Social network fandoms and online role-playing : Harry Potter and The vampire diaries fans on Twitter.
With the rise of social media, fans of popular culture texts such as films and TV series have taken to new media platforms, and particularly Twitter, to socialize and interact amongst each other, creating virtual communities online which happen in real-time. Using contemporary theories of the ‘active’ and ‘interactive’ audience, fandom and participatory culture, this ethnographic study, working within the discipline of contemporary cultural studies, focuses on the enormous online fandoms of Harry Potter (novels and films) and The Vampire Diaries (novels and TV series). This study identifies and explains the many ways that fandoms manifest themselves online, emphasising ‘fan-talk’, fan art and photography, fan fiction, fan videos, and, above all, fan role playing, all of which work to sustain fan communities on the Internet. The work of Fiske and Jenkins will be drawn upon to draw broader conclusions about the contemporary phenomenon of online fandom, which challenges traditional notions of the consumer (and indeed of media consumption) and theories of media domination which assume an omnipotent, ideologically-riddled media confronting an impotent and pliable mass audience. Fandom, blossoming within the social media possibilities of the Internet and the networks of globalization, appears to speak rather of a shift in power-relations between the commercially-driven culture industries and audiences, where both culture and identity production are no longer the monopoly of elite institutions, but are essential parts of an emergent ‘participatory’ culture assembled ‘from below’ by ordinary people, actively constructing social realities and identities that paradoxically both ‘defer to’ and are ‘different from’ the aesthetic texts of the mass media around which fandoms are built. A ‘shadow cultural economy’ is being fabricated by creative fans that demands a radical revision of traditional notions of authorship in order to include the ‘secondary production’ of a host of creative texts by fans.