FAN CULTURES: Seminar 8 – How has the Internet changed the way fans interact and identify?

The internet has massively changed the way people interact with content. In the pre internet era, people are given something, or given knowledge based on who they are and where they live. Everything is sort of curated and boxed in. For media, there are things to watch on TV but it is all made by huge companies and you have no way of having your point of view catered for, or shown, if it isn’t already. Newspapers hold one point of view and your experience and wisdom will come from yourself and those around you, unless you are lucky enough to travel the world.

In the modern day, the internet massively expands on content, media and interaction. If content on the internet was explained as lunch it would be like walking into a room, “someone points at the buffet and says, “Enjoy!” You turn to see a 100-foot-long buffet table, piled high with every kind of food imaginable. To be fair, some of the food is durian, head cheese, and chilled monkey brains, but that’s cool, some people are into those” (Wohl, 2016). Through this disintermediation, people now have (relatively) unfiltered access to whatever they want, whenever they want. There are different viewpoints, opinions, discussions and of course content: There are professional productions, amateur productions, fan productions and communities.

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(/r/knolling, 2018)

As the internet has evolved from 1.0 to 2.0, it is now even easier to be a fan and interact with others. The internet has changed from a huge space, that is overwhelming to explore, to an interactive space where everything is connected. Social media enables fans to easily create communities and to find others which share the same passion and share content such as fanfiction and fan art. These fan communities are sort of an extension of fan clubs and fanzines although internet communities have the benefits of feeling a part of a real, active, community, having free access, no (or less) elitism as usually anyone can contribute and increased visibility. Some people are against the internet somewhat and believe that some of the old ways are better, for example, they may think that fan zines have a better standard of quality due to needing to be moderated and printed rather than a thoughtless post on the internet. (‘Zines and the Internet’, 2017)

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(Kardashian West, 2018)

Social media also enables fans to have a new dimension of interaction by having ‘direct’ contact with the thing/person they are a fan of. I say ‘direct’ because often social media is run by labels or social media managers and not the actual musician (or actor, etc.), although, whether people “are in fact communicating and making friends with the actual performer or with a record company employee does not seem all that important, for the outcome is the same” (Beer, 2008). People perceive the person to be them, if a fan sees an artist they like and they are verified on twitter for example, that is as good as them. If they interact with them, it feels as if they are getting somewhere and may have their query addressed, existence acknowledged or any sort of perceived closeness to their fandom.

 

 

Wohl, B. (2016) ‘The different fanfic eras explained as lunch’, 29 February. Available at: https://berlynn-wohl.tumblr.com/post/140241578518/the-different-fanfic-eras-explained-as-lunch (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

/r/knolling. (2018) Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/knolling/ (Accessed: 11 March 2018)

‘Zines and the Internet’. (2017) Fanlore wiki. Available at:  https://fanlore.org/wiki/Zines_and_the_Internet (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

Kardashian West, K. (2018) [Twitter] Available at: https://twitter.com/kimkardashian (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

Beer, D. (2008) ‘Making Friends with Jarvis Cocker: Music Culture
in the Context of Web 2.0’, Cultural Sociology, 2(2), p. 232. doi: 10.1177/1749975508091034.

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FAN CULTURES: Week 2 – Obsessive Fan(s)

From the late 70s to the present day, Star Wars has remained popular and has many fans of all different ages and all backgrounds although a common representation you see would be a 30 – 40 year old man who is a little too obsessed with cosplay and toys, a stereotype of a nerd.

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(RedLetterMedia, 2017)

One media outlet that represents Star Wars fans in a negative way is the YouTube channel RedLetterMedia. They are a movie review channel that often makes satirical content. They are more recently known for satirising popular franchises such as Marvel and Star Wars and their fans.

