Fans Write Their Own History

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by: David Jennings

We’re getting used to the idea that fans create some of the most authoritative accounts of the objects of their fascination. I’ve cited Andy Aldridge’s work as one example of this, and the They Might Be Giants wiki as another. Recently it was reported that fans are more likely to refer to Wikipedia than MySpace as first port of call to find out about a band or artist.

But earlier this month Laura Hale drew my attention to another twist on this, in the shape of a wiki site she oversees, If you check the Nine Inch Nails page on this site, you’ll get only the briefest history of NIN themselves, but this is followed by a much more detailed historical account of all the fan-led sites, forums, fan fictions and other initiatives that relate to NIN over the last ten years.

I asked Nancy Baym for her take on it, and she told me that this kind of meta-fandom is quite common. Apparently the fanfic people have a highly developed self-reflexive culture that includes a lot of generating databases/analyses as well as a sense of ownership of the term ‘fandom’. Nancy herself, I found via this page on Henry Jenkins, is a ‘fancademic’… For an introduction to online fan communities, I recommend her account of the Swedish indie fan scene.

Fan History covers not just music, but movies, TV, actors, cartoons, games and sports. The music section is patchy, to say the least, but, as Nancy pointed out to me, these things take a lot of time and work to build. As a small gesture, I’ve added details of a fan site I created. A couple of days ago, the Fan History site added a blog.

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