PhD Candidate Jessica Doble Talks Fanfiction and Social Media Management

Jessica Doble researches fanfiction and popular culture

Jessica Doble, a PhD candidate in English at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, uses social media to reach communities.

Jessica Doble

Jessica’s research examines online communities, fandom, and popular culture media. In our chat, we talk about the politics around True Blood (HBO 2008-2014) and The Bold Type (Freeform 2017-present).

Jessica talks about why she likes Instagram: “It doesn’t feel like posting into the void.” And, we chat about Tumblr, Twitter, and her favorite folklore hashtags.

Jessica is my friend, in real life. I’m excited to share her with you today because she’s doing cool in-the-moment research (we talk about an episode that hadn’t premiered yet).

And, she uses social media in a variety of ways.

Having a curated feed and favorite hashtags to find community, is important to enjoying your social media life. Jessica knows that.

Then, hear about how Jessica is managing social media for an academic journal.

It’s all in this episode of The Social Academic.

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Meet Jessica

Listen to ‘A Chat with Jessica Doble’
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Jennifer: Hello Jessica, how are you today?

Jessica: I’m great, how are you?

Jennifer: I’m doing well. So today we are here for The Social Academic.

We’re talking with Jessica Doble, a folklore PhD student at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

So Jessica, tell me a little bit about you.

Jessica: OK.

So, I am a PhD candidate, as you said. And so I’m getting a degree in English with a concentration in Folklore.

My background is in both of those subjects. My master’s is in folklore, and I got my bachelor’s in English. So I’m definitely straddling those lines when I’m pursuing this PhD.

Jennifer: That’s wonderful.

What’s your current work in? You said your concentration is in folklore.

What’s your current project?

Jessica: Yeah. I’m working on my dissertation right now.

It focuses on popular culture media. And it’s fanfiction created by people who self-identify as fans.

Fans make the art and post it to the internet on different spaces like Tumblr, fanfiction publishing platforms.

That’s how we get this kind of communal reception, which folklore is very interested in. Community and the way in which communities are created. Particularly online communities because people are not geographically together.

So that’s definitely where my focus is. Art creation, as well as the way communities are centered around the reception of media. Specifically television series.

Political leanings in True Blood and The Bold Type

television set

Jennifer: That’s interesting. Which television series are you focusing on right now?

Jessica: So right now I’m writing a chapter on The Bold Type and True Blood, which are very different television shows (laughs).

Jennifer: They are very different. What’s the connecting link you’re writing about?

Jessica: I’m talking about the way in which the fandom aligns itself politically with, or not with, the way the show is trying to demonstrate its own political alignment.

So for example, The Bold Type is all about trying to create this feminist space. And they’re focusing on queer identity and a lot of these issues that are concerning women in the current moment.

Jennifer: Got it.

Jessica: So fandom often thinks the show isn’t going far enough.

So they want, you know, better queer representation. They want more feminism. That alignment is in line with what The Bold Type is trying to do.

The fans just want more.

Jennifer: Very interesting. And did you see similar things for True Blood?

Jessica: True Blood I would say the fandom is more conservative actually. The fanfiction I have seen on specifically, is more focused on coming back to white characters. Even if they are a queer relationship, fans are mostly “-shipping” white characters.

And so in a show that says that it’s post-racial, how is the fandom actually engaging with that idea? I think they’re turning that idea more conservatively than more progressive.

Jennifer: That’s really interesting because they’re kind of different time periods too. So looking at both of those under one lens as politically leaning for the fandom…that’s really interesting.

Do you ever talk about that on social media?

Jessica: Yes. I have been trying to talk about that. Not getting that specific because I’ve more just articulated that in the last couple days to myself (laughs)…

Jennifer: Of course!

Jessica: …as I write this chapter.

Jennifer: Yeah. Things are always changing.

Jessica: So The Bold Type is actually, the new season is starting. There’s a lot conversation about the new season and what’s going to happen with the dominating queer relationship.

After tonight and as we watch the season, I’m definitely looking to have some conversations on Twitter.

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Jessica uses social media to reach fans, academics, and artists

3 panel picture: two girls on a couch excited (fans), stack of books, and paint with paintbrushes

Jennifer: So how do you currently use social media?

Jessica: Yeah.

I use it in kind of two ways.

Since I am studying fan studies, a lot of the conversations that fans are having are happening on Twitter and Tumblr.

I’m trying to use those platforms to talk to fans in, you know, kind of a fandom space.