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They show fans as being sheep and just as consumers through the use of props of many SW toys and unnecessary merchandise in their parody videos. They often suggest many fans are pretending to like Star Wars to fit in or are made to like because the companies make people like it. “a film by a committee think tank designed to appeal to brain dead fan boys” (RedLetterMedia, 2017)

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They also show Star Wars fans as being quite irrational, often seeming childish and quick to anger or be defensive over people opinions. Especially in response to the new movies, SW fans have been very divided as to which films in the series are good or not. For example, Rogue One was a film with divided opinion and when RedLetterMedia created a video on this movie, they received lots of hate and negativity from fans for their opinion. In one video, they showcased comments trying to disprove the opinion of theirs and attacking them for it. (RedLetterMedia, 2017) They showed comments, spelling and grammar mistakes included, to then disprove or make fun of them.

 

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(RedLetterMedia, 2017)

Finally, another way they portray them is obsessive and too nostalgic. They criticise viewers who enjoy seeing what they already know and like as opposed to new and interesting ideas in the movies. Jay and Mike from the channel satirise Star Wars fans hysteria after watching Rogue One by saying “C3PO AND R2D2 SHOWED UP AND I CLAPPED! I CLAPPED WHEN I SAW THEM TOO! I CLAPPED BECAUSE I KNOW STAR WARS! I KNOW WHAT THAT IS!” (RedLetterMedia, 2016).

I think a lot of the representations of fans from this channel are wrong and harmful to the fans because it affects how they are seen by others. It also could affect people by making them not want to be a fan of Star Wars any more and losing a part of their identities. Although they do it in a funny and entertaining way, some people are just really passionate, have an attachment and enjoy the movies and may buy lots of merchandise because that’s what they like: it doesn’t mean they are obsessive or crazy. I do agree with them on some points however and there are many SW fans that are really too obsessed and take it too far and that is when they try to change or attack people based on their opinions just because it is different, this is something fans of many things need to address.

 

 

RedLetterMedia (2017) The Nerd Crew Episode 5 – The Last Jedi Trailer #2 Breakdown!!!. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv8q1ENfWBA (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

RedLetterMedia (2017) Mr. Plinkett Responds to Comments on his Video Commenting on Disney’s Star Wars Rogue One!. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9-vP7kJheI (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

RedLetterMedia (2017) The Nerd Crew: Episode 6 – The Last Jedi Trailer 2 Reaction! And Justice League Breakdown. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3K44GQwxbA (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

RedLetterMedia (2016) Half in the Bag: Rogue One. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc2kFk5M9x4 (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

FAN CULTURES: Week 1 – Auto-Ethnography

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(Clark)

The thing I’m a big fan of is an experimental Hip Hop group called Death Grips. They make aggressive and abrasive hip hop and electronic music although it fuses elements from many genres. They are both popular and underground and are known for being elusive and messing with their fans, record labels and promoters. They produce all of their music, videos, art and merch all in house or in collaboration with a select few artists and musicians and rarely work with other big names. I first found the band mid 2013 when I found a review on YouTube for ExMilitary, Death Grips’ first album. I was intrigued by the name and album cover, so I started to listen to everything they had made so far.

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(Death Grips, 2014)

I think the band matters to me because I enjoy the music and value it for it’s aggressiveness, it could be sort of an outlet where listening to crazy music makes me calmer and happier like some version of schadenfreude. I also enjoy the music for the variety and standard of quality I perceive it to be. I like the challenging aspect of the music and trying to understand the lyrics. I think I also value the way the band acts as they are very private people but still have fun and mess with their fans. I can relate because I am an introverted, private person but it doesn’t make me enjoy things less. I relate to the band because they do not really care about attention and only about their art.

 

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(Death Grips, 2015)

Their strange antics and ways they lead on fans and leak or tease new music or videos are also a source of entertainment for me, I like following what they do because it is fun to get hyped up for new music and seeing peoples reactions online in communities. The thing I am a fan of then “becomes a participatory culture which transforms the experience of media consumption into the production of new texts” (Jenkins, 1992, p. 46) as fans create their own music and art based on Death Grips’ music.

