A ringer for fandom

I watch a lot of TV. If I find a show I like I am usually up to date or finished within a fortnight (or less). However after I have finished the episodes I don’t tend to delve into the depths of its makings, characters or plot. For me, when the show finishes it finishes. My job is done. Now for some, this is the complete opposite. When the credits roll the task is only just beginning. Fandom is a term used to refer to a subculture that is composed of fans that share a passion or camaraderie with others of a common interest. Henry Jenkins enlightens this emerging culture; “Consumers are learning how to use these different media technologies to bring the flow of media more fully under their control and to interact with other users” (Dueze, 2010).

Fans always seem to be on board with new media technologies, maybe due to their fascination with fictional universes. Whatever the reason, fans are generally the most active members of the media audience and it seems nothing can stop them from participating (Jenkins, 2004). One thing that is certainly helping them to become full participants is the Internet. With all nodes created equal the net has allowed for low barriers of artistic expression and engagement, as well as a support for creating and sharing. Members believe that their contributions matter and communities are creating. As a result Fandom is thriving.


An example of a huge international Fandom is the community of Tolkien fans. A ‘Ringer’ is a term for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan or ‘Hobbit’ fan, while a Tolkienist is somebody who follows and studies the works of J. R. R. Tolkein. Participatory culture is exemplified in the Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and the alternative universe of Middle Earth. A growing number of active or participatory fans are exhibiting a sense of ownership and connection that includes an investment in the creative development of the universe in which ‘Lord of the Rings’ is set. Online fan sites and clubs provide the venue for such developments and usually involve social gossiping, debates, artistic production and even political activism (Shefrin, 2004).


Dueze, M 2007 ‘Convergence culture in the creative industries’ International Journal of Cultural Studies 10: 243, pp. 243-259

Jenkins, H 2004 ‘The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence’ International Journal of Cultural Studies 7: 33, pp. 33-42

Shefrin, E 2004 ‘Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Participatory Fandom: Mapping New Congruencies between the Internet and Media Entertainment Culture’ Critical Studies in Media Communication 10: 3, pp. 261-262.


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Copy that

This is in the public domain so I can use it, suckers.

This is in the public domain so I can use it, suckers.

In 1710 copyright was created to guarantee artists (of all kinds) fair recognition and income for their work. In the contemporary world copyright seems to benefit conglomerates. The Music, publishing, imaging and movie industries have the power to decide wether their materials can be used by others and if so for what purpose and price. This means that we may be moving towards an era of content control, artificial scarcity, few to many, hierarchal structures and the privatization of an ever increasing share of cultural expression. This is what copyright can do when in the wrong hands, take away our democratic right to our freedom of cultural and artistic exchange (Smiers & Van Schijndel 2008).

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Although, as we all know, information just wants to be free. The wonder of the web is its ability for information flow, built in plenitude, many-to-many capabilities and its distributed networks. Millions of people are exchanging and sharing music, movies and images over the net everyday. Refusing to acknowledge that these illegal activities are a form of stealing and refusing to accept that huge companies can own the rights, for example, to millions of Mp3 files. As with most out-dated systems digitalization is shaking the foundations of copyright.

Introduce the Digital Rights Movement (DRM). The digital revolution has allowed for new and innovative ways to use and share digital content. As a result it has made it almost impossible for copyright holders to control the distribution of their property. DRM is a movement or management strategy that aims to stop or ease the practice of piracy. It takes the control from the person in possession of the digital content and hands it over to a computer program. You know all of those terms and conditions you agreed to but never read? End User License Agreements, encryption even spyware. This is all to restrict and control how you use content. An abstract example of the extent to which this content could be controlled is if Google determined what you could or could not write in Gmail, for example you cannot use the letter ‘F’ or ‘A’. They could also claim ownership over everything you write. Information wants to be free but it also wants to be expensive. Creative Commons is something of a compromise between the restrictive copyright and complete freedom, as it allows for some flexibility and some control. However the issue still remains, will copyright lead to the end of cultural expression?


http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/07/opinion/07iht-edsmiers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1& ((Smiers, J & Van Schijndel, M 2008 ‘Imagine a world without copyright’ The New York Times)


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Metal to Liquid.

