Fans vote for … Nike?

In my favorite case of online fan empowerment, the purchase of soccer team Ebbsfleet United by 28,000+ members of a website organized to buy a team is a done done done deal. The fans will be voting on team selection in March, but they’ve already voted for Nike:

Last week Ebbsfleet announced sportswear manufacturer Nike will manufacture home and away strips from next season after 91.26% of the 13,809 members voted to accept their offer to supply kit and merchandise.

Which just goes to show that fan-ownership by no means means eschewing corporations. [btw, I'm not sure how to read the contradiction in the article between 28000+ owners and just under 14000 members]

I’ve got a couple of slides I use in a presentation to make the point about fan influence — both happy and not so happy — and on the happy slide I wind up with this purchase because I still haven’t found a better exemplar of the trend toward ever greater fan power and influence.

Things like this tend to get a lot of coverage at the outset, but then get forgotten, so I hope we’ll see some analysis in months and years to come about how this whole fan-ownership thing actually pans out. When you’ve got 90% ready to get down with Nike there’s no conflict, but I wonder what will happen when they start getting bitterly divided over things like whether the goalie deserves a second chance…


On a housekeeping note, my apologies for being a slow blogger lately. Blame the flu and the grading. Today I am headed to Norway to (see pop bands and) talk at by:Larm. I am tickled beyond belief to be speaking on the same program as Jello Biafra — I never did like the Dead Kennedys, but if you’d told my punk rock 15 year old self that one day I’d be on the same program as him, I suspect it would have given me years of feeling like I had the future I hoped for ahead of me. Sometimes life makes the most unexpected spirals. I kind of doubt I’ll be blogging from Oslo, but expect to hear all kinds of things that will make it here when I get back.

Social Computing Summit

Update: Unfortunately, this summit has been postponed until October. Whether I’ll be there then or not remains to be seen.


I’m superpsyched to be giving a keynote address about … imagine this … online fans and community at the ASIS&T Social Computing Summit in Miami this April. That is American Society for Information Science & Technology. Fred Stutzman and the other organizers have been building a great set of speakers, and I’m eager to hear what they have to say and to meet the ones I don’t already know. There’s also a poster session with a February 25th deadline (see below) so get those abstracts polished if you’re looking for a interesting place to display your work:

ASIS&T Social Computing Summit
April 10-11, 2008
Hyatt Regency, Miami, Fl

About the Summit

The First Annual ASIS&T Social Computing Summit will bring together researchers and practitioners of social computing for two days of discussion and exploration in Miami, Florida. The event will directly precede the 2008 Information Architecture Summit, providing attendees a complimentary opportunity to learn about and discuss emergent areas of social computing and software. The Social Computing Summit will feature a keynote addresses from Dr. Nancy Baym, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, and Thomas Vander Wal, principal consultant at InfoCloud Solutions.

Social software and computing drives Web 2.0 technology, enabling global connections and providing rich social experiences. Social networking services challenge established notions of privacy, identity and relationship management. Beyond the browser, mobile devices promise new forms of ubiquitous connectivity and presence, offering unprecedented research and business opportunities. To understand the successful applications of tomorrow, we come together today to share research and insight. This summit aims to bring together thought leaders, developers, and scholars working in this rapidly changing area, facilitating the conversations required for tomorrow’s innovations.

Complementing the keynote addresses will be panels exploring the following topical areas: Social networking services, data portability/open social networks, mobile services, social computing and politics, global voices, social computing and the enterprise, and youth social computing. The summit will feature interactive sessions, as well as a poster session for sharing information about services and recent research. In bringing together a blend of experts from different disciplines, as well as enabling conversation, the ASIS&T Social Computing Summit offers something for everyone interested in this fascinating, fast-changing space.

