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Backchannel Culture Culture / Digital Culture

How Fans Are Remaking Entertainment in Their Own Image


A person sitting at a computer—it was a mystical sight, once. Here was someone who could manipulate the magicbox, who could speak fluent machine. In that jewel of ’82, the original Tron, one sentient bit of software says to another: “That’s Tron. He fights for the users.” The users, we humans, were the almighty creator-gods of the dawning digital age, and the computers did our bidding. We were in charge.

In today’s world, subject and object have switched places. The sites, the apps, the ubiquitous platforms: Computers run the show now, and we—mere data subjects, in the EU’s unflattering phrase—work for and worship them. Software creates us, our ontic exhaust powering the megacorporate machinery. Perhaps the inevitability of the reversal was always there, coded in the words. The end user, in the end, had been used.

But a new user rises by another name, seeking to take back control. Neither tech wiz nor entrepreneur, their medium is nonetheless digital, and they grok better than anyone its power and reach. Connectivity doesn’t overwhelm them; it inspires their labor and activates their mission. They are the creators of the new culture—the participants, the coauthors, the influencers, the storytellers. They are, quite simply, the fans. As the four stories in this collection show, they’re remaking the world in their image. —The Editors


This article appears in the September issue. Subscribe now.

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