Labors of Love and Why Fans Give to Crowdfunding Campaigns

Personal Photo at San Diego Comic-Com 2013
Personal Photo taken at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 #Comic-Con

In present day, fans are no different than they were in 1915 with the first fan club. Fans enjoy this participatory culture we now call fandom. Fans today have found a place to belong just as they did all those years ago. There is camaraderie and a sense of family within most fandoms, and they share their passions with like-minded people. With new technology and a better understanding of the psychology of those who participate in fandoms, we have become more educated on fan culture.

Are fans trying to find out what goes on behind the scenes as in old Hollywood? Hardly. Fans are savvy to the business aspects of Hollywood in the 21st Century. It is no longer about finding authenticity; it’s about being happy, sharing and providing a way to help those favorite media objects, which brings me back to the fan affect theory.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 11.46.48 PMMost fans find themselves wanting to provide for their favorite movie or celebrity campaign because they simply enjoy it. Fan clubs all over the world are rooted in “fan agency.” Fans will tell you they do it because they love it. No one is twisting a fan’s arm to donate or become a fan; they become fans because they love the medium, and they do it because, for whatever reason, it brings them joy. Basically… helping out a celebrity, television, or movie campaign can make one happy, and this is what many fan theorists call the “Fan Affect,” emphasis on the short “A.” In the book, The Affect Theory Reader (2010), it states, “Affect is the name we give to the ‘visceral forces’ that ‘drive us toward movement, toward thought and extension’” (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010, ch. 1).

 

Affect seems to be a state that one cannot quite put a name to, that moment when one is in the movement, acting upon one’s thoughts and feelings. It can make one euphoric, and it is emotional and strong. For example, the affect of joy brings a smile to a person’s face. So when a fan finally does get that joyful or “squee, OMG,” hand-over-mouth-in-shock moment, where they can’t contain their excitement or express it when they are meeting a celebrity in some way (like the Fangirls from Supernatural), the fan can very well have that “squee” moment of happiness. The fan’s pay-off is this affect emotion they receive for being a part of something bigger than themselves. Fans crave this affect and will do almost anything to continue to receive it (Gross, M., 2005).

Fan affect could very well be considered an obsession or an addiction of sorts. In Michael Gross’s book Starstruck: When Fans get Close to Fame (2005), he shares the story of Winona RyderScreen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.11.50 PM and how fans went out of their way to sit in the star’s courtroom to support her while she was being charged for shoplifting, mainly doing so just for the purpose of gaining Ryder’s attention. I’m sure they had several “squee” and “OMG” moments while sitting there during the court case. The fans knew what Ryder did was wrong, but they didn’t care; here again the affect took over. Ryder signed autographs for these fans right after her hearing, and they were so excited about it that they went outside to show off to all the press who were reporting on the courtroom drama. The Press wanted to know more, and the fans, realizing how much of an influence they had on them, asked the reporters just how much they would offer to them for a glimpse into the signed autograph book (Gross, M., 2005). These particular fans not only suffered from the joy of being near Ryder, they knew they could make money and also garner some attention, both from the celebrity and the media for their devotion. I couldn’t help but think of the Affect Theory Reader’s chapter four on “Cruel Optimism” with Ryder’s case.  This chapter goes into the “object of our desires,” and how those desires are really a cluster of promises we are hoping to fulfill with an attachment and close proximity to the object (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010, ch. 4). My research on fandoms resonates with this desire of our hearts. Fans willing to do anything for their favorite media object would be considered to have a cruel optimism. And because of these fans desires, most producers/creators of a crowdfunding campaign negotiates with fandom to get what they want, which includes fan labor.

What is fan labor? It is not uncommon for fans to become exclusive for a particular medium and for the medium to offer special perks to the fans for their loyalty. Herein lies the perplexity of fan agency and labor. Jennifer Spence says it best when she shares the theory of labor when it comes to fans. She says, “Fans who launch campaigns to ‘save our show’ or protest storytelling decisions typically see their efforts as standard fannish practices, but these ‘labours of love’ must also be considered, as the name suggests, as labour” (Spence, 2014, p.1).

Fans are happy to serve if they receive something in return, something exclusive that a non-fan would not be able to get. Exclusion can pertain to fan club membership, which can offer special announcements, events, and gifts for only those members. Media savvy celebrities and creators know their livelihood depends on their fans, so they provide “specials” to the fans in return for the fan’s labor. Earlier I explained about BNFs and hyper fans, as well as the hierarchy of fandom. Fans develop a hierarchy within their fandom community and with other fan communities for these particular perks and exclusions.

In the DailyDot article, “How the Corporate World Targets Fandom,” written by Gavia Baker-Whitlaw Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 12.48.09 AM(2014), she talks about the desire that people have to be closer to their idols and how the corporate world is taking advantage of that. She says that even when the most noticeable of signs of closeness is a retweet from a fan’s favorite idol, it is enough to make the fan happy and share in the excitement with other fans, and it gives the fans some clout over the other fans. She shares the case of The Hunger Games Exploiter…er…excuse me, I mean Explorer site that offers points and badges to its members if they share the movie on other fan sites and social media, effectively doing the publicity for the studio (Baker-Whitlaw, 2014).

Are the fans being exploited through this labor? Exploitation can mean the taking advantage of or the using of others for some sort of profit (Dictionary.com). In the case of Serenity/Firefly and Supernatural, fans were definitely exploited for their labor and treated unfairly for their efforts. In Winona Ryder’s case, fans went to the extreme to gain attention from her and the press. When fans blog about their favorite movie or show, share on social media, create sites, and devote much of their time to their favorite medium, fans are, in some respects, being exploited. Fans are performing as promoters and publicists and are doing it for free (Chin, B., 2014). Fans are willing to do the work if they believe in their favorite artist or celebrity, but fans also need to know that their work can be considered labor and exploitation.

I want to take this a step further; we’ve discussed why fans give, but why to crowdfunding campaigns? I believe that donating to crowdfunding campaigns offers a participatory culture in a more legitimized way. Call it capitalism if you will, but it is a way to gain something in return for a fan’s devotion.

First, fans not only become closer and have a shared interest in the campaign, but also I believe it is to further BNFs and super or hyper fans status in their participatory cultures, if they are part of one. Some of the BNFs may or may not realize it, but their status in the fandom offers them some influence and the possibility to become closer with their favorite media object. The fans who give can also claim bragging rights, with proof from the crowdfunding site they can let everyone know they were one of the ones who helped the campaign. It is a labor of love and agency, but the fan who donates is doing so because they will get a return on their investment and become shareholders.

Second, giving to an established group, producers, or studio brings about a sense of empowerment for the fan. As mentioned earlier, they have more of a say so because they believe that the money they have given allows them some vested interest with the project. They see their donation as something more tangible, the money they are giving isn’t being “wasted” on a futile transaction, and instead it is a vested interest. Funding a fan-based campaign on Kickstarter is much more tangible than standing in line at some convention waiting for an autograph. The signing of the autograph between a fan and his or her favorite media object is a transaction, but it just might be more of a fleeting experience, once the transaction is over, it’s over, whereas the funding of a Kickstarter for a favorite movie or celebrity becomes a long-term venture.

Finally,  investing in the media object seems to be more reputable. For example, when a fan has given a money for a t-shirt, all they get is the t-shirt and they are out of that money they just spent on it. To donate to a campaign gives the fan a sense of pride and ownership. Buying a t-shirt is considered a selfish act, whereas donating to a crowdfunding campaign is considered more like charitable work. It is like giving to the United Way because the fan may believe it is a better way of spending their money.

