Let’s start with a definition from a “Tomorrow People” fan:
Fandom (from the noun fan and the affix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.1
Soon after local government reform in New Zealand created my current employer, two blogs were created with the aim of spending a year touring and reporting on each branch within the system. As one of the staff members running a legacy online profile I was privy to some of the discussions, and suffice to say we were collectively excited but not entirely sure how, if at all, to respond.
Perceptions are what its all about, particularly in the online world. Don’t acknowledge people this enthusiastic, and one risks the appearance of being aloof. What about the other path. Can one become overly involved?
I think so. Let’s get a definition from another source. The now defunct webcomic Genrezvous Point had a set of characters who were the “seven plagues of cinema”. Plague five was fandom:
arguably the most repulsive of the plagues, a swarm of leeches that attempts to latch on and seize control of their target, refusing to accept any deviation from their will and loudly decrying any attempt at disputing their collective ‘wisdom’ and influence on their target.2
As a member of a number of fandoms, I can affirm that the above holds at least a grain of truth. I’ve regularly watched fellow mulitplayer gamers rail vituperously at the creators of a game world inside that world. Any amount and kind of protest, other than simply finding other pursuits, can be deemed appropriate by a dissatisfied fan simply because they will feel that they are pursuing a significant cause.
There’s also seems to be a relationship between this phenomenon and media interest. A number of stories have been published in our city’s paper of record about our service. The stories themselves are almost meaningless to those of us who have been in the profession for a significant time:
- People sometimes snooze in libraries
- Some people owe fines, including for books they haven’t returned
If all our organisations and services have fans, what does that imply? I’m going for an “I don’t know” on this one. We should definitely welcome the opportunity to hear what people think about us when they’ve got the comfort that relative anonymity can bring, but we’ve got to be mindful that our fandom and our users are two blended but distinct groups. To live by the word of the former is to risk doing disservice to the latter.