And then, academics. I’m also trying to connect with them in a different professional capacity.

You know, sharing conversations about pedagogy, or sources or whatever. Much more academic-focused.

I’m trying to sort of bring those spaces together in my own social media use.

Jessica: Trying to create a larger conversation, it sounds like.

Jessica: Yeah.

I think fan studies is doing that pretty well actually.

There are a lot of conversations that happen on Twitter right now that talk about the way in which fan studies itself is predominantly white scholars.

And so a lot of those conversations that we would be having about fandom…we’re also having those internally as well.

Jennifer: Got it.

If you were trying to find the folklore community on Twitter, are there any hashtags you’d use?

Or, is there an account or people you’d want to go to, to check out?

Jessica: Yeah. I follow a few people.

So the American Folklore Society is the society of the nation that most folklorists are going to be participating in.

So you can tweet at their Twitter handle @AFSFolklorists.

And #FolkloreThursday was a hashtag started…really not that long ago.

And it has really been reaching across academic lines, as well as people who just like folklore things…

…fairy tales

…or creepy stories

Ant they’re using that as well.

Jennifer: Right. So you can engage with Twitter folklore at very different levels – whether you’re just interested in it, or whether you’re studying it more seriously like yourself.

Jessica: Definitely.

I really like Instagram, says Jessica Doble

Woman holding camera

Jennifer: What’s your favorite social media platform?

Jessica: I know I talked a lot about Twitter. But I really like Instagram!

Jennifer: Oh you really like Instagram? I thought you were going to say Tumblr. That’s really interesting!

So, why do you like Instagram?

Jessica: I like Instagram because it doesn’t feel so much like posting into the void.

I still kind of struggle with the way Tumblr functions, I think.

Instagram seems much more user friendly, and straightforward. I like the way Instagram lets you follow hashtags. And you can kind of expand your community in cool and productive ways.

Jennifer: How long have you been following hashtags for?

Jessica: Not that long. It’s probably been in the last year that I was like…”Yeah, job market is happening kind of soon. I should get on that.”

Jennifer: Hashtags are a really great way to find your community. And it’s really nice that just in the last year you’ve been able to realize that having those in your home feed is a good thing.

Jessica: Yeah. I think like part of the reason I go to conferences is because I find people’s research really inspiring. When people are talking about their research on social media, which I’m also trying to do…I just find that really inspiring to be able to connect with people who are doing cool things.

Jennifer: Yeah. One of my favorite things is connecting with people that I’ve met at conferences on social media.

Then I can see what they’re doing more.

Because I’m not always ready to collaborate with people. But I am always ready to see what they’re up to and what their research is all about.

Jessica: Yeah. People are doing such cool things in various spaces that you might not think to check out. But if they are, you know on hashtags, or tweeting at people you also follow. It’s also fun to see – like “Oh, that’s super interesting.”

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Talking about social media in the classroom

Desks in a classroom

Jennifer: Can I ask, do you ever use social media in the classroom?

Jessica: I haven’t used social media in the classroom in the sense of having my students using social media in a classroom assignment capacity. Definitely I’ve had students focus on social media in many of my classrooms. I’ve taught composition and actually the entire semester was focused on social media usage.

Jennifer: Wow.

Jessica: So I had them read a bunch of things that engaged with like the detriments of using social media for teens right now. Or the way in which people use social media to grieve together in communities.

Social media has been an important part of the subject of my teaching. And of course, you know, I’m incorporating fan studies in it as well.

Hashtags and tweeting at the official account


Jennifer: Of course.

So, what ways do you engage with your current audience, your followers? And, how do you most interact with them?

Jessica: I mostly try to use hashtags to try and contact the people that I…the accounts that I know sort of follow those.

#PhDLife and #AcademicTwitter are important ones across subjects.

If I’m trying to interact with those kinds of groups, I’m using those kinds of hashtags.

And then if I’m talking to a fandom source, I will often tweet @ the official account like The Bold Type or Outlander series account that other people are following because they’re fans.

If you tweet at them, and use their hashtags, you’re more likely to get in contact with them.

Jennifer: Right, because they’re already following those hashtags and that account.

Jessica: Yeah exactly.

Art editor of We Were So Small uses Instagram to reach artists

We Were So Small Journal on a laptop screen, next to book and coffee cup

Jennifer: What about Instagram? How do you like to interact with people on Instagram?

Jessica: I have a lot of different capacities that I use Instagram.

Even more than Twitter.

