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Archive for March, 2012

Fandom

Since the beginning of the internet media authors have never doubted its importance as a tool to link the masses. with the inception of web 2.0 the internet moves from a one way source of information to a two way tool for communication, and with this discovery spawned new methods for marketing and story telling.

One of the first examples of this was the Blair Witch Project. Commencing its marketing scheme over 12 months before the release date of the film, the movies creators scripted an entire website that amplified the tale behind the movie, thus enforcing a sense of originality and heightening the experience for the fan.

Starting a historical reference to the events from 1785 – 1997 the website gained the ability to promote the film 12 months before its release, thus securing a vast fan base – much more than if they relied on  a 30 sec trailer. It gained notoriety as one of the  highest grossing low budget movies ever made.

One segmint of fan culture is fan fiction. Fan fiction is a new breed of Fan culture spawned via the internet where fans can pen their own version of stories or tales of their heroes.

On the flipside of fan fiction I was introduced to slash fiction -a medium where people who pondered if there was actually more to the stories of heroes than the writers let on.

Slash fiction features well known heroes like Spock and  Captain Kirk and usually included some kind of homo erotic theme as avid fans attempt to ‘remix’ the tales of old.

Members of online fan culture use the internet as a tool to display their adoration for their interests and thus earns them the title of super fans .Combining the energy of an 11 year old and been gifted with the freedom and access  that accompanies internet users the adoration of these fans is amplified and propells them into the status of superfans.

The trend of fans remixing their adorations,  as witnessed  in fan fiction, is seen by Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, as part of a ‘convergence culture’ in which the consumer becomes the “producer”

In Convergence Culture Jenkins writes that fandom, as displayed within convergence culture, is characterised by these five things:

  1. Appropriation – A person appropriates in their own life a particular text, work, and practice relating to their fan object. Often these objects are reinterpreted in their own life.
  2. Participation – There is an openness for people to participate at all levels within the community. They are so inspired by it they write music, create events, etc.
  3. Emotional Investment – People become really invested in this this object, topics, etc. It is something they are really into and something they want to talk about.
  4. Collective Intelligence (rather than the expert paradigm) – There is room for everyone to have something to say and contribute to the collective understanding of the group. Collective intelligence doesn’t need credentials, degrees, etc., experiences and insights are beneficial to the community and conversation.
  5. VirtualCommunity – These are communities that are not necessarily built around face to face meetings. Some of these people know each other and some are unknown, but more often than not these groups will have times to meet face to face
Points to not regarding fandom
  • Although some forms of fandom to me seem strange, for the fans it is completely normal behaviour. This is based on the chalk and cheese principal
  • Adoration leads to amplification
  • The internet has given fandom a new life. it no longer is confined to a a fans own world, it can be incorporated into other fans lifes top. thus leaving the stereotypical view of a fan idolising an act via posters/pictures hanging on their bedroom walls
  • Combining motivation and energy, the new super fans utilises all the tools of the internet
  • Fans are usually between the ages of 11 and 14, and generally are early adaptors

Examples of fandom within society today.

When I was growing up I listened to a music genre dubbed heavy metal. Compared to some of the commercial tripe playing in today’s charts it seems music has evolved a long way from when I was young. Sligo is not exactly a hotspot from buying music albums, so most of the tapes I possessed I had to order from America.

Expressing a fans level of dedication for their favourite artists generally came down to quantity.. meaning, how many band badges I could fit on my jacket , how many posters I had displayed on my bedroom wall, how many copies of metal hammer I posessed and how many albums, singles, EP’s, LP’s and tapes I could amass for my chosen artist.

Today, in a digital world the vast majority of these methods have become left behind. Owning an entire range of an artists albums simply means pressing ‘discography’ when downloaded them, rather than searching through endless publications for songs, even sitting by the radio with a blank tape in the player, ready to record my favourite track.

Today fandom levels are recorded on a different scale. To show how fandom has changed through out the years I want to profile the “artist” ( I use that phrase lightly) Justin Beiber and highlight some amazing stats showing how fandom has almsot become obsession

  1. Justin gets about 60 new mentions on twitter per second whether he tweets or not.
  2. He has sold over 6Million albums to date
But the most amazing/shocking fact is Justins Youtube channel has more than TWO BILLION VIEWS. With the worlds entire population sitting around 6Billion people this equates to 1 in 3 people have views Beibers YouTube channel at one time…
Another method to display fandom levels is to view people social media friends list. For this I would like to highlight Lady Gaga. she has amassed over 49,341,991 fans on facebook, 20,982,308 on Twitter and 2,109,550,045 hits on youtube
That.. to me is Fandom
An example of Fandom from a professional
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Moral panic revised

Moral panic, as described by creator of the term, Stanley Cohen in his book  Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972) occur when “a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to social values and interests.”

Sighting those who start moral panic are refered to as ‘moral entrepreneurs” where the people who ‘threaten the social order’ are refered to as ‘folk devils. This such panic, generally starting with the press, when they fear a threat to prevailing social or cultural values.

Cohen first used this term when he examined the mods/rockers movements in the 60’s and 70’s. Although credited as polar opposites (class notes) The group termed “rockers”, usually manual workers who wore clothes such as black leather jackets and rode big motorcycles in gangs.

The other group, known as “mods”, were mostly from the cities who wore suits and rode scooters, and who saw rockers as “out of touch”.

Moral panic clearly existed prior to Cohen creating the term.  Virtually every dance style introduced in the 20th century created such panic. Even the waltz was condemned much earlier as a sure path to sin because the couples embraced each other.

Moral panic has occurred over a number of varied social issues, for example, football hooliganism of the 1970s, acid house parties in the 1980s, the rise of punk music and more recently explicit video games.

Defining features of moral panics

Moral panics occur when the media turn a reasonably ordinary event and
present it as extraordinary.
• The media, in particular, set in motion a deviance amplification spiral, through
which the subjects of the panic are viewed as a source of moral decline and
social disintegration.
• Moral panics clarify the moral boundaries of the society in which they occur.
• Moral panics occur during periods of rapid social change and anxiety.
• Young people are the usual target of moral panics, their behaviour is ‘regarded
as a barometer to test the health or sickness of as society’.
(Jewkes, 2004, p 67)

A contemporary example of Moral Panic lies with the influx and banning of head shops.

Head shops sprang up around the country, selling alternatives to the likes of coke and cannabis, perfectly legal alternatives  because of various loopholes in the Irish law.

The head shops would also sell drugs paraphernalia – smoking, snorting and plant growing equipment –  again, all perfectly within the law,

Dangerous or not, a moral panic whipped through the country.

Because of the bad press accompanied with these head shops the Irish government had a knee jerk reaction and banned all substances and their derivatives.

Rather  than explore the possibilities of introducing a legal & taxable alternative to drugs, and more importantly a method to exterminate drug dealers for good they were banned.

Some politicians were in favour of outlawing the shops while others argued this would be a “huge mistake” which would allow illegal street dealers to thrive