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.