Fans love their media objects and are willing to do anything for them. Knowing and understanding the system of crowdfunding and the fact that it is for capital gains may give a fan second thoughts about why they give, and at least an understanding to how the entertainment industry relies on the fans for their labor and devotion for their own gains.

 

References:

Baker-Whitlaw, G. (2014).How the Corporate World Targets Fandom. Retrieved fromhttp://www.dailydot.com/geek/inside-fandom-media-campaign/

Barbas, S. (2001). Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity. Falgrave Publishers. New York, NY. Softbound Book.

Chin, B. (2014.) “Sherlockology and Galactica.tv: Fan Sites as Gifts or Exploited Labor?” In      “Fandom and/as Labor,” edited by Mel Stanfill and Megan Condis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0513.

Gregg, M., & Seigworth, C. (Ed.) (2010). “The Affect Theory Reader.” Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

Gross, M. (2005). Starstruck: “When a Fan Gets Close to Fame.” Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Kindle Edition

Spence, J., (2014). “Labours Of Love: Affect, Fan Labour, And The Monetization Of Fandom.” University of Western Ontario – Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. Paper 2203. Retrieved from http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/2203

Butterflies in the Sky and Why Fans Give

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Reading Rainbow Poster

I’ve given some examples of fandom and what happens when fans go the extra mile only to be exploited in some way, and my last case in point for the research of crowdfunding and fandom is the much-loved PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) series, Reading Rainbow.

“Butterflies in the sky, I can go twice as high, it’s in a book, just take a look, a reading rainbow” (Smule.com, 2015, p. 1). This song conjures up nostalgia for people. Many of us grew-up watching the PBS show. So, come with me now as we go back in time to 1983 when PBS began airing Reading Rainbow. The show was an American made children’s television series dedicated to encouraging and helping children develop a joy for reading. The series aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) from 1983 to 2006 (Wikipedia, 2015). Each episode focused on a shared theme within the books showcased and the books were shared in an entertaining way with the viewers. Actor LeVar Burton, who had then recently come off of a prestigious acting gig as “Kunta Kinte” in the miniseries Roots (1977), adapted from the book by Alex Hailey, brought a trusted voice and persona to the show. Like Sesame Street (1969) before it, Reading Rainbow  developed a big following of not only children, but also their parents, and it became a beloved series all over the world.

Fast-forward to 2014, LeVar Burton the actor, who hosted the television series, is more established. He’s older and is part of a big movie franchise known as, Star Trek. In May of 2014, he is on Kickstarter and he’s asking for donations to bring back Reading Rainbow. Wait. They are bringing back Reading Rainbow? I’d pay for that, wouldn’t you? Well, that wasn’t quite what Mr. Burton meant. The wording in the tagline for the Kickstarter campaign was, “Bring Reading Rainbow back for every child, everywhere” (Kickstarter, 2014), which was a bit deceiving. It definitely sounds like the show was going to be back on the air. But, sadly this was not the case. According to Burton it was going to be better, it was going to be an app for the iPad that children could use in classrooms and in their homes. The app was going to be used in low income school areas. It wasn’t just any app but an app that would provide children with the chance to become literate. You can find out more about the app on Burton’s Kickstarter video below:

Much like the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter, the Reading Rainbow campaign received donations quickly even beating Veronica Mars meeting their goals a full month before the deadline. The campaign started on May 28, 2014 and hit $1 million in less then one day, and their original goal was $1 million in 35 days. The fundraiser earned $6.4 million in donations in just five weeks and is one of the 5th largest grossing campaigns for Kickstarter (Ramisetti, 2014). What most people don’t know is that the company that headed the campaign, “RR Kids,” is headed by none other than LeVar Burton, and it is a for-profit enterprise. They plan on developing the app and opening it up to give to teachers in schools, but for a monthly subscription cost (Dewey, 2014).

Burton’s campaign again poses the question as to why people donate. Was it the nostalgia of watching the show during one’s childhood? Would people have donated if they knew that Reading Rainbow is already accessible to classrooms via computers and the Internet with many episodes available on YouTube? It’s hard not to be swayed by the positive message given by Burton for the campaign; he is a very charismatic person. Wanting to help kids to read, well that’s just down right admirable, but we definitely need to read the fine print and air on the side of caution. More than anything, we must make knowledgeable and informed decisions when giving of ourselves, be it monetarily or emotionally.

 

References:

Barbas, S. (2001). Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity. Falgrave Publishers. New York, NY. Softbound Book.

Dewey, C. (2014). You might want to reconsider that donation to the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/28/you-might-want-to-reconsider-that-donation-to-the-reading-rainbow-kickstarter/

Ramisetti, K. (2014). ‘Reading Rainbow’ Kickstarter campaign raises $6 million with help from Seth MacFarlane. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/reading-rainbow-kickstarter-campaign-raises-6-million-article-1.1853788

Smule.com (2015). Lyrics to the theme of Reading Rainbow. Retrieved from
http://www.smule.com/song/reading-rainbow-reading-rainbow-theme-song-karaoke-lyrics/_reading_rainbow

Wikipedia (2015).  Reading Rainbow. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Rainbow

 

Supernatural and the Exploits of The Fangirls

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.22.26 PMWith the discovery of fan exploitation through the case of Firefly/Serenity, there is another case that probably shares a personal point-of-view of a particular fan, their fandom and their experience with fan labor. The ones I am talking about are Katherine Larsen and Lynn Zubernis; remember me mentioning these two ladies before? These two professors became enamored over a television show called, Supernatural (Kripke, 2005). These Fangirls loved the show so much they even wrote a book about it.

Larsen and Zubernis were smart academics and thought to be too smart to fall for a television show, let alone become fans. They started out just like most fans, by watching the show. The more they watched, the more obsessed they became. Over time they became, in some sense, hyper fans. A hyper fan is someone who is more actively involved with their favorite media object than the regular fan. Much like the BNFs (Big Name Fans) I mentioned in my other post, the hyper fan is hyper attentive, is much more involved, and at times, can be made fun of and even ridiculed because of their over-the-top actions and emotions for their favorite media object (Barton, K. M., & Lampley, J.M., 2013).

Katherine Larsen, Jared, Jensen, and Lynn Zubernis
Katherine Larsen, Jared, Jensen, and Lynn Zubernis

Before I share the events of the two Fangirls, I need to share some info about the show they love, Supernatural. The television show, created by Eric Kripke, began airing on the WB/CW (Warner Brothers, and CBS) in 2005. The show follows two brothers, played by actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, who are usually in pursuit of all those supernatural unexplained monsters out there in the world. The brothers call themselves “hunters,” and they hunt for those monsters, demons and evil that can hurt and ruin mankind. While they hunt, they are also trying to find their father. The show is currently airing on the CW and is in its tenth season. Supernatural is one of the most popular for the network and has built a huge fan base over the years (Wikipedia, 2015).

The fans of the show do not necessarily have a nickname for themselves; most just call themselves part of the Supernatural (SPN) Family. In Larsen and Zubernis’ book, Fangasm, Supernatural Fangirls (2013), they share their trip down, what they call, the rabbit hole. They began following the show after a friend convinced them to watch, and once they watched, they were hooked, even saying that they didn’t necessarily choose the fandom the fandom chose them (Larsen & Zubernis, 2013). They attended many conventions for the show, including the mother of all cons, the San Diego Comic-Con.

The Fangirls noticed something during one such convention held in Vancouver. The ladies shared the fact that a fan bid $8000.00 for Jared Padalecki’s 30th birthday goodie bag and a hug. Although the money went to charity, what the fan was really vying for was the hug from the star himself. Is a hug from a celebrity worth 8000 bucks? Since it went to a good cause, some would say “yes.”

