Fandom & Media: A Co-dependent Love Story

When speaking about fandom within the context of the ever-growing realm of social media, it is inherent that we clarify that it is not technology that dictates fan behavior nor is it fan behavior that delegates the structure of technology. Rather, the relationship between fandom and new media is mutually developmental, meaning that they both adapt according to each other. This idea is known as “convergence culture”, a term coined by Henry Jenkins, the founder and director of the comparative media studies program at prestigious MIT. Think of fandom and Web 2.0 as figures in a co-dependent relationship where both parties look to each other for potential ways to better their roles.

This idea of convergence culture suggests that these platforms that facilitate fan communities are nothing new, but that they are in fact merely adaptations of platforms from old media. For example, websites (such as http://www.lindsaylohansource.com) dedicated to reporting upon the happenings of a specific celebrity, politician, band, or what have you are not a new thing. Checking this kind of website on a regular basis or even following a public figure(s) on Twitter is just an adaptation of the Fan Club, an engraved figure from the time of Old Media. These fan clubs provided a service that was foundationally equitable to platforms existing in New Media with the intent of providing a place for fan communities to engage.

For example, if you belonged to a Bugs Bunny fan club than you could receive letters in the mail that suggested that they were from Bugs Bunny himself. Nowadays, fans turn to public figures’ blogs, twitters, websites, etc. to find messages that are also supposedly directly coming from the figures themselves. As you can see, both the old and new fan platforms were providing fans with the same (albeit false) sense of a relationship between themselves and their icon.

Furthermore, fans on a mailing list could also receive invitations to events where they could meet their icon and/or interact with fellow fans. New Media has merely adapted the same general idea by making this coming together of a fan community easier. Now, fans can find each other online through a variety of web resources and then communicate with each other any time they want even if they’re countries apart.

To further exemplify how fan communities facilitated through new media are merely grown-up versions of their old media counterparts, we can examine fans’ desire to create for each other. Fans were creating things for each other (fanzines, slash fiction, drawings, songs, etc.) even before new media reared it’s pretty head. Fans could distribute to display these creations by entering a picture in an art contest, singing a song about their icon at open mic night, etc.). New media came along and recognized this desire fans had to create for each other and simply found ways to make the dissemination of these materials between each other and the public faster, easier and wider spread. For example, there are now blogs dedicated entirely to Star Trek slash fictions and fan-made music videos on Youtube.

The important thing to remember is that fans do not do these things because new media allows them to; they’ve been behaving this way even before Web 2.0. However, on the other end of the spectrum, new media didn’t facilitate places for fandom to exist just because fans wanted it to. Instead, new media wanted these fans to participate so they provided places fan communities could exist, but then new media affected fandom by facilitating activities that had not been imagined and/or possible before.

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4 thoughts on “Fandom & Media: A Co-dependent Love Story

  1. Terrific insight about the relationship between fandoms and media! Each influences the other, and they build off each other to better the experience for the fans. The more technology and media have progressed, the more a fandom has developed and changed. Fan sites have become faster in communicating with members and subscribers, and now, instead of having to schedule a get-together a month in advance via snail mail, people can now instantly have a group chat via the internet. Some things about fandoms haven’t changed, such as organizing conventions dedicated to geeking out about said fandoms, but other things have. Like you mentioned, people can now post fan-made videos online for the world to see and pretend to be a character on Twitter. And like you mentioned, new media have made it possible to forge new ways for fans to show their love, but it is not just a one-way development street. Fans have helped to direct the structure of media sites because of the material they can now post to public forums. It’s a wonderful thing which I sincerely pray will never end. I honestly was not even truly aware of fan clubs before the internet. I think I was a part of the Mary-Kate and Ashley fan club, but a month would pass before each letter came in the mail. Even then, what was sent was really not that interesting. I love the instantaneous updates about TV shows, movies, and other such things, and I enjoy being able to see other people’s reactions to what’s being posted. Being able to quickly connect with others who are like me makes the fan culture a much fuller experience. Fans make everything better!

  2. These are great examples of the convergence culture. Fandom has definitely come a long way throughout the years. Being such a big fan of many different things in my life (I’m a very passionate person ;]), I’ve seen the way fandom has become more and more tied to new media over the years. I remember when I was in elementary school, I was really into Backstreet Boys (who wasn’t?). When I would pass notes in class I would sign them, “#1bsbfan.” I don’t ever remember actually being in a fan club, but I remember my aunt having to stand in line to buy us concert tickets. When I was in high school I was HUGE John Mayer and the whole fandom completely changed because of new media. It was so easy for me to just click a button, pay a small fee, join a fan club, get access to pre-sale tickets, and even joined an online trivia contest and got to meet John Mayer! New media definitely made me become an even bigger fan. When twitter was just getting started and John Mayer was still on it he actually tweeted me back once. And that was so exciting! Now it seems like some celebrities tweet to people all the time and as fans that is so exciting to get to have to interaction with them. Like I said, I’m a very passionate person, when I get into something, I get into it 110%. The convergence culture has made this John Mayer nerd really happy.

  3. Fantastic blog post! You spotted a great relationship between fan culture and social media. This is semi-related but I find it fascinating that when people talk about fan culture and the massive amounts of creative things fans put together in dedication of their favorite people, shows, etc. they always bring up slash fanfiction. Sometimes, I wonder if people get the wrong impression that in fan culture, the only noteworthy piece of fanfiction is the slash variation. In truth, slash fanfiction has got to be one of the most interesting. I could go on for days talking about its many facets and what it means about the sexuality of people not to mention psychoanalyze someone based on their slash fanfiction desires but, as I’m sure you know, there is other fanfiction out there – not just slash. There’s countless amounts of similarly creative (and often just as weird) fanfiction out there that isn’t solely based on the relationships of the characters of a film or TV show. Some of the most well-written stuff is often slash but there are some great work out there that reads like a novel or screenplay that just continues where a film, book, or TV show left off and that’s truly the main goal of many fan writers. Sure, you want to join a group of other users around the world about how your two favorite characters should be romantically involved but what if you just want to dole out some ideas of your own about how Inception really ended? Just something I thought was interesting to note considering the popularity of slash fanfiction is surely out there especially thanks to new media. New media got slash fanfiction out there in the public’s eye which is both terrifying and sort of gratifying since these fans don’t have to be so in hiding anymore. I would definitely suggest checking out http://wtffanfiction.tumblr.com (*WARNING* Explicit content). Its fun to read through the entries, though, and laugh.

  4. I loved your post. You noted several interesting comparisons and correlations. There was one interesting point you made and that was that “This idea of convergence culture suggests that these platforms that facilitate fan communities are nothing new, but that they are in fact merely adaptations of platforms from old media”, but I do think that the internet provides new ways of participating in these fandom’s. Social Media and the internet have provided a new outlet in which fans can connect, share information, and create new content faster and easier than ever before. The internet offers new opportunities for fandoms. Celebrities, artist, and politicians can be contacted via twitter accounts. Willie Nelson has personally responded to one of my tweets and several other musicians have as well. There is a whole new level of involvement. This is something that couldn’t be done before the internet. I can connect instantly with individuals who share my interest. My fanfiction can be read by hundreds of users within days. I can join online chartrooms, where we can discuss different movies that I enjoy. I suppose some aspects of fandoms on the internet are adaptations of platforms from old media, but there are new and innovative ways to become involved with fandoms.

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