Now we come to the end of our journey. Well, so far, you know me.
So my conclusions from all my analysis were:
- It’s understandable why people identify with fandoms – it’s a core expression.
- There are several forms of fans.
- Identifying with a fandom primarily isn’t appropriate for some people as it may be disconnecting – but for others it makes perfect sense. Those cases are those who are highly active in fandoms and/or have professional involvement.
- Fandom pathologies often originate from disconnection, over-identification (including with irrelevant demographics), over-investment, and unexpected interruptions.
- “Fandom” is best understood as being a broader phenomena than we may think.
Now all this is well and good, but beyond analysis what does this mean? What do we do?
Fortunately I have an answer.
Stewardship Of Fandom
I think the answer is “own the fandom.” Not in the sense of possession and control, but in taking responsibility. In short I’m talking Stewardship.
Fandom like any parts of culture is something that we need to take ownership of. It’s better we ask what it is, what we do, and where it’s going than just assume or never question it. Culture is a tool after all, and tools need to be sharpened, improved, and so on now and then.
Fandom also cannot survive as tiny, insular, and bound by identity politics. That distorts fandom, inbreeds ideas, and isolates people from the larger culture. Fandoms need to be aired out regularly, and at best integrated with other cultures and larger cultures.
Though as noted I question Fandom as a primary identity for many – it is relevant for some and as a secondary identity it is important. In fact for many people I know the fandom identity was a healthy one and remains to this day. Be it primary or secondary, it was important.
And for all the people I know who had benefit from it, they owned it:
- They used it as a socializing and connecting tool to meet people.
- They used it as a professional tool to enter industries or even hone their skills.
- They took it farther and studied its history and culture to learn.
- They worked in charities and causes that were relevant.
- They ran events to bring things tother.
- They asked how to improve things and make them better.
- They had a hell of a lot of fun, even if they couldn’t remember all the details.*
Ultimately as fans, we should ask essentially “what is al of this about” and ask about best outcomes. Just as we debate who to vote for, advocate for school policy, or help keep our team at work from devolving into Lord of The Flies, we can work on best outcomes for our fandom.
This doesn’t mean pretentious plans or social engineering. THis instead means thinking about what we’re doing, the repercussions, what we get out of it, and maximizing results. For a lot of us that’s simply staying the course and seeing what happens – though it also means we know when said course has an iceberg in the path. It also means that we take responsibility to keep things going and growing, from running a convention to stopping a pointless flame war.
And Who We Are
Be it a Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary identity, fandom can be useful to us. And that’s the final thing.
As fans, we should really ask what fandom means in our life. Maybe it means too much and we risk pathology. Maybe it means too little and we risk missing great opportunities. it quite likely changes over time.
So as a fan, let me suggest a good review is in order. In fact . . .
Here’s a few takeaway exercises for you
- List all your fandoms and if they’re Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary. Now ask yourself what they should be for a healthy life.
- Imagine you couldn’t participate in any fan related activities or fandoms for one year. What would that mean for you? DOes it show your fandom a major part of your identity or a minor?
- hat fandoms are you not part of that might appeal to you but you’ve never checked out or had the time for?
Let’s go own our identities.
* I almost never drink during fan events thus I can remember all the details. Sometimes that’s not always good.
– Steven Savage
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.