As the Fangirls continued on their sojourn of fandom with the television series, they became more involved with the promotion of the show. They discovered that “Creation Entertainment” had a lot of clout and were the big guns when it came to conventions, scheduling events, and getting to meet the celebrities. The ladies went on to create a blog about the series and its stars, and with a little finesse and new connections, they began interviewing key players and sharing upcoming events. Zubernis and Larsen had become what they didn’t necessarily want to be, BNF’s (Big Name Fans). The ladies wrote so well in fact, that they garnered the attention of the show’s producers and were asked to write for their Supernatural Magazine, and the Fangirls did so for free. They had an “in” now and were invited onset to talk to the actors, writers, and creators of the show.

What the ladies didn’t realize was that they would be heading down into another rabbit hole, a much darker one. In the final chapter of Larsen and Zubernis’ book, they tell about the story of their last trip to the series set in Vancouver. They were allowed onto the set, not because they were wanted there, but because two out of the four people who had bid for, won, and paid to attend had to pull out. They had been informed by some of their connections about the situation, and they went and vied to fill those voids. They were given a yes were invited to go to the set, and were told they had permission to interview and talk with certain staff members (Larsen, & Zubernis, 2013).

They believed all was fine since they had gotten permission from TPTB (The Powers That Be). What they learned was that what the TPTB approved wasn’t necessarily what the staff on set approved. When they arrived, they went around the set to say hello and talk to the crew and staff that they became so familiar with over the past few months. The atmosphere was subdued, one of the directors had just passed away, and they were quickly ushered into a room where a producer of the show told them they could no longer speak to the people they had just spoken to, and that once they left the room they could only observe from a distance. The Fangirls were shocked and even more so when they found out the other two winners of the bid had not yet gotten to meet Jensen and Jared, with whom they were promised to meet as part of their bid they so graciously paid for.

Zubernis and Larsen were disappointed and felt badly for the two paying fans who waited all day for a visit with the stars of the show. Instead, the two winners got an autographed copy of the Supernatural Magazine for their troubles. The Fangirls realized that TPTB don’t really understand fans. Surely TPTB had to know that going on set to get an autographed magazine was not acceptable, when a fan could go to a convention and stand in line to get that for free, a set visit should have constituted a face-to-face meeting, the fans paid good money for it after all. Weren’t they the customer? Shouldn’t they have been treated as a paying customer would; didn’t TPTB want their love, their loyalty, their MONEY? The Fangirls left dejected, and the other two winners were angry and frustrated, swearing to never support another Supernatural event ever (Larsen, & Zubernis, 2013).

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 11.46.36 PMOne more important issue that came into play was the fact that the Fangirls were writing a book about fandom, and their publishers at the time weren’t happy with what they had written. The publishers wanted a fun book, not the one the ladies gave to them. There was too much information about the behind-the-scenes and fandom, and not enough fun and excitement about the show. They were in the throes of trying to convince their publisher at the time that what they had written was acceptable, when they received that dreaded email – the email from the studio to cease-and-desist their correspondences and writing for the television series magazine. Here they had written articles for the show’s magazine, interviewing and establishing a relationship with the crew, and now they were asked to stop all contact. It was a blow to the Fangirls, one they took a long time recovering from. The ladies gave so much of themselves to the show just to be kicked in the gut. They were at a loss as to what they had done wrong because they had gotten permission by the studio for all their interviews and set visits. They feared legal entanglements and fees.

In the end Zubernis and Larsen were able to write and publish their book, and held no animosity toward the show’s stars and staff. They believed all that happened to them during their trek through the SPN family did them a favor. Their jump into the rabbit hole had taught them a lesson about fandom, celebrities, and The Powers That Be. They remain fans of the show and still write about it on their own blog. Their take away was to continue to be passionate, cautious and to be themselves at the same time (Larsen, & Zubernis, 2013).

**Update: March 26, 2015, this just in…#Supernatural alums Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr. (actors who had recurring roles on Supernatural) are now starting a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for a webseries that is much like #Firefly stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion’s “ConMan.”  Here’s the Variety article about it and their Indiegogo campaign.  I’m starting to see a trend happening.

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And….here’s the new trailer to their Webseries…

 

References:

Barton, K.M., & Lampley, J.M. (2013). “Fan CULTure: Essays on Participatory Fandom in the 21st Century.” McFarland. Kindle Edition.

Kripke, E. (2005). Director. Creator. Supernatural. Retrieved from
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460681/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Larsen, K., & Zubernis, L., (2013). “Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls.” University of Iowa Press. Kindle Edition.

Wikipedia (2015). Supernatural. Television show. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernatural_%28U.S._TV_series%29

Firefly, Serenity and Exploitation

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 3.23.26 PMI would like to discuss a few case studies on exploitation, outside of crowdfunding with fandoms. The first will be about the movie Serenity created and directed by Joss Whedon in 2005. The movie was a sequel to the popular cult show Firefly (2002) also created and directed by Whedon

The television show aired on the FOX network in 2002. The show only aired for one season, but it was enough to garner a strong fan following. The space western, science fiction drama consisted of an ensemble cast with the main character, played by Nathan Fillion, as a spaceship captain by the name of Malcolm (Mal) Reynolds who was a shell-shocked soldier and a reluctant hero. He and his crew of rag-tag individuals, which consisted of a thief, a harlot, a preacher, a pilot, a fellow soldier, and siblings with a mysterious past, go traipsing around the universe to find black market cargo to haul, and they usually find themselves in some sort of danger at every turn along the way.

The show had an unusual premise and never quite found its footing due to the multiple themes of the show. The ratings were low for a better part of the series, which didn’t do themselves any favors with the network. After 14 episodes, Fox decided to cancel the show. After the cancellation, the series found new life at the advent of their video sales, which sky rocketed and brought them a strong cult following. The fans of Firefly began calling themselves, “Browncoats” (Barton, K., & Lampley, J.M., 2013). The name “Browncoats” was used for the brown coat the star, Nathan Fillion, and other soldiers wore on the show.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 3.37.33 PMBrowncoats wanted more and asked, nay demanded, a movie version. Creator Joss Whedon was able to convince Universal Pictures, thanks to the hefty video sales and strong fan-base, to back the film version of the TV series. In 2005 Whedon and the Browncoats got their wish: the movie Serenity (the name of the ship from the series) was brought to life and showed in movie theaters all over the country and overseas. It ranked #2 in the box office their opening weekend, which is not bad for a series that was cancelled after one season (Wikipedia, 2015).

The Browncoats are a very die-hard fan base. They love the lead actors and its creator Joss Whedon. They were willing to do anything to get Serenity off the ground and back up in the sky, and the studios played on that devotion. It’s what Professor Bertha Chin calls the gift economy (Chin, 2014). The gift economy is one of giving, receiving, and reciprocation. When all these are met, there is a complete and social relationship between giver and receiver. The gift economy in fandom appears in the form of fan art, fan fiction, web sites, wikis, forums, blogs, social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, dedicated to a specific fandom. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the fans become a fandom, and they in turn become a participatory culture.

Chin shares the gift the Browncoats offered in her Transformative Works article, “Sherlockology and Galactica TV: Fan sites as gifts or exploited labor?” Universal Pictures capitalized on the passion of the fandom of Firefly (2002). In the months leading up to the premiere of the movie Serenity, Universal created a members only online community where fans were encouraged to promote the movie, its products, and recruitment of more fans for points. Fans were also encouraged to create products and items themselves to accompany the DVD release of Firefly the television show to coincide with the movie (Chin, 2014). The fans were happy to accommodate the studio.

