Harry Potter fandom – the new folklore?

Paul Raven @ 29-01-2009

OK, try getting your head around this one. According to a PhD student in Folklore, the fandom that kids construct around franchises like the Harry Potter series is a global phenomenon which is not (contrary to what many harassed parents might believe) principally driven by official merchandise.

To which your response may well be “so what?” But think about it a little more – if the internet is destined to produce a global culture based more closely on the ritual and oral model ( as some nay-sayers would have us believe) this theory deep-sixes the corollary that said culture will be entirely corporate in nature.

“They weren’t obsessed with having official merchandise,” Small explained. “They were using their imagination and folk traditions combined with popular culture to express who they are.”

Young Harry Potter fans use acting, art and creative writing to express themselves and who they are, and these activities, too, are often a combination of pop culture and folk traditions, Small said.

Granted, this is one small research paper in a maelstrom of branded plastic crapola, but it has a ring of truth to it. Thinking back to my own childhood, sure, I had some Star Wars figures, and I re-enacted plenty of scenes from the films. But when I needed more extras, I drafted in whatever was handy, or made something to suit.

And in a future world where the barriers to creation are lower (think of Second Life, for example, where anyone with the patience and a broadband connection can be an architect), the concept of highly active and productive fandoms becomes a lot more plausible – fandom as genuine motile subculture, no less.

Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End featured warring factions of fandom; can anyone think of any other novels that tread into this territory? [via Techdirt]

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One Response to “Harry Potter fandom – the new folklore?”

  1. brian t says:

    I agree with the idea, and note that while the Harry Potter universe has some serious flaws, the same can be said of the Star Wars universe, and others like those. I think that the imperfections are part of the charm; and that at least part of the motivation behind fan fiction has to do with “plugging the holes”, or “I can do it better”. 8)