Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Meaningful Participation (03/27)

Posted by katemilner9 on April 4, 2017

At first glance, the idea of calling an inactive portion of a fandom the “lurkers” felt unfair. The connotations of the term, and the troll-under-the-bridge vibes that come with it feel a little strong. But as the section moved forward, to explain the “pyramid of participation,” it started to feel more and more fitting. I really appreciated how the book laid out the way that fans can interact with a content to different extents, and experience some kind of illusion of participating. The idea of lurkers engaging with fan content without actively contributing to it was a fascinating one. The continuation of this idea, and the concept of “legitimate peripheral participation” go to clear that up a little, and validate those who participate in fandom only from the sidelines, and how they make the contributing fans contributions worth publication, by providing an audience for them.

The pyramid of participation theory on its own though raises a lot of good questions about what kind of fan interaction and contributions are required to be considered a true fan: What does it take to be a part of a fandom? Do theories like this contribute to fandom gatekeeping, and the idea that casual fans are inherently less important or less valuable than the “1%” out there posting fan theories? They do, as the book claims, work to devalue the dedication and smaller contributions the “non-creating” fans make to the fandom experience. It feels like it would be easy to ignore the idea legitimate peripheral participation, and “dismiss” the “inactive” fans in the fandom, and like we have to work to create more inclusive fan spaces.


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