However, after the release of the DVD, fans were presented with another gift, that of a cease-and-desist order to the whole Firefly fan community. Fans were given letters from Universal to stop any production or creations and demanding retroactive licensing fees for fans that used any copyrighted materials and licensed products and images. This left the fans who participated in all the marketing, making it go viral by the way, feeling exploited by Universal. The fans were first courted by the studio to market for them and then in turn paid the cost of legalities and demands for fees. Chin says this is a worrisome trend – the commercial culture invading onto fan culture (Chin, 2014).

It is important to take into account fan agency. In the case of Firefly, fans were happy and more than willing to do what was asked of them, even going above and beyond what was asked of them, but I am sure they were expecting more of a thank you, not legal troubles. I will discuss further about fan agency, and the fan affect of being happy to serve, when I give my final discourse.

** UPDATE – This just in: March 2015 
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I must share an update about Firefly, which brings us full circle in some ways to crowdfunding and fandom. A few weeks ago, Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, stars of Firefly/Serenity, started an Indigogo (another crowdfunding platform) campaign for a new project. The project is very meta to say the least. The campaign is for a series of webisodes starring these two actors as the main characters. Both stars will basically be portraying an alter ego of themselves, as two stars that were in a sleeper hit TV show that was cancelled all too soon, sound familiar? It is reminiscent of the plot in the movie Galaxy Quest (1999), where they are spoofing their Firefly/Serenity personas, much like the Galaxy Quest actors were spoofing Star Trek. The characters in the webisode series were on a Sci-Fi show called “Spectrum,” and after it’s cancellation, Nathan Fillion’s character goes on to stardom and celebrity, while Alan Tudyk’s character is stuck doing small roles and attending many fan conventions, much to his chagrin. The name of the webseries will be called, “ConMan.” To date, the campaign has reached over 2 million and hasn’t even hit their deadline of April 10, 2015 yet; their original goal was $425,000.00. The two actors and their producer are even doing live stream feeds and talking to fans in real time on an app called, “Hang w/” so that the fans can feel closer to them as they make more episodes.

Now are these two celebrities and the people they asked to help them with this project (producers, writers, director, actors, staff, etc.) taking advantage of their fan base? I would say yes. They aren’t foolish, and they know with the established fan-base they will probably succeed. Are the fans now being exploited once again from the same people who asked for help with their first project? What do you think?

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Watch the promo video for their Indigogo campaign…

******UPDATE–Oct. 2, 2015******

So Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion have done it, they’ve created their web series, and have begun airing them on their own website, with the help of Vimeo. “ConMan” looks funny, meta, and very clever…but here’s the catch – even though they earned more than they needed on their Indiegogo campaign for crowdfunding, they are still charging $14.99 to watch the streaming videos on their site. They have three episodes up right now with ten more on the way through October and November, the $14.99 is only good for 3 months.  *Sigh* so you fans who gave money to the crowdfunding campaign, guess you have to give money again if you actually want to watch the show!  See the link below for their new web series site–

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/conman.

 

References:

Barton, K., & Lampley, J.M., (2013). “Fan CULTure: Essays on Participatory Fandom in the 21st Century.” McFarland. Kindle Edition.

Chin, Bertha. 2014. “Sherlockology and Galactica.tv: Fan Sites as Gifts or Exploited Labor?” In “Fandom and/as Labor,” edited by Mel Stanfill and Megan Condis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0513.

Wikipedia, (2015). Firefly. Television Series. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly_%28TV_series%29

Wikipedia, (2015). Serenity. Motion Picture. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_%28film%29

Fans, Fandom and Participatory Cultures

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Fan Art

Another interesting aspect of Crowdfunding is that it is a type of “participatory culture.” People have to participate in order for the campaigns to succeed. No campaign can work without the crowd.

Why should we discuss participatory culture? Because one must understand how people in a fandom participate within its culture to really understand why fans give of themselves so much. Fans participate in just about any way possible when it comes to their favorite media object and I hope to explain why, but first let’s talk about the fans.

What or who is a fan? The brief definition of a “fan” is: someone who is devoted to a particular object, be it a celebrity, artist, genre, book, movie, or TV show. The fan is part of a bigger culture known as a Fandom.  This video below explains just what fandoms are and how they work:

Fandoms have been around for quite some time. The first noted fandom involved British writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and his character of Sherlock Holmes in 1887. Fans of the book were known to write their own fan fiction and even mourned after Holmes was killed off in 1893. The fans of the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, were the first recorded fandom (Wikipedia, 2015). From Sherlock came the Western modern science fiction fandom, which started around the 1930s with the first science fiction convention in 1939 (Wikipedia, 2015). The 1970s gave way to media fandom, which split from science fiction to other mediums focusing more on the characters within movies and television shows, such as Star Trek or Dark Shadows, and the characters of Captain James T. Kirk, Spock, or Barnabas Collins. Fan art, as well as fan fiction, also came about at this time because of the fan’s idea of how their favorite characters should be depicted in these mediums. Western culture was not the only one building up fandoms; in Japan there was a huge following for Anime and Manga as far back as the early 60s (Wikipedia, 2015). Fans are joining fandoms all over the globe.

So why does one become a fan and join in on a fandom? In a nutshell, fans join for a place to belong. Katherine Larson and Lynn Zubernis are two college professors; they are intelligent, strong empowered women who have a love for a TV show called, Supernatural. They loved being fans so much that they wrote a book about it. In their book, Fangasm, Supernatural Fangirls (2013), they explain why a person becomes a fan and joins a fandom. First and foremost they found a community, a place where they could share their love of all things Supernatural. Secondly, they were accepted for their self-expression and were able to find kindred spirits who shared the same love. Most importantly they realized that being a fan was not just about being accepted for differences, but also receiving validation for those differences (Larson, K., & Zubernis, L., 2013).

internet-fandom_5029116a6b4f3_w1500

Fandom has grown quite a bit since Sherlock Holmes’ day. Currently, there are all kinds of fandoms and some even overlapping each other. We have Bronyies – grown men who like My Little Pony, Potterheads – fans of Harry Potter; and Whovians– fans of Doctor Who. There’s also a growing fan-base for the MTV produced television show called Teen Wolf, and yet again another growing fandom for Sherlock Holmes who call themselves “Sherlockians” from the BBC television series called, Sherlock (Moffat, 2010). All of these fandoms provide a participatory culture.

What exactly is a participatory culture? Fandoms are an organized subculture, a participatory culture involving people who enjoy and share the same likes of a particular medium. In the Henry Jenkin’s edited book Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education in the 21st Century (2014) it states, “A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices” (Jenkins, et.al., 2014, p.22).

The 21st century offers participatory culture in a new way: online. The positives of participatory culture are the sharing of knowledge, creativity, and learning that takes place. Some fandoms offer substantial creativity and learning, for example the online fandom of Homestuck.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 2.02.11 AMHomestuck is an online webcomic that is rather lengthy (it’s compared to the book Ulysses) and very much a fandom that requires interactivity with its fans. Fans help create storylines, add new characters, and offer ideas to the author, Andrew Hussie. Hussie’s stories are reader driven. Within his story, Hussie also offers little games and quizzes that the participant must finish before moving on. Homestuck fans are young with most still in high school (Hussie, 2011). The fans of Homestuck are creating art, developing strong literacy skills, as well as creating interactive medium ideas of their own. One of the most poignant of Hussie’s ideas is that of inclusion and offering characters that have disabilities or other issues that young people in the real world can relate to.