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(Death Grips, 2012)

An important part of my appreciation for the band is their visual style which has influenced some of what I do as a graphic designer as they have a very interesting lo-fi, low budget style with lots of really interesting film making techniques and very bold and strange album covers. My music taste has shaped a lot of what I like to see visually and it is why I am very interested in the relationship between sound and video and specifically music videos. My identities as a designer and as a consumer/listener are linked through the things I enjoy. “One becomes a “fan” not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some kind of cultural activity” (Jenkins, 2006, p.41)

 

Clark, B. FYF Festival in Los Angeles, CA. Available at: https://rateyourmusic.com/images/all?type=a&assoc_id=693744 (Accessed: January 30 2018)

Death Grips (2014) [Facebook] 19 January. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/deathgripz/photos/a.170870002958187.36818.170869886291532/692566934121822/?type=3&theater (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

Death Grips (2015) [Facebook] 19 March. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/deathgripz/posts/928842713827575  (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge.

Death Grips (2012) Death Grips – Double Helix. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWzJhkrZm5Y (Accessed: 11 March 2018).

Jenkins, H. (2006) Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press.

BRAND BUSTING: Flexible Branding & Disintermediation

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(MTV branding)

Flexible branding and Disintermediation in branding are both linked by audience interaction with brands. Both are to do with the deconstruction of the traditional branding techniques used by companies in order to better mesh with their audiences and the modern internet age we live in.

Firstly, flexible branding is when a brand has a signature style, mark, symbol or name which is then applied to different images, words, styles or formats. A few examples are the London 2012 Olympic logos and the MTV branding shown above.

The basic history of flexible branding starts after World War II, when the branding business exploded when multinational corporations wanted to appear unified and strong. They did this by utilising bold singular logos and cohesive branding. (Armstrong & Stojmirovic, 2011, P.87-115) This made every company unique and almost revitalised and upgraded even though they probably faced hardships during the war. Theorists such as Roland Barthes were intrigued by these new logos and singular brand identities so they began deconstructing them and their meanings from the point of view of a singular author projecting their voice universally.

Now, things are different and singular identities struggle to convey all the information and all-over-the-place identities companies have now, this is where flexible branding comes in. Audiences relate more to these varied identities more because there are more possibilities the consumer will identify with the brand. The brand becomes less like one controlling overlord and becomes a more friendly community of identities that people can relate to or in some cases contribute to. The consumers become more of a part of the brand than ever.

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(Design Academy Eindhoven, 2010)

Disintermediation in branding is when information, services or products are not only available from one brand or even, just the large corporations. Now the consumer can find other brands, ship things across the country, control the ads they see, hire people through apps, buy from independent businesses across the globe, buy directly from supplier and get news and info from friends, influences or whoever they like. Big brands are no longer the only option for things like in the past where a large corporation might own the broadcasting companies and use that to their advantage to only show their ads or promote their beliefs or charge extortionate costs for others to do so.

Now, because of the internet, content is always available on demand, the individual has control of content, information and feedback is a two way conversation for companies and consumers, no place needed (brands can operate out of websites) and the companies have no control. Instead of brands being titans that you either accept or ignore, now the brands can be anyone and any scale.A person can be their own brand, a person can set up a small business, a person can create an app and make billions with no funding, etc. (Houle & Shapiro, 2014, p. 48)

Just like they did with flexible branding, businesses need to adapt to stay successful. These brands need to learn to have a back and forth with consumers and learn how to make them happy and engages whilst keeping them on as consumers, probably the best way brands can do this is through social media: This is why recently businesses have been taking to Facebook and Twitter and been interacting with the community and posting memes and humour to keep things interactive and engaging whilst infiltrating their entertainment to advertise. Consumers now hold all the power so brands need to be careful because of how information spreads and how easily people can band together.

