There are many communities on the net that have been built around a shared interest, whether that interest be in a person (such as the Grobanites) or a work or kind of art (such as fan fiction sites), or some kind of entertainment (witness still very active communities built around long-cancelled television shows like Lost and Star Trek). Are you part of– or have you been close to anyone who has been part of– any such communities? What were your/their motives? How do these relate to the motives explored by Shirky, such as feedback loops and intrinsic motivation?
The Fanatic Domain
Welcome to the internet, where anyone can connect to the rest of the world in order to collaborate with a multitude of like-minded people in order to revolutionize our socialization. Some people come to laugh at pictures of cats with poorly written captions, some come to watch videos of wannabe cool boys eating pavement in the gnarliest ways possible. (Don’t worry, it’s safe to click. I’m not about to go looking for someone tearing their face off by accident when they’d missed jumping a gap). Others, however, come to collaborate in the name of some of the greatest pieces of fiction, musicians, games, movies, and television shows of our time. These people belong to groups known as fandoms and are filled to the brim with some of the most interesting people on the web. From Grobanites to Sherlockians, Whovians to Potterheads, there are fandoms for literally everything one could hope for.
So what is a fandom? By one of the many definitions presented by the scholars at UrbanDictionary.com, a fandom is “A domain in the internet about a comic, a book, a tv show, a video game etc. There are several fandoms all around the internet, where fans converge and the comunities are really big, many have forums, fanfics, fanart, etc.” (Lara, 2003) Seems accurate enough. I am disappointed that Miss Lara fails to include the mental breakdowns that most participants in the fandoms suffer at one point or another, but I shall explain that in the next paragraph.
I Believe in Sherlock Holmes
I am a proud (well, not always proud) member of the Sherlock fandom, aptly dubbed by some person on the internet as a “Sherlockian.” Catchy. BBC’s Sherlock, co-written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, explores a modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in twenty-first century London as the zany consulting detective we all know and love from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book series, Sherlock Holmes. Accompanied by his
pocket-sized companion/blogger – Doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) – Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) tackles murders and mysteries left behind by his greatest nemesis, James Moriarty (Andrew Scott). Together, the detective duo solve crimes and bring an entire fandom to its knees through incredible deductions. The show is brilliantly written and an absolute marvel to watch. If you don’t already watch, I advise you to do so. Now. Here’s the link to buy the discs.
Putting Sherlock itself aside for a moment: let’s talk about Shirky’s theory that we all participate in fandoms on some level or another in order to feel included within something larger than ourselves. What are our motivations to do such a thing? For myself, being in the Sherlock fandom means that I’m able to spill my feelings for the show out on the web, find a bunch of other people who like to do the same, and make friends through our common interests of brooding detectives and homicidal sociopaths. It’s a method to feel like I belong somewhere, as opposed to feeling as if I’ve got nothing in common with the people around me who’ve never even heard of the show.
Then again, it’s not all sunshine and bright days in the fandom, either. A part of being a Sherlockian is waiting for the next series of shows to air. It’s been over a year since the last episode of series 2 aired. We’ve still got six months to wait for it to air in Britain. It’s a nightmare, and some in the fandom do display signs of mental instability after some time. Take for instance #ReplaceSherlockQuotesWithPancake. No one is certain of where it came from, why it was created, or how it took off, but here we are.
Yet even through the madness, the dreadful waiting periods, the sexual frustration, and the crying over fictional characters, I’ll still remain a piece of the fandom (albeit as sane a piece as I can be). There are far too many rewarding friendships, artistic creations, and entertaining writings which spring from this fandom each day, and I can’t help but to be caught up in it all. It’s like finding a place to call home, even if that home is a virtual world filled with other people with questionable sanity. It’s rewarding to be part of a group that is inspired to create even the most insane pieces of work because of this little show, and I couldn’t be happier about it.