Along with participation, there is a hierarchy in fandoms; there are those fans that hold a lot more importance than others. Fandoms are like any other culture; they are rife with attitudes, opinions and yes – even some of their own controversy and politics. One can be merely a member of a fandom, but there are those fans that wield more power, those fans are called “BNFs” (Big Name Fans). These fans receive more perks and are usually closer to their media objects than other fans. BNFs are given more notice than the average fan of any particular medium (Wikipedia, 2015).

I liken BNFs to high school popularity. They are the cheerleaders, working and campaigning for their favorite team. Like the cheerleaders, the BNFs are the ones who are usually planning and creating the most for those fandoms, they are the ones that are the most involved. BNFs are celebrities in their own fandoms as well, with other fans seeking them out and even wanting autographs from them. Most other fans have ambivalent feelings, to put it mildly, toward these BNFs, and the BNFs themselves do not always want to be deemed arrogant or self-important (Wikipedia, 2015).

BNFs are extremely devoted and see themselves as benefactors to the rest of their participatory culture. They may not necessarily vie for attention from the other fans, or want popularity within their culture, but they do want notice from their favorite media object. The higher the fan is in their culture, the more likely they will receive more from the media object, and I believe most BNFs know this. The important take-away here is that participatory culture and the hierarchy of fandom is an important factor to know when studying fans and why they give so readily to favorite media objects. Once a person discovers why a fan gives, it brings about a better understanding of who those fans are and essentially what makes them tick. Therefore, understanding fans and their culture will also bring about awareness and tolerance of those who are fooled by certain types of crowdfunding campaigns and may give too much.

*Sidenote: Believe it or not there is a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign going on for the creation of a BNF magazine. Check it out here. So far the campaign only has two backers and has earned 11 dollars of the $6000 it is asking for. The campaign has six days to go.

 

References:

Hussie, A. (2011). Homestuck. Retrieved from http://www.mspaintadventures.com

Jenkins, H. (Ed.), et. al., (2014). “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.” (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning). Kindle Edition.

Larsen, Katherine. and Zubernis, Lynn S. (2013). Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. (Kindle Edition)

Novaonline (2015). History of Anime and Manga. Retrieved from http://novaonline.nvcc.edu/eli/evans/his135/events/anime62/anime62.html

Wikipedia (2015). Big Fan Names. Retrieved from   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Name_Fan

Wikipedia (2015). Fandom. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fandom

 

Fan Labor Back in the Golden Age

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.51.51 PMBack during the Golden Age of Hollywood, some of the first fan clubs were created and with them fan labor. In Samantha Barbas’ book, Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity (2001), she explains the beginning of fan clubs and fan contributions as early as 1910 through to the 1940s. She shares the account of silent movie star Rudolph Valentino (arguably the first fan heartthrob) and the fans that mourned his untimely death; critics at the time were upset that the coverage on his death took precedence over the death of then Harvard President Charles Eliot (Barbas, 2001). Fans became more than just celebrity watchers, they actively became contributors and gave their advice to the studios and dollars to the fan clubs, some fans even creating activities and events, devoting a better part of their daily lives to their passion (Barbas, 2001). This early fan involvement indicated that fans refused to accept fan culture passively; they became actively involved in their favorite entertainment.

Barbas believes the reason why those first fans participated as they did was because of what she calls their “search for authenticity” (Barbas, 2001, p. 5). She shares the theory that fans wanted to know exactly what was happening behind the scenes. Fans in early Hollywood were fascinated by moving pictures, and they wanted to know if what they were watching on film was real or not. The fans wanted verification that what they were seeing on screen could be the real thing, so they devoted as much of their time to find out what went on behind the cameras. Fans barraged the studios to find out more about how they created their films and just who those celebrities acting on the big screen were, off screen. By 1915 magazines and newspapers were realizing the draw of fans wanting to know more and created the first movie fan magazines (Barbas, 2001).

Fandom, according to Barbas, was a “quest for authenticity, influence, and involvement – in other words, an attempt to understand, control, and participate…” (Barbas, 2001, p. 6). Fans became important to Hollywood, and what the fans did was more purposeful than Hollywood power players had once thought. They learned that without fans and their labor, they could not function as an industry so a new culture began, that of Hollywood or entertainment fandom and with that a new kind of “participatory culture.”

 

References:

Barbas, S. (2001). Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity. Falgrave Publishers. New York, NY. Softbound Book.

Crowdfunding and Fandom: An Introduction Part II

PS fitted Crowdfunding

In my research I have discovered that there are different models of crowdfunding. The platform wasn’t always called “crowdfunding.” In the early days (2005), it was called “crowdsourcing,” dully named by journalist Jeff Howe in an article he wrote for Wired Magazine (Wikipedia, 2015). The initial definition of crowdsourcing was “the process of obtaining needed services” (Wikipedia.com, 2015, p.1). From there it has grown to several models of crowdfunding. The gift-based models are the most popular with fans. Here again, much like the old days of broadcasted telethons, there seems to be a reward system in place.

Kickstarter is one of the first and most successful platforms, but new, and even improved, kinds of funding platforms are gaining notoriety. GoFundMe, for example, is for the average person. Kiva is a platform that actually lends money for donations but expects a return. These new sites for crowdfunding, along with fandom, fan labor, and exploitation will also be reviewed as part of my research and case studies.

Other questions I hope to answer are – what drove the fans to fund such crowdfunding campaigns? Does participatory culture, and the hierarchies within fandoms perpetuate fans to offer their services? Don’t get me wrong, I think as a whole, crowdfunding serves a good purpose, but with fan-based funding, there seems to be a cost both financially and emotionally for the fans.

I have read books and articles on either crowdfunding or fandom and have only found a small amount of them on how they both affect one another. I hope to explain the “fan affect”that is created by fandom and crowdfunding in more depth in a future post. In a nutshell it is an affect that is an emotion, one that a person cannot put a name to when they have that “OMG” moment when meeting their favorite media object.  Because there is little written about this study, I decided there should be a place online where people/fans can go to become more informed and aware of just what crowdfunding and fandom is, and how they support or fail each other.

I believe it is important for consumers to understand and make an informed decision about how they donate their money and time to a certain crowdfunding campaign. This is partly the reason why I have created my website; of course it’s for my capstone for school, but it’s also a place where fans and just about anyone can come to gather information about fandom’s culture, and crowdfunding platforms.

 

References:

Lewis, J. (Producer), & Lewis, J. (Director). (1973, September 2). The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (Television Broadcast) Las Vegas, NV. American Broadcasting Company.

McMillan, G., (2013). Veronica Mars KickStarter Breaks Records, Raises Over $2M in 12 Hours. WIRED. (13, March 12). Retrieved November 26, 2014, from   http://www.wired.com/2013/03/veronica-mars-kickstarter-record/

Thomas, R. (Producer). (2004). Veronica Mars (Television Series). Hollywood, CA: United Paramount Network/Central Broadcasting Service and Warner   Brothers

Veronica Mars (TV Series 2004-2007) – Trivia. IMDb. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412253/

Wikipedia.com (2015). “Crowdsourcing.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing

Crowdfunding and Fandom: An Introduction Part I

Jerry_Lewis_Telethon_1970's
Jerry Lewis Telethon 70s logo

As a young girl I remember staying up late to watch the celebrities come out and perform on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon (Lewis, 1973) on television. Every year Mr. Lewis took two days on a national television station, and all their affiliated stations, to air this telethon to earn money for a debilitating disease known as Muscular Dystrophy. I was fascinated with the idea of those big Hollywood stars of the time like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and John Wayne coming out to perform and answer phone calls just to collect money for “Jerry’s Kids.” I would watch as each star was introduced and led by Jerry to go and sit down at a table full of phones and wait by those phones for someone to call and pledge their money for the cause. I loved John Wayne and really thought I’d get to talk to him if I called in. I was young, only 11 at the time, and very impressionable. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t get to talk to John Wayne. I called in to the local number they had on the screen, and instead of Mr. Wayne, a volunteer operator took my call and my donation. I was a bit deflated, but it was for a good cause, so I was okay with it.

