IKEA Fan Sites

A couple of years ago, the fabulous Nina Wakeford gave a keynote address at the Association of Internet Researchers. She began by musing on what kind of named chair she would like to have were she to have one. I can’t do her performance justice, but she said she’d decided she’d like to be “an IKEA chair” — offering simple brightly colored theories that you could take home but which never fit together quite as well as they did at the store.

Love it or hate it, IKEA’s got allure, and like Trader Joe’s, it’s also got some serious fandom going on around it. See for example this site which violates every design principle for which IKEA is known (but which sure shows the love!). Or this one for fans of the stores in Ohio.

What does it take for a store to get a fan phenomenon going on around it? Both Trader Joes and IKEA seem to have a distinctive ethos — a value system that they are consistent in pursuing. For Trader Joes it’s cheap, healthy, food from a variety of cultures. For IKEA it’s cheap, bright, simple, and cheerful aesthetics. Both of those are qualities that people can think “I’m the kind of person who likes…” These stores know what they do and they do it consistently. They’ve got their own style, and they’re easy to identify with.

Sick n Busy

I’ve got the cold to end all colds and a workload piled higher than I am tall, so forgive me if my postings are infrequent for the next week or two. I’ve got lots of goodies to write about as soon as I’ve got my energy and time back so don’t forget about me!

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday because it’s all about being grateful for what we’ve got instead of wishing we had more. I’m grateful for so many things – a healthy family, a warm nice house, a great job in a place I like living, good friends, the luxury of a life that lets me indulge in blogging, the list goes on. And I’m always grateful for the pleasure that the hundreds of bands in my collection bring me every time I hit play. So no astute observations on fandom today, just a momentary pause to revel in gratitude. And I’m thankful to you for reading this. And now back to basting my turkey, speaking of which I am thankful for this recipe. Yum yum yum.

Zune’s Weird Images

As of when does social networking mean “weird Japanese sex?” Or is this a ploy to ensure that any woman with an ounce of feminist sensibility steers far clear of the Zune? The error screen image is bad enough, but the ad posted in the first comment is downright insulting.

And don’t tell me I’m reading too much into it.

Fandom for all

A few weeks ago, JST, a student at the University of Pennsylvania wrote in the comments here:

I’m interested in how you write about fandom as a fairly common process, not just limited to the hardcore folks making filk music and writing fan-fic.

It’s a piece of feedback that’s been percolating in my head since I read it and I wanted to say something about that, especially since writing this blog has made me more aware of the fanfic and flik and “hardcore folks” fandoms.

I think the term “fandom” has to an extent been appropriated by those communities. They’re the ones who use the word “fandom” to describe their own activities (so for instance, I get hits to this blog because people are searching “Torchwood fandom”). In one comment about “rare fandoms,” makesmewannadie even referred to fanfic for people that are a “fandom of one.” Now, there’s a ton of really interesting stuff that goes on in this kind of fandom, and in some sense it’s a model or archetype of what online fandom can be, but JST is right about my take on it.

Fandom IS an everyday very common practice. It’s happening whenever people are using some element of pop culture as a locus for their own social organizing, whenever they’re taking something from pop culture and making it a piece of their own social identity. So, yeah, it’s much broader than sci fi, it’s much broader than fanfic, it’s much broader than the stuff that usually gets covered when people talk about “fandom.”

I’d like to see the term claimed by all of us who practice it, because then we’d realize that most of us are engaging in some form of fandom to some extent. We’d stop stigmatizing it as a symptom of having no life (never mind the rich lives of those who are ‘the hardcore folks’), and we might even recognize that what goes on in fandom is a mix of appreciation, consumption, and creativity that is interesting in its own right and that has tremendous power as a model for many practices outside of fandom. That’s why I think the social devotion to Trader Joe’s and Last.fm matter, because it shows us that more and more the leisure-based socializing that happens online means that anything that can be consumed socially can spawn fandoms. It’s not simple to resolve the challenges of intellectual property, communication, and so on that online fandom raises, but anyone trying to develop an identity that people will feel loyal to and buy, whether they’re an entertainment purveyor, sporting franchise, or a brand of any another kind, needs to be paying attention.

Update: Jason Tocci picks the discussion back up on his blog here.