Preliminary Speaker Lineup

Nancy Baym, University of Kansas
Thomas Vander Wal
, InfoCloud Solutions
Nicole Ellison, Michigan State University
Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Blue State Digital
Alex Hunsucker,
Jevon MacDonald,
Mary Madden, Pew Internet and American Life Project
Robin Miller, Slashdot
Brian Oberkirch
Micah Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum
Ramesh Srinivansan, UCLA
Fred Stutzman, UNC-Chapel Hill
Sarita Yardi, Georgia Tech

Many more speakers to be announced as they confirm!

Call For Posters

The program committee invites submission of posters to be showcased at the 2008 ASIS&T Social Computing Summit. To be considered, authors should submit a 500-800 word poster abstract by Monday, February 25, 2008. Notification will be made on a rolling basis, with final notifications by Monday, March 11, 2008. Send submissions in PDF, DOC or TXT format to

Can you be too engaged with your fandom?

Yesterday I stumbled across this quote from Russell T. Davies, the executive producer of Doctor Who:

Every program on the BBC has a message board on the website. I forbid it to happen on Doctor Who. I’m sorry to say this, all the science fiction producers making stuff in America, they are way too engaged with their fandom. They all need to step back.

It’s taken from an LA Times article which is now hiding behind a firewall, so I don’t know the context.

My initial reaction was [myownknee] “jerk!” but then I thought twice.

I don’t know about the claim that American scifi producers are too involved with their fandoms. Certainly the people who make Lost, Futurama, and I’m sure plenty of other shows are thinking about their fandoms as they work. Frankly, sci fi TV is not my genre and there are so many other fandom scholars who’ve got that area covered that I don’t think all that much about it. [paging you -- what do you think about this quote?]

But I’ve been working on the keynote I’ll be giving in Oslo in a few weeks, and one of the things I’m talking about there is how labels and bands ought to treat their online fandoms. One of the key points I find myself coming back to repeatedly is the importance of letting fandoms have their independence — providing enough information, goodies, and attention to nurture it, but letting it belong always to the fans who create it. When fandom is a subsidiary of the production company it sets everything up for power struggles, for self-censorship, for legal-enforcement dilemmas, for feelings of accountability and betrayal that are beyond the bounds of duty on both sides. Fans need their own spaces to do their own things.

I’ve never thought that official fan sites hold candles to the ones fans build themselves. If I were one of the thirty zillion Dr Who fans traipsing about the internet, it’s hard for me to believe the BBC would really offer the best fan discussion, even if Davies allowed it.

Fandoms can’t operate as though they belong to and are supervised by artists and producers. By the same token, artists can’t operate under continuous supervision (even internally imposed) of the most active fans any more than I, as a teacher, can forget about the students who aren’t as into my classes or the content of what I know and believe needs teaching and just teach what they want to hear to the ones who love me most. I’d be negligent and odds are my classes wouldn’t be as good. The fans who get into fandom may be more important than other fans in terms of the promotion, spearheading, and enthusiasm they provide. They may provide the most trenchant critiques and hence are usually worth listening to. But they are still a small segment of the audience, and producers need to think audience as much as they think fandoms. But even more than that — producers and artists need to operate first and foremost under the guidance and supervision of their own muses. It’s their creative process, just as fandom is ours.

New Fandom Journal!

Allow me enthusiastically share this announcement of a new journal with a focus on fandom. I am on the journal’s advisory committee, and am very excited about this journal’s potential to bring together people with interests in fan activity:

*New Journal Announcement/CFP*

Transformative Works and Cultures
(TWC) is a Gold Open Access international peer-reviewed journal published by the Organization for Transformative Works edited by Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson.

TWC publishes articles about popular media, fan communities, and transformative works, broadly conceived. We invite papers on all related topics, including but not limited to fan fiction, fan vids, mashups, machinima, film, TV, anime, comic books, video games, and any and all aspects of the communities of practice that surround them. TWC’s aim is twofold: to provide a publishing outlet that welcomes fan-related topics, and to promote dialogue between the academic community and the fan community.