Actor/Comedian Jerry Lewis was collecting donations around the country for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and using the airwaves of television.  He used his celebrity status to send his message across the nation for funding purposes (Lewis, J., 1973). ). As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that this was a version of crowdfunding.

Television is not the only medium for such charitable organizations. Currently, people, namely fans, are giving their hard-earned dollars and, often, their time willingly to entertainment crowdfunding campaigns online on websites such as Kickstarter.com. From those early telethon days, we have come into the 21st century where crowdfunding for the film industry has been growing in popularity over the years and has been helped by the growing fan base for certain types of film, music, and television projects. While film and television are not the only industries seeking an audience with its fans, they are the most prominent.

A good example of this is the 2004 television series, Veronica Mars (Thomas, 2004), which aired on the UPN/CW network from 2004 to 2007. In 2013 the cancelled series was going through a facelift and a new home on the big screen (imdb.com, 2014). The creator, Rob Thomas, wanted the network to help him turn the show into a movie, but the network didn’t think it had the viewership to become successful at the box office, so they passed. The fans wanted a movie, and at their urging, Thomas started a Kickstarter campaign to see if he could get the project off the ground. Because of the fans, the Kickstarter campaign was the most successful yet for the site. The campaign earned 2 million dollars (Thomas’ original goal) within the first 12 hours. The most interesting aspect of the campaign was the fact that it was completely funded by fans. The final tally for the movie campaign was 5.7 million, and it became the first big successful campaign for Kickstarter (McMillan, 2013).

The fans for Veronica Mars were singular in their determination and surprised the network and Rob Thomas with their loyal following. Surely, the movie’s success was a fluke? With this case, I realized something important – were all the entertainment and fan-based campaigns that successful and if so…why? I have been trying for a while now to understand this kind of fan loyalty. I want to know why fans give. Many campaigns have come and gone since Veronica Mars. My research blog will focus on the entertainment-based crowdfunding campaigns, and how they possibly fool the fans into helping them promote their campaigns. I plan on sharing several case studies on fan labor, agency, and exploitation, including more details on the Veronica Mars movie. I will also show how the hierarchy of fandom and the devotion of those fans plays a part in why fans give of their time and money and how crowdfunding has created a new and more tangible way in which fans can contribute.

 

 

References:

Lewis, J. (Producer), & Lewis, J. (Director). (1973, September 2). The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (Television Broadcast) Las Vegas, NV. American Broadcasting Company.

McMillan, G., (2013). Veronica Mars KickStarter Breaks Records, Raises Over $2M in 12 Hours. WIRED. (13, March 12). Retrieved November 26, 2014, from   http://www.wired.com/2013/03/veronica-mars-kickstarter-record/

Thomas, R. (Producer). (2004). Veronica Mars (Television Series). Hollywood, CA:United Paramount Network/Central Broadcasting Service and Warner Brothers

Veronica Mars (TV Series 2004-2007) – Trivia. IMDb. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412253/

Wikipedia.com (2015). “Crowdsourcing.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing

Annotated Bibliography

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1.  Barbas, S. (2001). “Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and The Cult of Celebrity” FALGRAVE, St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition

The fascination of Hollywood started from the beginning. In 1910 citizens who went to the picture show were enamored of the stars on the screen and the behind the scenes stories of how to make movies. Barbas’ book explains fully the ideology of celebrity and fans. I really liked this quote in the introduction: “Fans not only consume mass culture but also appropriate and manipulate it.” Even back in 1930 when fans were writing the studios begging for a tough-talking hero, the studios delivered with the actor, Clark Gable. Barbas talks about how fans actually created their idols and how they manipulated studios.

One of the other big issues she shares is the dynamics of how the fans may have controlled Hollywood, but how Hollywood also controlled the fans by capitalizing on the fans interest in the stars. Hollywood urged the fans to see consumption as a way to participate and the fans gladly supplied their time and money to help the cause. They might not be able to sit next to Greta Garbo and talk to her, but by golly they could wear her lipstick.

Authenticity is another aspect that Barbas asks to consider. The fans wanted to know just who those stars were, for real. They wanted to discover who they were away from the cameras or if that hero in Clark Gable was just a façade, a character, or could he be a hero in real life? So this pursuit lead to fan clubs and fan magazines so fans could get closer to those stars.

Another interesting topic Barbas shares is the beginning of the Movie Star Fan Club, and how fans came from all over the world to discuss goals and objectives, activities and development. The first fan club convention started in 1933.   Fans came together to share how they would promote their clubs and organizations for the upcoming year. All were volunteers. They started a cause called “Boosting” because they believed that in boosting the celebrity status of their favorite star or movie, it meant more perks for them.

This book is perfect for what I want to explain about how fandom began in Hollywood in particular and how the system of celebrity and fans is a give and take one.

2.  Barton, M. and Lampley, J.M., (Ed.). (2014). “FanCULTure: Essays on Participatory Fandom in the 21st Century” McFarland and Co. Publishers. Kindle Edition

“FanCULTure” is actually a group of essays. The authors of this book focus on how fan cultures can become more like cults. The authors offer a brief fan history on the fandoms of shows and movies like, Firefly (Whedon, 2002), Dark Shadows (Curtis, 1966), Lord of the Rings (Jackson, 2001), and Harry Potter (Columbus, 2001). Each fandom has its own distinct group of members with their own hierarchy, culture, and even nicknames.

The book is separated into three parts. The first being the case studies mentioned above and how each show had their own fan “productions.” Serenity and the fans of the show Firefly (Whedon, 2003) proved that fan culture can make a show on the brink of cancellation become high profile and lucrative. Loyal fan followings can no longer be ignored; they are able to control much of what is seen in Hollywood.

The second part focuses on social media and how piety or the lack there of has played on the media of sports and television. Tim Tebow is the focus on this part of the essay and he explains how he used sports and social media to share his religious beliefs. It is surprising how religion has either held up or down the person who expresses their beliefs. Tim has his detractors, but it seems that his religious beliefs and the way he shares them are being accepted. This makes me think about how crowdfunding uses situations and emotions, or beliefs to market their platforms as well.

The third section of the book shares the idea of fan-influenced content. The main focus for this section was about the adult fans of LEGOs. Because of the adult fans of LEGOs, the toy company began creating more complicated kits for grown men and women who were collectors or fans of other media. They began by creating LEGOs for such fans as Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) and Lord of the Rings. LEGO realized the market for adult builders and created a whole new world of fan memorabilia. Again, the idea of marketing, crowdfunding, and fandom comes into focus here and makes me excited for my research. 

3.  Gregg, M., & Seigworth, C. (Ed.) (2010). “The Affect Theory Reader.” Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

The definition of “affect” and its meaning is encased in the pages of this book, which I vaguely knew to begin with. I like this particular definition of affect at the beginning of the book: “Affect, at its most anthropomorphic, is the name we give to those forces-visceral, forces beneath, alongside, or generally other than conscious knowing, vital forces insisting beyond emotion—that can serve to drive us toward movement, toward thought and extension, that can likewise suspend us (as if in neutral) across a barely registering accretion of force-relations, or that can even leave us overwhelmed by the world’s apparent intractability.” I really could not have put it as eloquently as this. We are all guided by affect or our emotions, and those stimuli that spur them on are emphasized throughout this book. Reading this book was kind of mind boggling with its philosophical theories of ontology. Yet, there were a lot of ideas I found that supported my thesis.

