The Complicated Digital Fandom: Empowerment and Exploitation of Fans in Digital Media Era
Humanities and Social Sciences
Volume 8, Issue 2, March 2020, Pages: 45-50
Received: Feb. 18, 2020; Accepted: Mar. 5, 2020; Published: Mar. 17, 2020
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Zihan Wang, Department of Digital Humanities, Faculty of Arts & Humanities, King’s College London, London, UK
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Over the past several decades, the once despised fans have been introduced to the central stage of audience study, challenging people’s stereotype about fans. Fans are considered as the most active and visible audiences since they are active producers rather than passive consumers. With the pervasiveness of the digital media, fans are provided with more opportunities to engage with the media production and challenge the authority of media industry. However, there are still some scholars argue that fans in digital era are prone to be exploited by media industry as free labor. These two contradictory aspects illustrate the main characteristics of fans in digital media era. This research aims to explore the reconfigured relationships between fans and professional media producers, critically discussing the extent to which fans are empowered and exploited in the digital media era. The analysis in this paper is organized from three main aspects: first, the transformation of fans’ images in the ever-changing media landscapes is illustrated, emphasizing the trend that fans are increasingly considered to be more active and influential in the media production process; second, the ways that fans engage with media production in the digital media era are explored in details, which supports the opinion that fans are empowered in digital media era; third, the emerging exploitations of fans online practice are demonstrated by employing the concept of free labor. By critically discussing both the empowerment and exploitation of fans in digital media era, in this paper, it is concluded that although the increasing productivity and influence of fans imply the reconfigured relationships between fans and media producers, the emerging exploitation of fans’ free labor should not be ignored which indicates that the power discrepancy between fans and media producers still exists. The empowerment and exploitation of fans in digital media era should not be considered as a zero-gum game. Since the digital fandom is more complicated than before, the binary opposition between empowerment and exploitation should be revisited and revised. Within the context of the emerging digital economy, fans and media producers are continuously negotiating with each other.
Fans, Digital Fandom, Digital Media, Participatory Culture, Free Labor
To cite this article
Zihan Wang, The Complicated Digital Fandom: Empowerment and Exploitation of Fans in Digital Media Era, Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 8, No. 2, 2020, pp. 45-50. doi: 10.11648/j.hss.20200802.11
Copyright © 2020 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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