I am always interested in categorizations of fans, a list breaking down fan "types." I've seen several helpful category lists that help explain and understand fan behaviors. No one list makes perfect sense and explains everything, but this type of research at least provides a framework for understanding and talking about fan behaviors. In some of my recent work, I've been drawing on some of my own previous work on fan communities and categorizations I derived from an ethnography of wrestling fandom.
My own research breaks fan behaviors into five categories, looking at HOW fans engage with a show. This process was based on my observations in the pro wrestling arena, looking at how fans respond and comment on their behavior at live events, but I think this applies particularly well to Internet fandom as well. I wanted to present those categories for C3 readers both for any help it might be but also to see what you might have to challenge them.
Those categories are:
1.) Fans as spectators (or consumers). This is the traditional passive view of fans and an important part of understanding fandom in general. In short, fans consume texts, and it's hard to be a fan of something if you never partake in anything surrounding it.
2.) Fans as critics. Almost all modes of engagement with a product involves more than just being part of the show. Most of the discursive activities surrounding a show do not just involve being within the willing suspension of disbelief but commenting on, discussing, arguing about the show, the acting, etc.
3.) Fans as theorists. Owing to the theories of Thomas McGlaughlin, fan writing and discussion contains a great deal of wisdom about a product that has often been called vernacular theory, and fans are often quite introspective and articulate about their own behaviors, the nature of consumption, the draw of the particular media product, etc.
4.) Fans as performers. As fans engage in these critical and theoretical observations, and in a variety of other ways, fans are performing, both for each other and for the text itself. In the wrestling arena, this type of behavior is particularly easy to see, but the performative aspect of the online fan community is quite noticeable as well.
5.) Fans as a community. The social aspects of fandom cannot be ignored, and each of the other four modes of engagement play directly into them. A great deal of fandom, however, can only be understood in relation to the communal whole of a particular fan community and how these modes of engagement have as much to do with relationships among community members as they do with the text itself. In my understanding of both pro wrestling and soaps, both have to be understood as social texts, and their power and artistry make much less sense removed from the fan relationships that they empower and which, in turn, empowers them.
The essay in which these categorizations come from is still pending publication and has been under review/revision for some time. In an effort to share the information, though, I wanted to post it first here in hopes that it might be useful to other researchers or, conversely, that any problems others might have with these categorizations could be discussed.