The book goes over the metaphysics study of ontology, which is the study of being. Reality, existence, other worlds are not quite what I was looking for in my research. But, then I discovered chapter four, “Cruel Optimism.” This chapter goes into the “object of our desires,” and how those desires are really a cluster of promises we are hoping to fulfill with an attachment and close proximity to the object. My research on fandoms resonates this idea of these kinds of desires. Fans willing to do anything for their favorite media object would be considered a cruel optimism. I think of it as more of a vicious cycle.

Reading further I found that chapter five, “Bitter After Taste,” reviews the “ideal” and how it is not always as good as we think it is. How often do we get close to something to find out that it was not what we supposed and we are let down and disappointed. Fans arguably do the same. One can be a fan of a television show, but if a favorite character dies, or does something a viewer was not expecting, that fan could become unhappy and lose interest in the narrative. Chapter five reviews the idea of social aesthetics. Social aesthetics is considered to be a deep-rooted passion mixed with minor and major affect emotions such as envy, shame, surprise, embarrassment, etc. Aesthetics can become a moral improvement, where the improvement focuses on sensation, perception, and sentiment.

When I began to read this book, I did not think it would be very helpful for my thesis, but now, after reading, I find it has a great wealth of explanations for how the human spirit reacts to certain stimuli and emotions, as well as how it will be an excellent reference for why fans react to stimuli.

4.  Gross, M., (2005). “Starstruck: When a Fan Gets Close to Fame” Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition

It is safe to say I love media, fandom, and the art of celebrity. A true fan much like myself wrote this book. The only difference between he and I is he took what I would only think of doing and did them. He is someone who was able to get the “in” on celebrities. He went inside the fan and celebrity private circles and decided to write about what he witnessed, which was quite a lot.

Gross’ book delves into the underbelly of fandom and the lengths fans go for a particular celebrity. He talks about how all this has become a business, and it isn’t always a good one. He shares the idea of reciprocity, if a fan will do something for the star, the star should do something in return. Many times the stars don’t even realize the way in which the fans treat them or vise versa; a fan can use the star to elevate the fan in his or her own inner circle. It seems that everyone uses everyone else to get the notice that they want.

The fans use celebrity to make money or notoriety, and it is depicted well in several case studies Gross shares with the reader. He mentions the shop lifting incident with Winona Ryder, and the fans who waited outside her courtroom, and the trial of Michael Jackson just to name a few. With each case, a fan or several of them did just about anything and everything to be near those stars, with no concern for their own person or that of the celebrity. They spent money, slept on the streets, and waited in long lines just for one second of notice, or even, dare I say, a one-on-one conversation with their favorite celebrity.

The story of the author entering into a celebrity party for Larry King was particularly interesting because it was for the journalist’s 70th birthday. Many people came who were not invited, and they were not kicked out. The main reason was to give Mr. King more attention/publicity and also allow fans to get closer to him and the other stars that attended. Stars knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate this fan frenzy mentality. It is a win/win right? Not necessarily, fans become abused and exploited and in the same turn Hollywood and the art of creating celebrity becomes more elevated and revered.

5.  Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., et al. (2013). “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” MIT Press. Kindle Edition

This book is not a book per say; it is actually a report by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Digital Media and Learning, and Henry Jenkins leads the report but there are many other contributors. The report on participatory culture shows how it is evolving to become more than just a place where people can hang out but also a place where people can learn, develop, grow, and share their creativity. The other contributors have added to the report with their thoughts on digital youth culture, approaches to media education, participation, and why it is important to teach this topic and finally the challenges ahead for participatory cultures.

Although much of this book is about youth and how they learn, there is vital information and data that explains why participatory culture is so popular. There is a section that talks about “affinity spaces” and people who are part of these spaces seem to learn and develop at a faster rate. The report argues that affinity spaces offer powerful opportunities. I would say that this goes with fan culture and even the hierarchy of a fan culture. The quote on p.133 is an interesting comment and something I believe can support the idea of crowdfunding becoming one of those affinity spaces. It says, “Affinity spaces are also highly generative environments from which new aesthetic experiments and innovations emerge.”

Crowdfunding has only been around for five years; this is a highly experimental area for fan culture’s participation. Many crowdfunding campaigns, especially those designed by Hollywood and the entertainment industry offer a new place for fans to go and a new way for them to participate. Although fans have been contributing to their favorite stars, shows or movies for years, it is interesting to note that the platform of how they can contribute has changed, and I believe that is due in part to crowdfunding.

6.  Larsen, K. & Zubernis, L., (2013). “Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls”
University of Iowa Press. Kindle Edition

This is a fun and informative book on how two professors became fangirls over a television show called Supernatural (Kripke, 2005). In the beginning, these two women “fell down the rabbit hole,” as they titled their first chapter, into a labyrinth full of joy and disappointment. They started out as regular folk, two college professors who focused on their academia, and eventually went into the trenches of fandom to follow the Supernatural conventions around the country. Their goal was to try and meet and intimately know their favorite celebrities from that particular show. They went on to validate their fan status by writing a scholarly book about their adventures.

Larsen and Zubernis mention how the idea of fandom can be mocked. Using the documentary “Trekkies” as an often-misguided film that showed more of the outrageous side of fandom than the sweet and sentimental ideals of the show’s fans. Even sharing that the minute a person states, “I am a fan” they are ridiculed. It is almost like a guilty pleasure and oft times hard to admit even for these authors. Larsen and Zubernis run the gambit of all superficial and deep emotions expressed on the how’s and why’s of being a fan.

The last half of the book I believe to be a good fit for referencing in my research; these chapters relate several stories that happened to the authors while visiting the set of the show and becoming fan writers. They share what happened to them afterward and how the experience basically left them a little jaded, perhaps cynical and left a bad taste in their mouths.

The final chapter is very telling in how the media, namely the company that runs the Supernatural conventions, took advantage of these fine ladies and their love for the show.

Interesting enough, they hold no animosity toward the show or its producers but they came away with a better idea of how fans build up shows and how the shows they love can tear those fans down.

7.  Levy, P. (1997). “Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace” Persius Books, Cambridge Mass.

Pierre Levy has a positive outlook on what the future holds because of the collective intelligence within digital culture. I do like the way Levy uses angelic and theological terms to share what he sees as an ideal utopia, if only we as humans allowed it.

Levy shows us how all that information and exchange in the cyber world can liberate us from those social and political hierarchies, which have stood in the way of advancements. He is a true historian who gives insight to the future of cyberspace. Levy shares what the post modern and modern aspects are on culture, and where the digital world will be taking us as far as how we can communicate, live, and share with one another. What is important to note for my research is the fact that Levy speaks of digital culture and the hierarchy involved and that plays right into the way fan culture has evolved.

Levy explains the social bonds of a collective as well as how that collective relates as a community. In chapter 10 he explains the semiotics of merchandise and the commodity space, and how it is an illusion, which also shows parallels with my research on crowdfunding and how the commodity space or market space redistributes indefinitely and is unfolding into the collective intelligence, or in my case fandom. I find it interesting that Levy sees this marketing space and how it could corrupt the utopian culture he speaks of.

One of the loftier goals that Levy has for digital culture is this aspect of getting away from the marketing space and living qualitatively in the digital world. I thought of Star Trek and how the value of money was no longer an issue in that narrative. Roddenberry’s world saw us communicating with small handheld devices, so maybe Levy’s idea is not so far fetched, but with crowdfunding platforms the commodity space is alive and well.

