplay. Her description reinforces this, as the next words after “Cosplayer” in her “About” section are “seamstress, artist, [and] crafter.” Other cosplayers choose to call themselves “Entertainers” in their subtitles, as shown by Smilesare Better Cosplay. These provide us with distinctions among cosplayers, demonstrating how they can in fact be very different in the ways in which they identify.

 

Like many other sub-cultures, the rise of social media has allowed cosplayers to develop relationships across the world and create profiles. In particular, a recent trend among cosplayers is the creation of public pages on Facebook in order to display their hobby. According to cosplayers like MangoSirene, “connect[ing]” with others and “shar[ing]” artwork is the purpose of making these public profiles. It would appear that because these pages share a similar layout and a common community and hobby, they share a common identity. However, I have been studying this phenomenon in the last few weeks, and reached the conclusion that, despite being part of a larger community and sharing some similarities in terms of format, the ways in which these public pages differ create important distinctions in how cosplayers form their digital identity.

 

 

 

 

Primary Sources:

Public Facebook Cosplay Profiles, http://www.cosplay.com/forum.php, Tumblr, DeviantArt, https://www.reddit.com/r/cosplay

 

Secondary Sources:

Bolling, Ben, and Matthew J. Smith. “It Happens at Comic-Con: Ethnographic Essays on a Pop Culture Phenomenon.” 2014. https://books.google.com/books?id=u7jPAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA36&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed September 20, 2015).

Caffrey, Cait. “Cosplay.” Salem Press Encyclopedia. 2015. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?sid=61148db3-0c15-4a55-b4e2-5abd2354d62f%40sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=100259226&db=ers (accessed October 1, 2015).

Gametraders. “”Cosplay”” LIVE Magazine. September 2015. http://issuu.com/gametraders/docs/september_magazine_0f014a4e413247/1 (accessed September 30, 2015).

Hale, Matthew. “Cosplay Intertextuality, Public Texts, and the Body Fantastic.” Western States Folklore Society, Ebsco. Winter 2014. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=cb4f4613-ac14-44ec-b439-c30777a171b5%40sessionmgr4005&vid=1&hid=4103 (accessed October 1, 2015).

Lamerichs, Nicolle. ““Costuming as Subculture: The Multiple Bodies of Cosplay.”.” Scene, Vol. 2 Issue 1/2, October 2014, 113-25. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?sid=f4840306-6f15-4c60-85d8-24986bb21b3c%40sessionmgr4001&vid=0&hid=4103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=108562488&db=edb (accessed October 1, 2015).

Lamerichs, Nicolle. “Stranger than Fiction: Fan Identity in Cosplay.” Transformative Works and Cultures. 2011. http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/246/230 (accessed September 30, 2015).

“WTF Is Cosplay.” Channel 4. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/wtf-is-cosplay/episode-guide (accessed September 22, 2015).

[1] Caffrey, Cait. “Cosplay.” Salem Press Encyclopedia. 2015. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?sid=61148db3-0c15-4a55-b4e2-5abd2354d62f%40sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=100259226&db=ers (accessed October 1, 2015).

[2] Gametraders. “”Cosplay”” LIVE Magazine. September 2015. http://issuu.com/gametraders/docs/september_magazine_0f014a4e413247/1 (accessed September 30, 2015), 117.

[3] Ibid., 117

[4] Ibid., 117