- In this series, our academics dive into fan cultures: how they developed, how they operate, and how they shape the world today.
- Here is a brief history of how fan cultures shaped – and were shaped by – the internet.
- As early as the 1970s, fans were participating in digital spaces.
- In the 1990s, science-fiction fans established online repositories, using Usenet groups for fannish discussion and fan-fiction distribution.
- The public nature of Twitter (now X) allowed fans to come together in large groups to start trends and campaign.
The public and the private
- Fans move between private and public spaces online, negotiating different identities.
- On platforms like Tumblr and LiveJournal, fans often choose a pseudonym, whereas Facebook enforces a real-name policy.
- Private spaces allow for personal conversations, while fans embrace public channels for sharing fan works and campaigning, for example, for voting or fundraising.
- Tumblr became the place for “"fuckyeah” fansites, sharing fan works and communicating via GIFs.
- While the launch of Meta’s Threads provided a possible replacement for stan participation, some fans were hesitant to migrate across.
- On Twitter/X, fans expressed they were weary of the new platform, because they did not want their fan activities to be connected to their “real life”.
Fans are known for their creative productivity, transforming and remixing their favourite cultural objects in fan-art, fan-fiction, videos, zines and music remixes. Technological advancements made creative production easier to master, and the public and networked nature of platforms has allowed fan works to be circulated to a much wider audience. Audio from fan-edits often become trending TikTok sounds.
How fans shape brands
- Some brands have started to act like fans online, learning from fans’ behaviours to form an affiliation with these engaged audiences.
- On TikTok, brands are participating in fan-based trends, tapping into community-specific knowledge and jokes.
- Brands are also adopting fan language and tone in their captions and comments.
- In my ongoing PhD research, I’ve found fans are working as social media managers for brands, leveraging their expertise to connect with fan audiences.
Kate Pattison does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.