I had a conversation yesterday with some one doing something similar to what I’m doing. One of the things we talked about was the new power structures. He talked about it in the context of business and I talked about it in the context of fandom as it pertains to fan fiction communities. For this post, I’m defining power as the ability to influence beyond your personal sphere and the subcommunities which members of fan fiction fandom belong to.
My perspective on this in fan fiction fandom is skewed based on my involvement… but the way I see it is that older power structures, in the pre-Internet days, were based on two variables: Access to TPTB and Capability of getting things done coupled with information brokering. If you had one or the other, you had some power in fandom and you had standing in fandom. By the time that authors were creating mailing lists for their readers to follow them and LiveJournal (and blogging) became popular in parts of fandom, the power structure was perceived as changing. For the first time, it really looked like content creators were in charge and they were using this ability to leverage their position in fandom relative to the creators. A number of fan fiction writers got behind and pushed several projects to the forefront. This was the case for Fiction Alley, a Harry Potter fan fiction site. Writers leveraged their popularity in order to help get book deals.
But the power structure, briefly in the hands of fan fiction writers changed again. Or rather, it became apparent that when fan fiction writers had the chance to leverage their position, they didn’t do it and their lack of action made the fact that doers were really the more powerful force more apparent. The fan fiction community seemed to have turned back in on itself, sought recognition and power from with in the existing community rather than courting outsiders. They didn’t effectively engage and demand changes from the people who control the services they used that were inside fandom, nor outside fandom. Parts of the fan fiction community had the same problems with engaging information brokers: They didn’t or didn’t do so effectively.
To be fair, there is nothing wrong with having failed to engage. People have different priorities and different needs. They get different things out of fandom and there are vested interests, legitimate ones, in keeping fan fiction out of the spotlight. If you engage, if you lobby, if you demand, you risk attention which can run counter to your needs and concerns.
Fandom outside of the fan fiction community seemed to get the concept
Now, the fan fiction community appears to be back the spot where it was pre-Internet. The power is in the hands of doers who are capable of acting as information brokers or those who have access (or ARE) the powers that be. These are the folks most likely to engage outside of the circle of fandom where they are and have the most influence and the most power in fandom. Those who fail to do that, those who chose to engage only in a small narrow community, aren’t going to be perceived as powerful in fandom by other fans with whom they interact or those who are in the power to know. The information brokers, the doers aren’t as visible and don’t necessarily need to be because they can instead me known for their product instead. And the product will be seen and is seen as the new power structure in fandom.
Thus end my incoherent thoughts on fandom and power.