“By focusing on the informational dimension, I am attempting to critically examine the capacity of the digital sphere to provide an authentic picture of social reality constituted altogether by online and offline social spheres. Does the social reality presented online mirror offline social circumstances? How valid are the pieces of information retrieved online, from a comfortable position at one’s desk?” (Numerato, D 2016).
Numerato identifies the questions that are crucial as Ethnographers to engage with as they are beginning their research. For our aim as Ethnographer’s studying online media is to delve beyond the digital mask we create, and to understand why we do what we do.
In engaging with Numerato’s work, it has sparked me to analyse my own world and to identify where I am able to use these questions to discover something more. Over the years I have become immersed within the world of True Crime through the ways in which it is portrayed through the media. Whether it be through a TV Show, a movie or a podcast, I am instantly hooked, feeling as though I am an amateur sleuth trying to uncover the mystery that lays before me.
Through engaging with Netflix’s Making a Murderer’ I have discovered the power of fandom’s and their role in being able to sway public opinion. In the case of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, both have been convicted of heinous crimes and till this day still remains in jail, however after the release of these this media text a cult following has been created and has influenced the future of their cases.
The effect that the show has had on Avery’s case is evident in a lawyer for the Innocence Projects, Kathleen Zellner’s, decision to join his defense team as she had “been paying close attention to the hundreds of tips sent to her office by fans” (Harkness, R 2016). Zellner has made great strides in his case and is in the process of helping him appeal his conviction. The fandom also created a petition to the President to have his conviction overturned with over 380,000 people signing it.
Throughout my research, I want to engage with individuals within these fandoms in order to understand why they have become so immersed in the lives of two individuals who are currently serving life sentences for murder. Although it can be concluded that the media has a major role in helping in shaping these opinions, it fascinates me as to why media audiences become devoted fans.
“The emphases on intensive personal involvement in naturally occurring situations, and on nonquantitative methods, have traditionally been crucial” (Horgan, M 2013). Horgan highlights that the effect of personal involvement within research methods allows an Ethnographer to be able to understand their audience better. As I have engaged with Making a Murderer and am myself, someone who enjoys True Crime, I believe that it will aid me in better understanding why these fandoms are created.
Check out the trailer for the documentary below and stay tuned to hear more about how I am going to go about researching why fandoms are created and how they are able to influence True Crime cases.