Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Timothy Bajkiewicz, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth Killebrew, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Randy Miller, Ph.D.


Fans, celebrities, stars, media, audience


With the rise of the mass media over the last century, fame and celebrity seem to have evolved into ever-growing phenomena. Likewise, audience members have sought increasing involvement with people or activities related to the focus of their interest. These individuals are not content to simply watch their favorite actors or films from home. Instead, they take a more active approach, engaging in activities related to their fandom as well as seeking interaction with each other in organized groups (in person and on the Internet), attending conventions, and seeking interaction with celebrities.

This study presents a discussion of fame, celebrity, and participatory fandom, to examine what motivates certain individuals to seek active involvement in fandom. Using the theories of Uses and Gratifications and Social Learning, it looks at this unique relationship and possible causes for certain members of an audience to actively participate in fandom and seek interaction with each other and with celebrities. Areas examined include social group identification, personal identification with celebrities, false intimacy with celebrities, parasocial interaction, the possibility of meeting celebrities and a feeling of empowerment as a member of a fan community.

This qualitative research took an ethnographic case study approach, using in-depth interviews and participant observation of attendees and activities at DragonCon, a large annual media convention in Atlanta, Georgia. This study sought to examine what themes might emerge to identify motivations for fans' active participation in fandom.

Seventeen participants were chosen using convenience sampling and interviewed about their experience at the convention. In data analysis, three major concepts emerged in regard to the participants' motivation for attending the convention: Fans seek out social interaction, interaction with celebrities, and enjoy being a part of a participation environment.