 

 

MTV Branding. Available at: https://thoughtport.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/flexible-branding-and-brand-governance.html (Accessed: 29 November 2017)

Helen Armstrong & Zvezdana Stojmirovic (2011) ‘Flexibility’, in Participate: Designing
with User-Generated Content. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. pp.87-115

The Stone Twins, Design Academy Eindhoven identity, 2010. Available at: https://www.designacademy.nl/Portals/0/www/menu/identity.jpg (Accessed: 29 November 2017)

David Houle & Owen Shapiro (2014) Brand Shift: The Future of Brands and Marketing. Chicago: David Houle & Associates, p. 48

BRAND BUSTING: The Tate Modern

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The task was to analyse the Tate brand in my own terms. The terms I have chosen are Authenticity and Cultural Capital: I chose these because the Tate is an art gallery, which needs to have some significance and has standards to be held to. For example you wouldn’t expect an art gallery to hold any random artist’s work,  they would chose popular artist’s work or selected pieces with significance. A gallery is a showcase and therefore needs to show the best and most influential, or the most underrated, a gallery that does this well will attract more viewers and patrons, can make more money to support the arts, hold events and inspire people to embrace or get involved with art.

Authenticity first. Does the Tate need to be authentic? I think somewhat, but it depends in what sense. In terms of commercialism it could be a good or a bad thing for the Tate, some artists may not want to show their work in such a popular gallery which is sponsored by the UK government and commercial as there are many shops around the building. It is the Tate Modern meaning it shows work from current artists some of which may rebel against the government/ideologies/commercialism etc.

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Some may see the commercialisation of the Tate as a good thing because of a few reasons: The artists will make more money through exposure from such a large gallery, they may also make money if their work is in any of the gift shops or sold through the Tate. The commercialism will also make the art much more accessible to the masses, people are more likely to go to the Tate modern than the David Zwirner gallery for example, and people can take home a piece of the art through the store. The message or talent of the artist does not need to be watered down just because the gallery is popular public institution.

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As for everything else in authenticity, I think the Tate is a very authentic brand: They are true to their audience and do not false advertise. They provide a service fit for their audience, which is to provide interesting, educational and thought provoking exhibitions and events for their members and to the public. They are really for the people as a lot of their displays are free and only encourage a donation. They also showcase a wide variety of work from not only British artists (supporting local art) but also showcasing art from all over the world from many different cultures. Not only does the brand have a lot of history as they have been doing this since the late 1800s but they seem like a very authentic and human brand which even shows through their displays in which they try their best to explain the work on the walls to people which would normally not understand contemporary art.

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BRAND BUSTING: Myth

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(United Colours of Benetton)

A myth is a belief in something. Myths are how the world is understood, they maintain a sense of order and we wouldn’t know what to expect of things. We generally know things even from very young through myths taught to us through our parents and advertising. This is where stereotypes come from, as they are something that is sort of expected, and we expect this because of context and history through the sharing of myth.

“Myths are stories we tell ourselves as a culture in order to banish contradictions and make the world understandable and therefore habitable; they attempt to put us at peace with ourselves and our existence.” (Storey, 1997, p. 78). For example the myth of the afterlife: We do not know for certain if there is life after death but many choose to believe in it because it is comforting and could give purpose.

Myth in branding is used to give the companies’ brands more credibility and to appear more likable. Stories and ideas about the brand are present in the marketing and we then consume this information. A brand could say that they are a well established brand and family owned, high quality etc, but it is not always necessary the full truth. Brands can also support causes and help somewhat when really they are benefiting. A company could say they are fully eco friendly or supporting the local community, because that is what people want to hear and what will drive customers to use their products or services. when in reality they could be dumping waste or investing in other countries and businesses.

A huge example of myth that is prevalent in branding is equality. First off, everyone being equal is a myth that people want to believe in because most do not want to feel like they are better than others and have more privilege than others when in reality there are people stuck in poverty based on their class or ethnicity and more. The world is gradually getting more equal for everyone and brands know this and want to incorporate equality into their marketing, the real question is whether these brands are doing this to support an important cause and make the world a better place or if they are doing it because it will reflect positively on their brand and therefore make more money.