8.  Spirer, G. (2014). “Crowdfunding: The Next Big Thing. Money-Raising Secrets of the Digital Age” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition

Crowdfunding has grown within the last five years. Kickstarter was one of the first to gain popularity especially among Hollywood producers and creators. This book explains the basics of crowdfunding; it is kind of a play-by-play on how to raise money on digital platforms like Kickstarter and get the money you need for whatever project you want.

The author goes into detail on how a design and pitch can make or break a sale. He also delves into the marketing aspect of crowdfunding and the importance of a project’s campaign strategies. It sounds rather political, but it seems to be the nature of the beast. The focus is on successful business models, because crowdfunding is just that, a business, and a business that can take a project from the beginnings of an idea to development, to layout, to the final concept, and strategies for whatever product that may be.

This book will help me explain just how a crowdfunding campaign plays on the heartstrings as well as the pocketbooks to get people to donate money. In Chapter 12, Spirer discusses how crowdfunding with equity should be the user’s end goal, even saying how they need to learn to mine the veins of gold. He goes on to explain the reward and gift system and how that plays into more equity for the Crowdfunder’s pockets.

Spirer also discusses the negative aspects and risks of crowdfunding and how there are repercussions for a badly launched campaign. Not only could it be bad, it can also cause a user the money he or she is hoping to gain. He even quotes Malcolm Gladwell and explains the importance to put in the hours and keep on trying, because a good campaign can make you rich.

After doing some research on several of my case studies for my thesis, I believe this book can help me explain how crowdfunding can be deceitful and take donations from unsuspecting people just to make a lot of money without regard to others.

Five articles on Crowdfunding:

9. Bannerman, S. (2013). Crowdfunding Culture. 2013: VOL. 7 NO. 1. SOUND MOVES. Retrieved from http://wi.mobilities.ca/crowdfunding-culture/

This is the article that got me thinking about crowdfunding and fan culture to begin with. Jeff Howe, a journalist for Wired magazine coined the phrase “Crowdsourcing” and in the time he wrote the word it has taken flight. This article explains the change over from the word crowdsourcing to “crowdfunding” and how the platform is creating a metamorphosis.

There are new crowdfunding platforms emerging that are hopefully more influenced by community and for the greater good. One of the focuses was on a new funding platform called Kiva. Kiva offers loans from donators to those in need. It is interesting to note that Kiva also expects those being funded to repay the loan so the money can go back to the funder who may choose to donate funds again to someone else. This is one platform that I plan to use as a case study for my research on new emerging crowdfunding platforms. 

10.  Galuszka, P., & Bystrov, V. (2014). “The Rise of FanVesters: A Study of a Crowdfunding Community” First Monday, Volume 19, Number 5
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4117/4072
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i5.4117z
http://firstmonday.org/article/view/4117/4072

This First Monday article focuses on the empirical study of a crowdfunding community. It also explains whether the motives and motivations of the fanvestors in supporting recording artists on MegaTotal, the oldest Polish crowdfunding site, was spurred on by the reward based system of crowdfunding. I believe this might be a good case study to support the other case studies I will be blogging about. MegaTotal was created in 2007 and is considered one of the oldest crowdfunding sites online. This study was important because it was found that what drove the fans to donate was not typical of them in times past. 

11.  Griffin, Z. (2012) “Crowdfunding: Fleecing the American Masses” Case Western Reserve Journal of Law, Technology & the Internet, Forthcoming. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=2030001

Crowdfunding is a business, and this essay explains how crowdfunding is all about capital gains, losses, and securities. Not that I want to write about all that taxation and legal material that crowdfunding can provide, but it is important for those who fund a campaign to know just what they are getting themselves into as far as their money goes. This is a good essay that helps explain the models of crowdfunding and how they work.

12. Lawson, R. (2013). Anyone Know of a Better Charity Than the ‘Veronica Mars’ Movie?  The Wire, Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2013/03/kickstarter-kind-of-   annoying-isnt-it/63060/

Lawson is very candid about his dislike for the way entertainment mediums are now using crowdfunding campaigns to produce new creative work. He believes that people are being suckered into these crowdfunding campaigns without realizing how much the studios and creators are exploiting them. He believes the person who ends up paying for it all in the end is the fan, and the fan needs to be aware of this before investing.

13. Valanciene, L., Jegeleviciute, S., (2013). “Valuation of Crowdfunding; Benefits and Drawbacks” Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania http://mechanika.ktu.lt/index.php/Ekv/article/view/3713/2499

Along the lines of the article above, this essay shares the SWOT analysis of crowdfunding. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Crowdfunding has all of these issues, and this is a great paper on how to understand these categories within crowdfunding. I believe the data from this essay will help my argument that there are drawbacks to crowdfunding and that it is not always the best way to go about asking for donations or funding.

Five Articles on Fan Labor:

14. Baker-Whitelaw, G., (2014) Inside the Corporate Fandom Marketing Machine.      http://www.dailydot.com/geek/inside-fandom-media-campaign/

Magazine articles abound online for fan agency and exploitation, this article focuses, in particular, on the fans of Star Trek and how those fans perpetuated the legacy of that franchise. The article goes on to explain the “machine” of geek culture, which is a new concept within participatory culture. Tweeting and re-tweeting or using blogs like Tumblr for a media object can only help one’s own profile online, so there is that “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” kind of mentality within geek culture. They know that perpetuating a media object will be good for their business and online persona. This type of culture makes the object seem to be more real and approachable and therefore makes the fans want to participate all the more.

15. Chin, B. (2014) “Sherlockology and Galactica.tv: Fan sites as gifts or exploited labor?” Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol. 15. Retrieved from          http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/513/416

I really enjoy reading Bertha Chin’s papers, and this one is no exception. This paper explains the ways in which fans have become more vested and producers of their favorite media object, but at what cost? Chin herself did a study of two different fan sites and their ideas of fan labor and exploitation. She also gives some good examples, which I hope to use as case studies, in particular the cases of Firefly and Supernatural.

16. Chin, B., et. al. (2014). “Veronica Mars Kickstarter and Crowd Funding” [dialogue]. In Fandom and/as Labor, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15. Retrieved from http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/warner_bros._sets_up_official_petition_email_for_ veronica_mars_film

Chin’s interviewed article is about the Veronica Mars (Thomas, 2013) movie campaign and how it was the first big Kickstarter campaign that broke the records, and it was funded completely by fans. I plan on using this article to support one of my case studies. The Veronica Mars movie campaign was one of the first to show a backlash for fans, this article showed how much it made, and the ramifications it caused the fans of the TV show and movie. It is about fan agency, labor, and exploitation but also how fans can demand to be heard and the expectations of Hollywood to answer.

17. McMillan, G. (2012). Kickstarter Queen Amanda Palmer, Meet Your Internet     Backlash. Social Media, Digital Trends.
Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/kickstarter-queen-amanda-palmer-meet-your-internet-backlash/

Graeme McMillan shares the events leading up to Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign and how she somewhat tricked musicians to come and play with her for free. Well, she promised to pay them in pizza and beer. McMillan also shows how Amanda Palmer took advantage of her fan-base with promises of a new album so that she could fund her own personal expenses without an album to show for it.

18. Spence, J. (2014) “Labours Of Love: Affect, Fan Labour, And The Monetization Of Fandom” University of Western Ontario – Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. Paper 2203. http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3906&context=etd

Spence is a PhD student whose 112-page dissertation is on film and fan studies. Her paper explains the “labor of love” fans perform for their favorite objects on a regular basis. She compares fan activism with fan labor and differentiates the two. She explains how even back in Dickens’ time fans helped create the content. She also shares that fans do not know the power they wield, and that there is a fine line between fan agency and labor.