Through the adoption of Digital Literacy, Fandoms, which are communities of individuals dedicated to a piece of media, typically nerdy, have been able to thrive. As more people become aware of the power of the internet’s connectivity, fandoms grow and become a place where individuals can communicate based on a shared interest. This connection was incredibly difficult before the advent of the internet, but with social media sites, forums, content distributors, and writing platforms, communities can formulate swiftly. By giving its Publishers already established universes and mythos’ to work with, fan communities allow content creators to write both formally and informally, and create multitudes of online videos and theories.
Fanfiction.net was one of the first instigators of Fandom-inspired content creation. The website encouraged fans to write novels, short stories, and poetry about their favourite forms of media. Due to the comment section of the site, any project on Fanfiction.net was up for criticism. Comments could provide feedback on writing styles, encouragement for those who are uncertain of their writing prowess, and a place of solidarity for mutual fantasies. Fanfiction.net was established in 1998 by Xan Li, and the earliest fanfictions posted were about N-Sync and Britney Spears. According to Fanfiction.net itself, the most popular topic is Harry Potter, with approximately 754000 stories at the time of writing this. These topics are incredibly nerdy but offer a place of escapism for its readers. Fanfiction is not bound by the physical constraints of Publishers or Peer Reviews. While this free market does lead to fewer quality products, I perceive freedom allowing creativity to flourish. Copyright hinders the physically literate, but Fanfiction has no qualms about crossovers between unrelated medium. Fanfiction, like fantasy novels, has the capability to engross its readers in a fake world and captivate their imaginations.
Fanfiction is also a legitimate platform for budding writers to establish themselves using Digital Literacy. Before the internet, getting a novel Published required having a substantial portfolio, and pitching it to big Publishing companies. There were editors, reviewers, and people who scrutinized and analyzed every last word in a book before declaring it worthy to be published, and sometimes, it would not even gain traction. However, with the knowledge of sites like Fanfiction.net, anything can be posted without these barriers. Perhaps the lack of censorship and supervision is why Fanfiction is often portrayed as vile and overly sexual. I do not blame society for holding this conception, as Fifty Shades of Grey started off as Twilight Fanfiction, and the audience for this medium is often portrayed as hormonal teenage and adolescent girls. However, I perceive Fanfiction as an act of rebellion against the Publishing industry, and an overall good thing for the writing community. Many authors, including Andy Weir, author of The Martian started off writing fanfiction before refining his talent into a career.
Fanfiction uses an already established fictional universe and expands upon it, providing fans more of what they want, and boosting the popularity of the original product. Fanfiction is one of the greatest acts of tribute to a work of art, and would not have been possible with the marketing and availability constraints pre-Internet.
Forums and Community
Online text publishing for fandoms is not at all constrained to traditional forms of writing, as forum posts and comments are another act of online Publishing. When something is posted on the internet, even the most innocuous thing, it is there forever and is an individual’s product. Forum posts are small, colloquially written text posts that are a conversation between a single person and hundreds of other people. Unlike real communication, these online discussions happen over the course of hours, potentially days, and allows people to articulate themselves properly. Hateful, vehement arguments online are another form of self-publishing, as they are indicative of a person’s opinions and passions. Writing on forums like somethingawful.com allowed voices to people that would not be possible with the limitations of print literacy.
However, forums were very scattered and topic specific, until two massive internet giants, 4chan and Reddit, took the idea of subforums of forums and put them all on a single site. Both websites pride themselves on Freedom of Speech and the ability to create anything, from self-help pages to pages dedicated to showing sexy abortions. Unfortunately, this level of freedom to publish content anonymously disinhibits people from feeling remorse or second thoughts. However, Freedom also allows people to post fantastic content to a broad audience and can help jump start many careers. YouTuber Jontron, who has accrued almost 3 million subscribers, jumpstarted his fame with a post to Reddit that made the Front page of the site. There is a possibility for attention and community on these big sites for online publishers. Reddit and 4chan are both great mediums for the Digitally Literate to promote themselves and establish an audience. Promotion for the physically literate are limited to advertisements that are too costly such as posters, or often too much effort such as group meetups. Being Digitally Literate means utilizing these enourmous sites and posting content in niche subforums to gain traction quickly.
Video Content Creators
Youtube’s modern monetization allows for any creator to put ads on their video and make a profit from it, which probably explains the boom of Fandom-inspired creators. Video publications can range from music covers, to 12-hour long analysis, to art time-lapses. Although YouTube was ruled by beauty guru’s during its formative years from 2005-2009, gaming gurus took over and still reign supreme on the site today. Fandom content has given way to careers that would not be possible with print literacy, like Let’s Plays, Video Game and Movie Reviews, and original animations. Some of the richest and most famous YouTubers, such as PewDiePie solely play video games for an adoring audience. Like Fanfiction, fandom videos are an opportunity to broaden the minds of fans and establish careers for creators. YouTube is a publishing platform that does not require an agent to build publicity, but rather a manipulation of an algorithm.
Content creators can make a legitimate living off of advertisements while pursuing their passions. However, due to oversaturation of this opportunity, it is almost impossible to gain traction on the internet unless one consistently posts content and remains active on their channel. One of the downsides of Video Creation is that it is a fickle grind. Youtubers can rule the site for a small amount of time, and then completely fade into obscurity. Adaptations and improvements have to happen every video to be a relevant content creator.
Fandom is an excellent means for people to create content. By basing their work off an already established Universe, it is very easy to expand and analyze a piece of media for an eager audience. Fan-created content is a form of appreciation for source material that also allows for budding creators to establish their talents.