On Apple Fans and Fri13

Over at Geek Studies, Jason Tocci picks up on the earlier discussion on this blog about the line between brand loyalty and fandom to critique a MacUser post about what makes Mac users so loyal. Interesting analysis and discussion ensue.

And on another note, I have to chuckle to see that today, Friday the 13th, I’ve seen a huge jump in hits to my interview with Brenna O’Brien who runs the Friday the 13th fan site. Took a few minutes to figure out why that was suddenly so popular again :)

Making offline hay from online fans: the Street Team approach

Street teams have been used for a long time to organize fans to engage in (usually) local promotion in exchange for some kinds of rewards. I’ve recently run across two sites, one European, the other American, that are adapting the street team concept to a social networking approach.

URBANITED.com focuses on European bands in Europe. One fan of Norwegian band My Midnight Creeps reports:

If you have been to www.mymidnightcreeps.com you might have noticed they have a link to www.urbanited.com which is some sort of street-team collection that includes MMC and several other bands. For some reason I signed up for it, but I figured I would never hear anything about it again. But today I received a package from them, with MMC stickers, flyers, a signed “Histamin” CD (specified to me by name) and a free ticket for the Stavanger concert on Wednesday! How cool is that? (link)

FanCorps seems to be up to the same thing in the US, though explicitly tailoring its message to emphasize converting MySpace friends into people who will actually work on your behalf. They seem more stringent about who gets to be a member of a street team and really emphasize that this is a means to reach, organize, and work with “hard core” fans. I dislike the militaristic motif of the site, fans are not soldiers, this is not war (thank God), but I think I like what they’re doing.

Stickers, flyers… the materiality of fandom maintains its appeal. For all the ‘they’re just forming empty allegiances on MySpace and then stealing the songs’ that may be going on, the fact remains that fans want STUFF and will do things in exchange for it.

I suspect I’ve got at least one reader involved with FanCorps, and I’d love to hear any reports from promoters, fans, bands, about their perception of and experience with how well these web-organized street team sites work.

Update:  Reverbnation, a music social network site that has focused on helping touring regional bands connect with their own and potential fan bases, says in a message sent to users: In the coming weeks, look for our new Street Team feature that will more closely connect artists with their most rabid fans to carry out promotion activities all over the web.

Twitter Fans Unite!

The ever-articulate and insightful Fred Stutzman has written a nice definitive Twitter guide that may be useful to those of you not sure what the buzz is about or looking for a way to explain your new addiction to others. I had written a few weeks ago about Twitter’s potential application as a way for celebrities and artists to connect with fans. That seems a little slow on the uptake, though there are (a very few) famous twitterers to be found. In the meantime, though, not content to wait for a celebrity to create fandom around, Twitter lovers have gone and created Twitter fandom, the first real result of which is probably the Twitter Fan Wiki, which I found via Fred’s article.

The Twitter fans say:

Since the Twitter folks hadn’t put up a wiki yet, it seemed like a good idea to get one going out of the community.

Lately there’s been a bunch of scripts and other cool ideas pushed forward and it’s finally time that we had a place to bring them all together.

Twitter doesn’t do much for me, but this fan wiki is a lot of fun anyway. I got a particular kick out of the “fakers” link, which lists all the technologists (e.g. Steve Jobs), politicians (Bill Clinton), celebrities (Paris, Nicole, Britney,…), and, other categories of individuals who appear to be on Twitter but who aren’t who they claim to be. The list includes a lot of “fictional characters” which goes to show, as ever, that fan-identification will rear its head wherever fans can read heads. Though I’m a little bummed if it’s true that Santa Clause’s twitter posts aren’t really Santa’s. What’ll I tell the kids?

This fan wiki is more useful than the Flickr fan photo group I wrote about here, but it shows the same basic phenomenon where there’s a web2 app that (some) people get so excited about they start acting more like fans than users. Movie stars, rock bands, tv shows, web 2 apps… wait, who let that last one on the list of valid objects of fandom?

I am sure there were some who were really into earlier internet applications, and certainly Apple has had tons of adoration that can only be described as fandom from its early days and now more than ever with iPod and forthcoming iPhones, but I just can’t think of a real (pre-Web 2) parallel to people using a particular internet service they love creating fandom around it. Was there Usenet fandom? AOL fandom? Sure people used those things, and still do, all the time, but did they inspire fan sites and enthusiastic displays of devotion as Twitter, Flickr, Last.fm, Pandora, and many other “web 2″ sites do? Anyone have any good precedents?

