The Future of Fandom
By now, reading mass media coverage as symptomatic of the cultural status of fandom has become a central genre in fan studies. Witness the introduction to this collection, which explores some of the contradictions in the ways the mainstream media covers fans—patronizing Harry Potter fans as “Potterheads” even as they court Yankees fans in their sports section.
Now it's my turn to look at another signpost. Newsweek's April 3, 2006, issue (Levy & Stone 2006: 45–53) has a cover story on “Putting the 'We' in Web,” which describes the convergence of factors that is leading to the success of a range of significant new companies, including Flickr, MySpace, Drabble, YouTube, Craigslist, eBay, del.icio.us, and Facebook, among others. Each of these companies is reaching critical mass by “harnessing collective intelligence,” supporting User-Generated Content, and creating a new “architecture of participation,” to use three concepts much beloved by the ever-present industry guru Tim O'Reilly (2005).
Newsweek reduces the phenomenon of “social media” or “web 2.0” to the phrase, “it's not an audience, it's a community,” arguing that such services transform the relationship between media producers and consumers. As they explain, “MySpace, Flickr, and all the other newcomers aren't places to go, but things to do, ways to express yourself, means to connect with others and extend your own horizons” (Levy & Stone 2006: 53). The article comments extensively on the way average consumers of brands and branded entertainment are playing a more active role in shaping the flow of media throughout our culture, are drawn together by shared passions