Since the 19th century the 8-hour shift has governed the workplace (as Dolly Parton so clearly explains). You wake up, you go to work, you start work, you work, you finish work, you go home, and then you go to sleep. This is your daily routine and other aspects of your life revolve around this. 8-HOUR-DAY-BANNER

If you work for a huge centralised organisation you have probably never met the head honcho, let alone ever spoken to him (That’s cheating the hierarchal structure).  Lets say you are at work and you observe a problem. After an in depth analysis of data you orient a solution to this problem. So who has the power to implement this solution? Yup, the big ole head honcho whom you have never met. So, what’s next? Before a decision can be made as to wether to act on your astounding solution you will need to approach your immediate manager. He will then pass it on to his manager and so on and so forth. Well…

The time it takes to make a decision in a centralised company.. (May be exaggerated)

The decision may be made to accept or reject your solution. And by that stage it will probably be obsolete anyway. This is known as the OODA loop, created by military strategist John Boyd.

oodaBoyd theorised that the most effective organisations are the ones that have a highly decentralised chain of command and distribute their decision-making. Allowing the organisation to react and adapt to events at a greater speed than their competitors. This leads me to Google. Since the company was founded in 1998 (by Larry Page and Sergey Brin) Google has always aimed to maintain its innovative spirit. Google embodies the new age of knowledge and information as a product, and as a result employs ‘Liquid Labour’ (production of information).

Google employees are mostly accountable for themselves. They have the freedom to spend 70% of their time on their current assignments, 20% on related projects of their choosing and 10% on new projects in any areas they desire. This authorises employees to make fast decisions and allows them to take risks. Google executives also encourage employees and managers to work directly with each other, promoting effective communication. This organisational structure is one of the reasons why Google has had such a quick rise to the top, trumping other search engines of it’s time like Yahoo!, AltaVista and AOL.

Since the rise of the global media business, information has become power. Production is based on information. What does this mean? We need ‘knowledge workers’ (Peter Drucker). Knowledge workers are employees whose main capital is knowledge (software engineers, architects, scientists, lawyers, etc.). So what do all these professions have in common? They think for a living. How does this differ from industrial labour, factory machines and the ole’ assembly line? We now have liquid labour, information machines and information processing. The free flow of information requires local decision-making. This creates a demand for labour to be always available and unrestrained by borders. To be a knowledge worker you have to be available anytime and any space (always on, always connected). The global market networks never stops, there is always a continuous flow of information, it is alive.

Of course there has to be implications for the ever connected. Anticipatory labour refers to the anticipation of informal hours. Whilst Dolly Parton sings about rolling out of bed and heading to work at 9, knowledge workers may wake up at 7am and check their emails, meaning they have already begun their workday. This leads to the term ‘Function creep’, which describes the consequences of the constant connectivity that work requires, and how it creeps into your personal life to the point where work becomes ‘just life’. The term to describe the constant urge to check emails, social networks and your phone in order to stay on top of the constant updates that work requires, is known as ‘presence bleed’, as you are never fully in one place at a time.  Industrial work is set to the rhythm of the machine. Knowledge work is set to the flow of information. And the flow of information never stops.

Pictures thanks to –


Bibliography –

Deuze, M (2006), ‘Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work’, Indiana University.

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Step aside and make way for the future.

ImageWho’s afraid of technology? I must admit sometimes its capabilities make me tilt my head in a combination of wonder and terror. It is not surprising that so many feel uncomfortable about the central and expansive role technology plays within our lives. We often think that these new technologies will lead to our ‘destruction’ or that we will all become ‘square-eyed’ and ‘brain-dead’. But what you describe as a ‘new’ technology is certainly contextual.

In a First Wave economy land and farm labour were the main “factors of production”. In a Second Wave economy the development of machines and larger industries lead to ‘massified’ labour. In a Third Wave economy data, information, images, symbols, culture, ideology and values have become valuable. This is encapsulated by one word – actionable knowledge. However this knowledge age cannot progress to it’s full potential with Second Wave laws and attitudes oppressing its capabilities (step aside please).


Just as the meaning of  “freedom, structures of self-government, definition of property, nature of competition, conditions for cooperation, sense of community and nature or progress” (Kelly, 1996) were redefined for the industrial age, they will have to be redefined for this new age of “electronic” knowledge. This universal environment of knowledge exists within a little thing called ‘Cyberspace’. More ‘ecosystem’ than machine cyberspace has revolutionised the decentralised network. We can connect to it through portals, such as television receivers and transmitters (one-way) and telephones and computer modems (two-way). This allows us to contribute and access knowledge on a scale like never before.


