The concept of "Participation" that I am exploring for the final essay has led me to make a new leap and join FanFiction.net. Today I have published my very first story - actually, the very first chapter of my very first FanFic. As I mentioned in my earlier journal on fanfics, I wanted to explore the possibility of creating an alternate version of a story as this was not directly described in the section of the text. So I have begun a story entitled "The March Into Darkness," which will track Anakin Skywalker (of Star Wars lore) in his early career from the time he is roughly 18 years old until the time that he becomes Darth Vader. The first chapter I have written reveals how Anakin meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, and trust me when I say that it is much more than the simple hand-shake exchanged in the movie Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace!
From the little I've seen of it, FanFiction.net is an incredibly well put-together website. I first had to create a login name and password. I also needed to accept the terms and conditions of the site and its policy regarding posting stories. I was able to upload my story into the site using a tool called "Document Manager." Once the story is uploaded, I selected the "New Story" feature in order to publish the work. I needed to provide a title and short summary of the story. I then needed to provide the language that the story is in (i.e. English) as well as a rating (i.e. T, which I think means suitable for teenagers). I then provided two genres (Science Fiction and Tragedy), chose the category "In-Progress" as opposed to "Complete" as I will add more chapters later, set the world to "Original," and designated two of the characters used to Obi-Wan K. and Anakin S. I then chose my saved story to publish and selected the option "Publish New Story." A message appeared letting me know that the story was successfully published but that it may take 4-8 hours for the story to be available through the search engine. I later received an e-mail with a direct link to the story, so you may access it here. In case the link does not work, the URL is http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5549787/1/.
It is exciting and a little bit scary to open up your writing for the world to see and pick apart through commentary. I hope that someone does find my work and provide some feedback. I will continue to track this and let you know the results. I also plan to try reading a few other stories in the same genre to get others' ideas of the Star Wars universe and leave some comments for them as well. This is essentially online FanFiction networking at its finest. Hopefully I will be able to make a few contacts so that I will become better known in the world of FanFiction.net, and then this could lead to more viewers/readers. Fanfiction is a terrific example of participation because it encompasses different levels of participation. There is the authorship end of the spectrum, but then there is also feedback and networking. It is a great place to promote literacy in both reading and writing as other people who are more experienced readers and writers can leave tips for those who are just learning.
This would be a wonderful tool to use in the classroom if there was a way to make sure that the participating students were protected from potentially giving out too much information. Perhaps the teacher could instruct the students on how to set up accounts so as not to provide too much information. Or perhaps FanFiction.net could accommodate schools by offering separate secure sites where students can post work and then choose who can see that work and who can comment on it. There are some good security measures already in place on the site. For example, users can choose not to display e-mail addresses or locations on their profiles. They can also choose to block certain users, but I would suggest an option to have an "Add Users" list as well so that a person can choose to block everyone except those people he or she would like to be able to view that person's work (i.e. classmates).