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December 20, 2013 9:57 AM   Subscribe

There is a fundamental disconnect between large-scale, for-profit media and the crushing power of enthusiasm, which is that when they try to control it, it instantly isn't real. It's patently unreal. It's excitement given life by force, Pet Sematary-style. But when they don't control it, it isn't profitable. And that means that when they run into people excited about their stuff, they vacillate between an Ebenezerian lack of generosity and a Professor-Harold-Hillian smarm. To own enthusiasm and to exploit it are competing instincts, much as they often seem to be twins. You can, in fact, sometimes best exploit it — or only exploit it — by leaving it alone. -- In what could be considered a Metafilter Manifesto, Mefi's own Linda Holmes takes on the multivariate economics of fandom and the internet.
posted by Potomac Avenue (23 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
So many shout outs to the Blue in this piece, but only one deserves the prefix. Metafilter: "People You Meet Making A Big Fuss Over Nothing In The Comments"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:04 AM on December 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Haven't had the chance to read the piece, bu the quote rings true at least.
posted by JHarris at 10:06 AM on December 20, 2013


Veblen.
posted by wuwei at 10:18 AM on December 20, 2013


So much Veblen.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:21 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even more than quaint, old-fashioned advertising, pretending you're The People is the ultimate mark of The Man.

How Advertising Turned Anti-Consumerism Into A Secret Weapon
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:24 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just read that too, tmotat. We may soon need a policy on Aeon links!


(not really)
posted by Mister_A at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2013


That was really good, though it seemed kind of meandering.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it was meandering, but I meandered right along with it.
posted by Mister_A at 10:55 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


At one point does advertising cease to be effective I wonder....cause you totally see an arms race in online ads ( and with mobile rates dropping like a stone cause no nobody clicks on an ad on THIER phone I just wonder what new mutant form this will take.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:57 AM on December 20, 2013


I loved reading that! lots to chew on.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 11:30 AM on December 20, 2013


It's Veblens all the way down.
posted by chavenet at 1:12 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


  (There is certainly a nonzero chance that one day, someone may win the Internet. There is no chance it will be a squirrel.)

Ever heard of the Squirrelian Dream? That any squirrel, no matter how many nuts they were born with, might someday win the Internet if they show the right pluck, grit and work ethic.
posted by scruss at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2013


The Ugly Enthusiast -- sincerely anti-The Man, passionately posturing in favor of a particular Thing, loosed from the shackles of traditional fandom, and empowered by anonymity and access to social media, ends up being so angry about his or her Thing that the conversation about it spoils, poisoned by one-upsmanship, one-liners, cooler, hipper taste, and an exaggerated sense of superiority.

"Be better enthusiasts, people" is the solution that Linda Holmes offers. Can we be brave enough to offer our cool finds and then shut the hell up about them? Can we refrain from cudgeling each other with our taste? From rejecting others based on their preferences? From policing others' objects of affection?

I think it's worth considering her point that narrowcasting may be less about what we ourselves love than about how we conduct ourselves in the virtual presence of those who have competing enthusiasms. Maybe there's room for all of us if we quiet down a little and leave ourselves open to understanding others' loves. That's my read, anyhow.

Thanks for calling my attention to this piece, Potomac Avenue. Food for thought.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:30 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I loved this article.

I have a good friend to whom everything is the extremes, either the best or the worst. It's funny, because I get her hyperbole and know next week that something else will be the new best thing ever and almost anything can be the best, from a quip to a show to a picture of a horse.

I don't relate to the internet fans in nearly the same way. For one, I don't know them, so there's no prior affection, and for another, nuances in tone and frequency don't convey as well over the internet.

But most of all, there's not the good-natured aspect to it that there is when she does it. If she doesn't like something, she'll say it's the worst and just move on. For lines of invective from her, you have to go to politics, or people who cause her and her loved ones actual harm. For fans on the internet, you just have to not give them exactly what they want 100% of the time, with what they want constantly changing from person to person and internally. Fans rarely suggest or agree to disagree - they harp, they declare with authority, they demand their point of view be seen as the more accurate one.

Much better to agree to disagree about everything that is the best, to me, than to declare something is definitively the best and fuck you if you disagree. And in modern internet fandom, I see waaaaay too much of the latter and not enough of the former.

So yes, I loved this article.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now this was an essay! A real essay, like John Ruskin or Cardinal Newman or Samuel Coleridge wrote, that "essays" -- puts forward, sets out to explore -- a train of thought. A lot of the most interesting parts weren't even necessary to supporting her thesis, just insights from diversions along the way; but, then, the whole thing couldn't be summarized in a TL;DR -- the journey was the reward. I can't say I'm an Enthusiast for everything Holmes writes, but this one article sure knocked together a lot of loose fragments in my mind.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:34 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


That was a good read. Reminds me of Kevin Kelly's "1,000 true fans" concept with the wide+shallow vs narrow+deep forms of media consumption.

It raises more questions than it answers, but asking the right questions is half the battle, and she does that.
posted by adamrice at 8:34 PM on December 20, 2013


This is the Age of Information, and that revolution and its (likely bloody) aftermath are going to take a WHILE.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:07 AM on December 21, 2013


I liked this bit:

In fact, almost all of the People You Meet Making A Big Fuss Over Nothing In The Comments love something, or believe they do, that brings them there. That they love it is the most important thing about them, and that you can't possibly understand them is the second most important.

Certainly explains the comments on the Guardian's football section.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 10:21 AM on December 21, 2013


disconnect between large-scale, for-profit media and the crushing power of enthusiasm, which is that when they try to control it, it instantly isn't real. It's patently unreal.

Counterpoints: Star Wars, One Direction.

Maybe that implies that corps can still tell kids what is cool, even if they can't tell adults (though I would disagree that they can do that too ...)

The piece didn't resonate too much for me, but I am an anti-enthusiast (of which I believe we are numerous). I am a fan of many things (mostly literature or sports) but I do not buy fan stuff (unless you count books) nor participate in fan discussions.

Everything has flaws, and we're all going to die soon enough. Simmer down.

(FWIW, I also listen to broadcast radio a LOT--shoutouts to KALX 90.9 and WFPK 91.9--and watch TV via antenna, albeit rarely.)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:35 AM on December 21, 2013


Counterpoints: Star Wars

Well, Star Wars has always pretty much left the fans alone. They've controlled the direction of the primary work, but I'm not aware of them cease-and-desisting people who sell merchandise based on fan memes. For his faults, I don't think George Lucas did anything on the order of Fox shutting down the Jayne Hat, her explicit example. Who knows what will happen now that the Mouse owns it all.
posted by JHarris at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2013


I don't remember the last time I read an essay that so effectively pinned down such a squirrely abstraction. Great article, lots to think about.

My favorite quote:

"Robbed of the opportunity to embrace a more traditional rebellious identity through the deployment of a leather jacket and a cigarette, they get their cachet from finding the most cutting, the most withering, the most plus-one-able thing they can possibly say to people who like Coldplay. Not because they hate Coldplay, man. Because they love music."

We've all been there, crowing about how totally shit that band/director/author is because they just don't respect their roots, Jesus.
posted by Tevin at 3:42 PM on December 22, 2013


Thanks, y'all.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:36 PM on December 28, 2013


Linda_Holmes, the shape and pace and scope of the argument were terrific. More like this, please.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:27 AM on December 29, 2013


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