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me…

Imagine my horror when, upon discovering that Henry Jenkins took me up on my tag to disclose his secrets to success (revealing, alas, that constant work does seem to be his main strategy), I also found that he had tagged me on the 5 things you don’t know about me thing several weeks ago and I managed not to notice. Yikes. shame on me. Bad blogger, no tags. So now that he has shared his far more interesting pieces of advice, I will humbly generate 5 things you may not know about me and then in the name of avoiding chain letters, pyramid schemes, good memes gone bad, and getting back on topic, I will set it to rest and not tag anyone else.

1. When I was 2 years old, my parents took me all over the world for a year: Denmark, Germany, Japan, Cambodia, India… When I got home, I asked where all the elephants were and why all the kids had shoes. I don’t remember any of this, though my dad, a great photographer, took many slides. I’ve got a picture in my dining room of 3-year-old me staring up in awe at carved goddesses at Angkor Wat . I attribute my inability to comprehend xenophobia, racism, homophobia and religious intolerance to that early experience of immersion in difference at a time when I must have been first learning the world’s boundaries.

2. My stepfather, a famous Keats scholar, raised me to be deeply spontaneously silly. When I was a kid there were a lot of family dinners where I’d be lying on the floor holding my sides trying to stop laughing while milk squirted out my nose on account of some hilarious thing he said. He used to park at the far end of the parking lot at fancy restaurants and do John Cleese silly walks up to the door. I laughed an awful lot at playful nonsense and it had a permanent effect on my approach to life.

3. In 5th grade, I calculated the age difference between Paul McCartney and myself and noted with despair that if things went wrong with Linda he was never going to marry anyone as young as me. And now he’s divorcing someone younger.

4. I had a profound mystical experience one sleepless teenage night. It was a total epiphiny in which infinity, the oneness of the universe, and my unity with all of this made complete intuitive sense and I felt giddy with bliss. A few months later, my English teacher brought an article from Life or somesuch magazine about mystical experiences to school and read it outloud to the class. In retrospect it seems pretty weird that she did that.

5. I took a lot of art classes as a child. This was my masterpiece:

The Chef

Unfortunately, he has no ears, but he is much beloved on his perch in my mother’s dining room, and I am always happy to see him when I travel home.

Passing for Normal

If you spend any time around famous people, the first thing you realize is that they can’t go anywhere without being THAT FAMOUS PERSON. If they’re out, they’re game to be observed, evaluated, commented upon, and interrupted. You hear a lot about how the internet allows people to compensate for the shortcomings of their body-to-body persona: they can pretend they are older or younger, they’re male, they’re fully able-bodied, they’re skinny and cute, whatever it takes to get the kind of attention and connection they’re after. I’ve always thought one interesting piece of this that I’ve never seen anyone really talk about is that famous people are also invisible when they’re online. Julia Roberts can go hang out in a chat room or on a message board and no one needs to know it’s her. Or, apparently, so can Halle Berry:

Oscar winner Halle Berry loves chatting to people online using a pseudonym.The Monster’s Ball beauty regularly posts messages to fans on her official Hallewood internet site, but also visits other chat rooms under an assumed name.

She says, “I have gone online and pretended to be someone else in an attempt to have some anonymity.

“I have tried, many times, to have a normal conversation when celebrity was not a part of it. Sometimes it works and at others it gets a little weird.

I remember in the mid-1990s when celebs first started showing up in the online spaces where people were talking about them. People put Michael Stipe through quite a grilling until he answered some trick question about a movie “correctly.” People doubted Courtney Love’s authenticity until she started ranting as only the real Courtney could. There were a lot of cases of it. How weird, and perhaps refreshing, to have people challenging that you are who you say you are instead of being unable to escape being who you are. Not surprisingly, the same thing happens to Halle too:

“(Occasionally) I say in a chat room, that I am Halle Berry. But the reaction is, ‘You are kidding – get out of here.'”

and yeah, who would believe it?

Celebrities obviously aren’t ‘typical’ people, but I think they’re an interesting exceptional case to consider when we think about identity play, freedom, power, constraint, and the nuances of using the internet to perform selfhood.