We encourage innovative works that situate these topics within contemporary culture via a variety of critical approaches, including but not limited to feminism, queer theory, critical race studies, political economy, ethnography, reception theory, literary criticism, film studies, and media studies. We also encourage authors to consider writing personal essays integrated with scholarship, hypertext articles, or other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing. TWC copyrights under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

*Theory* accepts blind peer-reviewed essays that are often interdisciplinary, with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame that offers expansive interventions in the field of fan studies (5,000-8,000 words).

*Praxis* analyzes the particular, in contrast to Theory‚s broader vantage. Essays are blind peer reviewed and may apply a specific theory to a formation or artifact; explicate fan practice; perform a detailed reading of a specific text; or otherwise relate transformative phenomena to social, literary, technological, and/or historical frameworks (4,000-7,000 words).

*Symposium* is a section of editorially reviewed concise, thematically contained short essays that provide insight into current developments and debates surrounding any topic related to fandom or transformative media and cultures (1,500-2,500 words).

*Reviews* offer critical summaries of items of interest in the fields of fan and media studies, including books, new journals, and Web sites. Reviews incorporate a description of the item’s content, an assessment of its likely audience, and an evaluation of its importance in a larger context (1,500-2,500 words). Review submissions undergo editorial review; submit inquiries first to

TWC has rolling submissions. Contributors should submit online through the Web site. Inquiries may be sent to the editors (

The call for papers is available as a .pdf download sized for U.S. Letter or European A4. Please feel free to link, download, print, distribute, or post.

The True Value of Music

The blogosphere has been buzzing ever since U2 manager Paul McGuinness gave his talk at MIDEM in which he explained that:

he believed the Silicon Valley culture and its ecosystem had to undergo a cultural shift, noting the original “hippy values” of the west coast technology pioneers in the late 1970s and their internet equivalents in the late 1990s.

“Embedded deep down in the brilliance of those entrepreneurial, hippy values seems to be a disregard for the true value of music,” he said.

Evidently he believes ISPs have a responsibility to stop P2P music exchange, although:

He said his plea was not made from a position of self interest, pointing out that U2 had sold more than 150m records and grossed $355m on their Vertigo tour.

Where to begin? Well, others have been tearing this apart on many grounds, but I want to take a stab at “the true value of music.”

I used to work in a record store. When they switched from vinyl to CDs, the labels raised the prices dramatically although we all knew the actual production costs went down. The music business has never had any moral claim to recognizing, honoring, or promoting “the true value of music.”

When I read McGuinness’s comments, I wondered, as I often do these days, when it happened that the industry came to believe it has an inherent right to speak for Music. Or, perhaps more honestly, how it came to believe that, in its current incarnation, it has an inherent right to exist at all.

People have been around for a very long time. Tens of thousands of years. Music has been around for most of that time. Every culture managed to invent it, even without professionals to help them manage it. Miraculously, despite the absence of music industry professionals, for all those years music created connections within communities, music enhanced spirituality, music provided entertainment, music moved, music taught.

And then, not that long ago historically speaking, recording technology came along and businessmen got involved. And now they seem to think they own the stuff. And I’m sorry, they may own some copyrights and they may have fronted some of the costs of making physical objects and moving people around on tour. But they don’t own music. And they don’t have a right to own the business of music. If their model is failing it’s in part because they have put the true value of music below the true value of money.

Yes, it’s good if musicians can make enough money on their music to do what they do for a living. But the true value of music is priceless. The challenge is how to reinvent the business of music given a technological ecosystem that includes the internet in a way that allows musicians to receive appropriate financial reward for their efforts (something the industry has often prevented, just look at all those poor people who wrote hit songs of early rock ‘n’ roll). The challenge is not to save the music industry as it currently exists.

On another note, I recommend that in the future before lambasting those hippy valley 1970s tech pioneers, Mr. McGuinness read up a bit on internet history, like how it started well before the late 1970s, and how those “hippies” were motivated by military security concerns. And seem now to be motivated primarily by capitalistic wealth-accumulation concerns. Now there’s a pair of hippie causes! Janet Abbate’s book Inventing the Internet is a good starting point on internet history.

But why learn when you can blame? Blame is so much easier!