One of the articles we are supposed to read this week makes the case that social networking sites have revolutionized fandom. The article says that web 2.0 is the culprit behind fandom’s revolution. You see, in the web’s first incarnation the status quo was to celebrate fandom through the individual as a basic unit, however, since Web 2.0 was invented fandom has instead become about communities as a whole. After reading this article I have come to the conclusion that I agree that fandom has been revolutionized by social networking sites. I know this to be true because I have been around to see both sides of fandom grow in this digital era.
Let me explain what I mean by that. I (and probably all of you) was lucky enough to have been born into one of the only generations that grew up on both sides of the internet fence; I went without the use of web 2.0 for half of my childhood years, but I am also a part of one of the first generations to ever start using it. Because of this, and also my childhood love of Star Wars, it was easy for me to track the revolution regarding fandom. I used to not only be on the mailing lists to receive new Star Wars information from official fan clubs, but I also regularly scoured the dial-up IntraWeb to learn everything I could about Star Wars; which was often done by reading individual Star Wars fans’ blogs (usually from websites the author’s hosted specifically to distribute their own fandom). This is how I was able to geek out as a fan before web 2.0 and social networking sites. And with the ushering in of Web 2.0, it was easy to notice the shift from individual to communal fandom. Websites such as www.starwars.com, with their large forum support definitely allowed communities to sprout up, as well as on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and other social networking websites as more and more people began to spread fan information.
Here is a perfect example of a small-time convention using tools given to them in this Web2.0 era to further disseminate their fan outreach via YouTube:
When I think of fandom in web 2.0 I like to think of it as similar to guerilla warfare in that there are no standards to how you have to go about it; people are virtually free to use any tactic they would like in order to reach their communities. There have always been conventions like comic-con or concerts for fans to meet in real life, but in this digital age there are so many new options and places to connect. The article talks about this and goes one step further in demonstrating that people no longer feel constrained by their geographical locale when connecting with a community, they are instead creating “loosely bounded networks” that reach far greater distances and number of fans than ever before. I think this is something that is extremely extraordinary because I have always found it difficult to find people who are willing to reach out to other communities under different circumstances. Why do you think people are so willing to reach out and spread their community outreach when regarding fandom, but not so much with, say, their personal social network of friends?
by Andrew Gordon