Fandom

Star Trek is back!New Spock and Kirk

For some this brings groans of “Really? Are they really trying to squeeze even more money out of the dying franchise?” Surely going where no man has gone before loses its charm once everyone has been there?

For others it’s as if their long-deceased favourite childhood pet just drew breath. Life has meaning again. Because fandom is more than just watching something and enjoying it. You can become a part of it. And the Internet enables this in a way never seen before.

What it means to be a fan

“Being a fan allows me to keep the magic alive past the 45 minutes on TV or 90 minutes on film which is all I’d get otherwise” says Jeannie, an avid Stargate fan.

According to John B Thompson, being a fan is “dependent on products of media industries” but these products are “taken up, transformed and incorporated into a structured symbolic universe inhabited only by fans.”

These universes have come to be known as “fandom”

Fandom

fandomNimnod, a member of livejournal who has joined many fan communities there describes fandom as “a living, vibrant entity composed of a huge variety of people all over the world who come together online to share and engage in both raging arguments (“fanwank”) and amazing collaborative projects.”

While fandom has existed as far back as the 19th century (Warner, 1969), the kind of fandom that Nimnod experiences was not possible before the digital age.

Warner tells of fans who published their own fan magazines during the ’40s and travelled miles to convene with other fans. Most notably he mentions groups of fans who cohabited in the ’30s in order to have access to discussions at any time, and decorate their surroundings appropriately (the Slan Shack project).

Now none of this is necessary. Anyone can post anything on the Internet at any time. You no longer have to share the same spacial or temporal location to be part of a community of fans. Additionally the rewards of fandom have become Strangely dressed people at Seatac Conventioneven more substantial. Not only do you receive companions who are there when you need them (but don’t demand anything of you when you don’t), but all the information about the symbolic universe you happen to inhabit is at your fingertips.

Star Trek is the perfect example. The Trek universe is so detailed and diverse that whole encyclopaedias exist to document details right down to how a certain meal is prepared and what the laws are regarding particular alien beverages. Using this fan-generated (although canon-based) information, fans create countless novelizations and art. The Trek universe may only be symbolic, but there are detailed maps available to navigate it.

Nimnod explains, “Through fandom I get to not only live in a variety of my own alternative universes, but meet and connect with others and learn about thing from Photoshop techniques to writing skills to issues relating to gender/race/etc in popular media. Fandom is my other life, and I learn and grow through it as much or more than I do in real life”

More Information

Cory Doctorow writes an interesting blog on fanfiction

Encyclopedia of all things fan

Directory of online fandom

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~ by tallulahlucy on May 26, 2009.

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