The Magic of Internet Fandom


For this project, I decided that my source piece would be a creative non-fiction personal essay about the material culture of the Harry Potter fandom I wrote for English 325. It’s called “Collecting Magic,” in which I examined through personal experience the meaning and purpose of the non-magical magical items collected by Harry Potter fans (Seriously. Why buy a wand. WHY I ASK YOU). For the repurposing project, I wanted to keep the spotlight on the Harry Potter fandom but shift the focus from the material to the virtual.

In “Collecting Magic,” I discussed how wands, robes, buttons, chocolate frogs, and other similar Hogwartsy items were sort of signs of participation in a community; but for the repurpose, I thought I would talk about how fan culture (“fandom”) lives and thrives on the internet by using the Harry Potter fandom as a lens.

While looking into more about material culture, I came across a book about participatory culture, something I had never heard of before. Turns out, it was just the sort of thing I was looking for to transition into cyberland! Some basic features of participatory culture are low barriers, easy engagement, strong support/encouragement for sharing and creating, and some level of social connection– all characteristics typical of an online community. But the more I read, the more fandom seems to take this type of culture to an entirely new, and pretty insane, level.

According to popular Youtube vlogger danisnotonfire, fandom is “the idea that you can like something so much that it actually destroys your life.” For an idea of of what internet fandom culture is like for its participants, check on Dan’s video below:

While still in the very fairly early days of research and development as far as new information is concerned, participatory culture is something I would like to consider. More specifically, what is it about the internet that seems to magnify this type of culture, and how does this allow a fandom past its prime to maintain an enthusiastic fan base?  So I considered this cultural concept when I was doing some anonymous reading on random Harry Potter fan forums, trying to gauge what HP fans felt about their online community.

I was searching for fan thoughts on whether or not the fandom had “died” since the end of the franchise, but I came across something mildly related and heftily intriguing: fans tended to agree that no, the fandom hadn’t died (and were adamant that it never would), but curiously, instead, some argued that the fandom had gotten dumber. Is this type of comment just typical of a snarky-faceless-internet-user, or could there be some merit to it? Does mass fandom culture, positively overflowing the enthusiasm and emotional attachment, make fans engage without thinking?

Does the simple, easy-contribution mentality of participatory culture make for less intelligent or meaningful contribution? Is there even such a thing as a non-meaningful contribution? What do you think?

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