So here we are knee-deep in summer, and I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, there’s just too much relaxation going on right now. I’m feeling too darn happy with the world. I need some pretentious reading to sandpaper my nerves so I have something to bitch about.”
Well TOO BAD, cause one look at this summer reading list and you’ll notice that none of us have anything to complain about at all. This summer’s topic is the economic impacts of fandom in a digital age, and baby is it a delicious one.
Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, Clay Shirky – Obviously every list with any kind of buzzword has to start with Clay Shirky’s tasty musings about all that’s good about heavy connectivity. You’ll want to spend most of your time on the chapter dealing with fan motivations. Start off your drinking game by taking a shot every time you slap your head and say , “Huh, teenage girls make sense for the first time ever.” It’s summer, so the shot should be something with watermelon.
Fan Cultures, Matthew Hills – Ever wonder what academics do when few people care about their subject? They write for each other! Painstakingly plotted out, most of this is a refutation of the heretical theories espoused by the dozen or so other fan theorists active in the world. But look a little closer and you’ll see some interesting points about gender and decision-making in pre-digital fandom. Take a shot of something with iced tea in it every time he claims that someone’s theory didn’t take the X-Files into account
Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, Rob Walker – How does what we buy reflect our social affiliations and sense of identity? Rob wants to tell you! He makes a great case that our commercial motivations are thoroughly tied to the image we build up of ourselves. Take a summery shot of something with cucumber in it every time he uses a euphemism that isn’t quite “fan group” but really means “fan group”. Don’t worry Rob, we know what you’re talking about.
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Don Tapscott , Anthony D. Williams– At two years old this is kind of ancient for a tome about digital whatsis. But be not deterred! This is the classic ‘Origin of Species for crowdsourcing’ – not first and certainly not completely right, but it’s held up remarkably well for a book that relied on examples that, in hindsight weren’t actually the next big thing. Take a shot of something minty every time you feel a smug sense of superiority.
Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, Jonathan Gray (Editor), Cornel Sandvoss (Editor), C. Lee Harrington – More academia! This collection of nifty essays spans everything from early proto-music fandom to Korean pop-stars. Ignore all that and highlight every third word in the introduction where the different stages of fan theorization are spelled out. Take a shot of something with ginger every time you have a mood swing between “Oh-my-god-I’m-dying-from-bordom” and “oh-my-god-this-just-changed-my-life”
Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, Eric Qualman – Any book that adds the phrase “-nomics” to the end of their title is good by me: freakinomics, wikinomics, MICRO wikinomics…there’s nothing ‘nomics can’t do. A lot of this book has been said before, but the conversational tone is helpful for beginners and the examples give a great insiders view. Take a shot of something with lemon every time you suspect there’s something intrinsically, horrifically terrifying about all forms of marketing.
Fans Bloggers Gamers, Henry Jenkins – By the dude who wrote the much-touted Convergence Culture, you can believe this is a serious page turner. I’m totally not being sarcastic. Compared to most other books from this time period, these essays are less dated, and more , what’s the word, AWESOME than its contemporaries. Spend most of your time in the early chapters about fan fiction and gender. You’ll never look at man-on-man stories written by middle-aged straight women the same again. Take a shot of Champagne every time you feel the urge to google “Kirk/Spock”.
Now go drink some water. What were you thinking reading all those at once.