A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend South by Southwest Interactive in Austin. Between panels, parties, and the constant stream of Tweets, I'm still processing everything I took in at the conference.
For those of you who couldn't make it to Austin last month--and even for those of you who could--I wanted to share the slides from one of the best panels I attended: "Engagement 1.0: Understanding the History of Fan Interactivity," featuring Ivan Askwith, Henry Jenkins and Abigail De Kosnik. Since these three are affiliated with C3, I may be a little biased, but I am sincere when I say that this panel was the most useful discussion fan practices saw at SXSW. I left the presentation with a basic but broad understanding of how fan communities create value and worth. The slides:
As these slides suggest, Askwith began with definition of "fans" that served to frame the discussion.
Jenkins then provided a historical perspective on fandom to suggest that fans have functioned as virtual communities and social networks long before the rise of "web 2.0." Beginning with the example of 19th century toy printing press aficionados, Jenkins illustrated that fans have formed communities around shared interests for a long time. Further, Jenkins provided examples of pre-internet fans engaged in what we think of as "web 2.0" practices including consumer activism, globalization, brand communities, remix culture, participatory culture, and learning communities. This historical framing of fandom proved particularly useful to the marketers in the audience looking to engage fans with their brands. Jenkins suggested that fan communities existed and thrived long before brands decided fans were important, so brands should accordingly court fans through already existing communities.
Abigail De Kosnik's presentation dealt with issues of monetizing fan production. De Kosnik gave examples of commercial fan production--including hip-hop, Doujinshi, game mods, and literary appropriations--to show that certain types of fan production have been successfully monetized while other forms--namely fan fiction--have been distributed free of charge. De Kosnik argued that fandom in all forms makes producers money, yet the female-dominated world of fan fiction has not been able -or perhaps willing--to make money from their productivity. The gendered implication of this argument became especially interesting as De Kosnik and the audience began to ask questions about fan fiction as "women's work," meaning that it's a traditionally unpaid activity done in a "safe space."
SXSW was rife with panels trying to understand how marketers can engage fans. Askwith, Jenkins, and De Kosnik injected the discussion with the cultural and historical context necessary to understand fan practices and how they work.