A New Hope: Infusing Fan Culture into Technology Programming

Oftentimes we read about how teens are “digital natives”. They are pretty adept at finding the latest, weird YouTube video or downloading songs to their phones. But when it comes to being media creators instead of just media consumers — yeah, they’re pretty good at that too. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely teens who have never touched iMovie or GarageBand or deem themselves “horrible” with technology. But a lot of the teens I’ve come across have worked with these programs either for fun or out of necessity for school projects. So how can we entice them to tinker with these programs and explore digital media creation (and literacy) further?

An answer that has worked for me is…



I love fandoms! And, luckily, so do a lot of teens! And by infusing the built-in fun of fandoms into digital media projects and library programs, you get the built-in audience of its fans!

A recent example of a program I hosted that combines technology and fandoms was called Hologram Yourself. And, you guessed it, teens made holograms of themselves!

It all started after I came across an activity on social media that showed how to use office supplies and your smartphone to project a hologram. Yup, a hologram!


A video posted by monsieurBen (@benjii88) on


You can make one too following this simple Instructable.

Things you’ll need to make your hologram viewing pyramid:

  • graph paper or the PDF provided in the Instructable
  • scissors
  • a permanent marker
  • clear tape
  • and a clear plastic sheet like a CD case or toy packaging or overhead transfers (Note: I went to the dollar store and bought foil trays for their clear plastic lids.)

After constructing your hologram viewing pyramid, you can do a YouTube search for “hologram pyramid video” on your smartphone, place the pyramid on the screen, turn off the lights, and watch videos like this come to life!

Now you might be wondering, “but where is the fandom?!” Well, when I saw the hologram pyramid in action, this was the first thing to come to mind…

“I’m a hologram.” -Princess Leia


STAR WARS! Only the biggest fandom right now! So I bought a lightsaber (for purely professional reasons) and worked on creating my own holograms.

Things you’ll need to make your own hologram image:

  • a lightsaber, of course
  • Photoshop or other GIF-making photo editor (Note: For the program, I found that it was easier to make a short GIF using Photoshop than a video since I couldn’t figure out how to configure that 4-image thing in iMovie.)
  • a video camera like on your smartphone
  • a dark room

What you then do with these things:

  1. Film in a dark room or with the proper lighting to illuminate just the face. I liked it completely dark with the lightsaber as the only source of light.
  2. Make sure your video is only about 5 seconds long. (Note: If you’ve made GIFs before, you’ll know that 5 seconds will make a large size GIF! You’ll actually probably end up shaving it down more once you get to editing.)
  3. Import your video into Photoshop and prepare it as a GIF. (Note: Instructions on how to do that can be found here.)
  4. The only trick now is to duplicate each layer (or frame) of the GIF and create the 4-image configuration.
  5. Upload your completed GIF to the web or email it to yourself.
  6. Place the pyramid on your smartphone and view yourself as a hologram!

Things to consider:

  • Prototype. Try making a working hologram before you commit to it as a program! I’m sure we all try to prototype a program before we commit to it, but this one can be complex so really make sure it’s something feasible for you.
  • Clear instructions. Almost all the teens at my program had never worked with Photoshop before (as I predicted), so I really made sure my instructions were clear and well-paced. I’d suggest providing teens with a cheatsheet with basic instructions or keyboard shortcuts.
  • A helper. If you can, have another instructor in the room with you! New software, especially something as massive as Photoshop, can incite lots of one-on-one questions.

The holograms that the teens made were pretty awesome! They had a good time filming their GIFs and, as you can probably imagine, really enjoyed playing with the lightsaber. We talked a lot about Star Wars: The Force Awakens which premiered a few days before the program, and were extremely wary of spoilers.

Overall, it was a program for teens to geek out about fandoms, technology, and to create something different! And for me, the best part was that they could now make GIFs to surely bring LOLs all over the web!


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