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(Dove, 2015)

Dove is a brand in which aims to display equality but is quite controversial with its marketing. At a surface level it appears to show a lot of equality, it is very important to it’s branding and some of the most popular ads have been ones like the one above: It shows women of different skin tones who would be considered plus size in other campaigns like this. The idea behind this campaign was to show beauty is not decided by others and homogeneous idea that you have to be thin, white and blonde to be attractive. You have to start to wonder if the business execs approving these ads really care when the parent company, Unilever, used to own SlimFast which produces diet foods with advertising telling people to get slim and owns Lynx/Axe which often has sexist ads.

 

United Colours of Benetton. Available at: http://www.alistgator.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/benetton-ad-05.jpg (Accessed: 22 November 2017)

John Storey (1997) An Introduction to Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson, p.78

Dove (2015) Available at https://i0.wp.com/femphile.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Dove-Real-Beauty-Campaign.jpg (Accessed: 22 November 2017)

 

 

BRAND BUSTING: What is Branding?

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“More neural psychology than visual imagery” (Camper, 2004)

Branding is commonly known as the way a brand presents themselves through their logo, brand identity, associated colours and imagery. In reality, it is much more complex than that. Similar to the alternate definition, branding is simply what something is, something marked. It is not just through a company’s logo, it is how we perceive it as a whole.

Futurebrand_NatWest-Logo-1969-2016Natwest old (1968) and new logo (Natwest, 2016)

A simple example of this way of thinking about it is a relatively new trend of businesses reusing old logos. Using an old logo might be thought as dated, regressive or lazy when actually it could be good for the brand. It is like a rebrand, they are not the new business anymore, they are the same old company but updated for the future, this also makes them seem authentic because they are going back to their roots. People who grew up seeing this logo might feel nostalgia and people who didn’t will just see a new logo. This could also work as a step back for a company, if they are not doing so well or have had controversy, this is a way to ‘get back to their old selves’ at least in the public eye.

“Branding is certainly not a logo, or marketing, or even a positioning statement. It is a foundation, stating who you are, what your association is, what you offer the world, and how your audience should (or does) perceive you” (Camper, 2004). A companies role in branding is to show the world who they are, and its the consumers job to process this information and share our thoughts with each other to establish their brand.

“Products are created in a factory. Brands are created in the mind.” (Landor, quoted in Slade-Brooking, 2016, p. 12)

Another example of branding from a business that I as a student should know well is the UAL brand. Based on promotional videos, the logo and everything I know already, how do I perceive the UAL brand? I first thought of it as a unique university with many colleges and covering many bases within the arts, a big university within London, multicultural, a blank slate in which you can do anything and a university with a strong reputation. Most of these things are objectively correct, however after watching This Is a Generic Brand Video (Dissolve, 2015) it shed some light on the UAL brand and made it seem like a generic university instead of something unique, especially it’s promotional videos. There is clearly some disconnect with the university branding and how people perceive it.

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So what is branding? Branding is ultimately the way something is seen, it doesn’t even have to be a company or a product, it could be a person, you can be your own company or product. Everyone is perceived by others in one way or another and everyone brands themselves with their own mix of clothes, style, tastes, products, food, social media etc. Everything adds up to branding: authenticity, visuals, cultural capital, context and the opinions of the masses.

 

 

fortune.com. (2017) Available at: http://fortune.com/breakthrough-brands-marketing-2017/ (Accessed: 20 November 2017).

Rob Camper (2004) ‘Brand Discipline’, Eye #53

Natwest (2016) Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/news/futurebrand-rebrands-natwest-and-royal-bank-of-scotland-041016 (Accessed: 20 November 2017)

Rob Camper (2004) ‘Brand Discipline’, Eye #53

Walter Landor, quoted in Catherine Slade-Brooking (2016: 12)

(Kendra Eash &) Dissolve (2015) This Is a Generic Brand Video. Available at: https://vimeo.com/89527215