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How fandom built the internet as we know it, with Kaitlyn Tiffany - The Verge

How fandom built the internet as we know it, with Kaitlyn Tiffany - The Verge

Her new book on the long history of fans from the Beatles and Grateful Dead to One Direction, Justin Bieber, and K-Pop

Every now and again, I’m asked to describe what The Verge is or do a mission statement or something like that. What I always come back to is that The Verge is about how technology makes us feel. Our screens and our systems aren’t inert or neutral. They create emotions, sometimes the strongest emotions anyone actually feels in their day-to-day lives.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot ever since I read a new book called Everything I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Created the Internet. It’s by Kaitlyn Tiffany, who was a culture reporter at The Verge several years ago; she is now a staff writer at The Atlantic. The thesis of her book is that online fandom, specifically the hardcore fans of the British boy band One Direction, created much of the online culture we live in today on social platforms. In fact, her bigger thesis is that fandom overall is a cultural and political force that can’t be ignored; it shapes elections, it drives cultural conversation, it can bring joy to people who feel lonely, and it can result in dramatic harassment campaigns when fans turn on someone.

Basically, fandom is the social internet, and our popular culture and the biggest social platforms are shaped by fandoms in ways we only sometimes understand.

Kaitlyn is a diehard One Direction fan herself, and her perspective on why online fandoms do what they do and what they can be rallied to accomplish was fascinating and made me keep coming back to that main idea: all this technology is here to make us feel things. And there’s something about online fandom that explains so much about how technology makes us feel.

One note: you do not need to be a huge One Direction fan to get something out of this episode; I myself got a crash course in the band from my teenage niece and nephew before talking to Kaitlyn. We explain what you need to know in the episode itself, and here’s a link to a playlist if you want to dive into the back catalog.

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Updated: 1 week ago

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