Because I am also the Art Editor for [the literary journal] We Were So Small.

Jennifer: Awesome.

Jessica: I actually follow a ton of artists. And post my own art there. That account, even though it’s still attached to my other things because We Were So Small is still in my ‘work’ wheelhouse…

I definitely focus, because that’s such a visual medium, on following artists and following #SmallArt…things like that that I’m definitely more interested in using it for.

Jennifer: Very interesting.

It sounds like your different platforms have different uses. Not just in the audiences that you’re approaching, but the content you’re posting as well. Is that correct?

Jessica: Yeah. I think it’s important to…

I think people are trying to be on all of them. But I think the way we’re starting to use social media is more pointed ways. And different reasons for using different platforms.

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Finding your people and conversations on social media

People sitting together on steps

Jennifer: Yes. I agree.

People are seeing that different platforms are good for different things, and using them…

I think more how the platforms were intended to be used than perhaps how academics were using it in the past. Which was largely just sharing an article with a link.

Jessica: Yeah. I think it’s way more important and more useful to try and bring a personal connection. Instead of just updating…

Jennifer: Yeah! Being personable is really important for social media. Afterall, we’re not following random accounts. We’re trying to follow other people.

Jessica: Right.

Which is kind of like…the primary function (laughs).

Jennifer: Haha…right. Of being social (laughs).

Jessica: Yeah.

Jennifer: So, what advice would you give to new grad students, faculty, or academics joining social media?

Jessica: I think finding your people is important, like we’ve been talking about.

Academics are having important conversations that typically take place in a conference setting. Or in faculty meetings about pedagogy or the future of the discipline.

Being able to find those conversations and weigh in on them, I think draws a lot of interaction to you. I think it helps you as an academic, and a thinker, to be engaging with these conversations that are happening online.

Social media management for an academic journal

Hands holding a coffee cup next to a tablet with Louisiana Folklore Miscellany pulled up

Jennifer: Yes, I completely agree.

Lastly, you are an Assistant Editor for Louisiana Folklore Miscellany.

You coordinate with authors, edit submissions. But you also run the social media. What is that like?

Jessica: It’s so cool!

It’s still very new.

It’s only a month or so old.

We’re trying to figure out some strategies for getting an audience both of authors and of people interested in Louisiana folklore to more engage with the work the journal itself is doing.

So far, we have a Twitter and a Facebook page. We’ve been mostly using it to communicate important updates and deadlines.

I’m hoping to implement a plan in the near future that works to expand our audience and directs authors and audiences to the journal.

Hoping to bridge that gap through our social media presence.

Jennifer: That’s great.

Can I ask – are there any challenges or something that you’ve found surprising or interesting involved with that?

Jessica: I find that it’s very hard to get followers (laughs) for a tiny journal out of Louisiana.

Yeah, implementing a strategy in things you maybe didn’t expect has been more challenging than I thought it would be.

It’s taking a more thoughtful approach than what I have been using in my own personal account.

Running an organization social media, is very different.

Jennifer: Yeah. I think there’s more stakes involved with following any kind of business or organization.

Definitely people are looking for communication. And so when you’re just starting out, especially when you’re new accounts, it definitely takes time.

Jessica: Yeah. Which I wasn’t expecting that.

Even though in the back of your mind, “this can take a minute.”

But when you’re like, “I’m not at 10 followers yet. How can I just get 10?” (laughs)

Jennifer: Well I wish you all the luck. I think that’s going to turn out really awesome.

Especially, it’s a new position. So plenty of time to see growth in the future and see more people interact with that community.

Louisiana folklore is important, and it should have a place for people to go to talk about it.

Jessica: Absolutely.

You can find Louisiana Folklore Miscellany on Facebook and Twitter (@LAFolkloreMISC).

That is the Twitter handle, so check us out!

Jennifer: Alright. If you are listening, be sure to follow Louisiana Folklore Miscellany on Twitter and Facebook.

Jessica: Thank you!

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Bio for University of Louisiana at Lafayette PhD candidate Jessica Doble

Jessica Doble (black and white headshot) with text, PhD student interview on The Social Academic

Jessica Doble is a PhD candidate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her current project, “Reading, Community and the Politics of Authority: Fanfiction of Popular Media,” focuses on digital media and the reception of popular texts in the context of community.

Her work has been published in a special issue on Jesmyn Ward’s work in the Xavier Review.

You can find Jessica on Twitter and Instagram at @JessicaLDoble

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Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
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