Information used to be controlled. The first computer system operated through a mainframe, with multiple ‘dump’ terminals distributing information. This network operated as a ‘Star-shaped topology’, which influenced the social culture of space (world view) to operate in a centralised and hierarchal manner. It was actually the threat of a nuclear war that lead to the new and improved distributed network. This ultimately gave the end user control, distributed the flow of information into an unprecedented communication system and most importantly, there was no one in charge. This means that all of the decision-making resides in the end user. All nodes are created equal. Just as the centralised network influenced the mega state, fascism, socialism and totalitarian states, the decentralised system has lead to liberation.

Does this mean that instead of being afraid of technology we should thank and embrace it? That is certainly what J. P. Barlow (1996) believes,

“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.” 

So step aside and make way for the future, it is coming wether we like it or not.

Pictures –

Barlow, J.P. (1996) A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Kelly, K. (1999) ‘This new economy’. In New Rules for the Economy

Dyson, E., Gilder, G., Toffler, A. (1994) Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age

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Cybercrime. No longer just a sci-fi concept from the 80’s but a very real and present threat. Sounds ominous right? But seriously, the technological shift that has occurred over the past few decades has altered our modern life in such a drastic way that there’s just gotta be repercussions. In 2007 the US government experienced a little hacker problem that lead Obama to declare the nations cyber infrastructure a critical asset, with terabytes upon terabytes of sensitive government information on the line (i.e. Do aliens exist?). Some of the present dangers we face within Cyberspace can be traced back to computer revolution and the Internet, when crime and security were not so much an issue (although people even got nosy in the days of the telegraph).  Computer technology evolved from ‘centralized mainframe computation’ to the decentralized ‘networks of networks’, the one network to rule them all, yep that’s right the Internet.

myth-about-internetWe all know what that is right? Well you are on it right now so I am just going to take that as a yes. The Internet hugely altered social and commercial life. It became available to the MASSES (Cyberspace: 1 700 000 000 and counting). The Internet is now a natural part of my life, I feel like I have had it forever and never want to let it go. It has induced economic growth and a whole new world of communication. It is the driving force in global economy and it is a community. The Internet drives a wave of demand for information and has created the concept of ‘immaterial products’… However the open and insecure nature of our old pal ‘www’ has not only attracted us (innocent and trustworthy folk) but some real scallywags (e.g. Jake’s Communities). The Internet, believe it or not, is an attractive medium for crime. The task of policing Cyberspace is a big one. Requiring human and social control considerations. The task of policing Cyberspace is also extremely challenging. The capacity of law enforcement and the justice system is challenged by the resource-intensive and abstract nature of Cyberspace. Due to the new nature of the problem the law enforcement was increasingly finding itself ill-equipped and ill-trained to tackle the problem. New technologies have been adopted successfully and training is now implemented to help out down at the cop shop, however the challenge still remains. How can you stop someone who is anonymous, has global reach, can move with lightening quick speed and leaves barely any evidence?

Nhan, J (2010) ‘Policing Cyberspace: A Structural and Cultural Analysis’, LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC, TX, USA.

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The Individual in the Network

You often hear misguided rants’ regarding wether social networking is actually social. Of course there are two sides to every story, but essentially whenever you create a Facebook account, a Twitter page or an Instagram login you have the underlying intention of being social. Social media is a textbook example of a network society. Network society, defined by Jan Vandijk, is a form of society that organises its relationships through media networks and digital technology. These may gradually replace or assist with the age-old social networking of your plain and simple face-to-face communication.

Vandijk also coins another term, which is certainly relevant in today’s unsocialnetworknetwork society. The most important node in the network society is not a particular place, group or organisation… but the individual. This is known as Network Individualization. The social and cultural process of individualization is not dependent on the Internet. It appeared long before the web, especially in individualistic Western societies. Network Individualization is merely supported and fuelled by the rise of social media networks. By using these networks the individual creates a mobile lifestyle with a criss-cross of geographically dispersed relations. The consequences or benefits of these developments are still yet to be fully discovered, as we are engaging and living with them everyday. Contributing to their effects. Inevitably as we grow more dependent on these social networks the individual may begin to spend more time alone, accompanied solely by their technologies. Is this unsocial? Or are we actually participating in real (albeit intangible) social networks, creating relations with people we would never even have the chance to merely pass in the street?

 “Home of the individual as the core of society and the window to his or her social environment” Social Networking Service

Our Network

 Vandijk, J 2012, ‘The Network Society’, SAGE Publications, London.

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