In today’s world of over indulgence to different media sources, fans have become an ever-important factor in a TV series’ long-term success. These fans often group together on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and even create their own “wiki” pages dedicated to spreading knowledge and content about the series. This online participatory culture creates a virtual water cooler effect and assists the in creating a deeply loyal fan group. Jenkins (2006) states that this is an example of a Convergence Culture, or the dispersion of content over multiple different media. This paper looks to investigate how social media fan sights and wiki pages help create Sons of Anarchy specific, Convergence Culture, through bottom-up content creation.
Bottom-up content creation refers to the current popularity of fans and media specific “Fandom”. This refers to a subculture of fans of a particular film or TV series. This culture often shares its own customs, values and vocabulary (Fanlore.org, 2013). This Fandom can often be seen through the creation of fan-generated content that either responds to the TV series or Film. This content can also be fan generated content in the form or artwork, videos, books or wiki pages. This bottom-up content challenges the media conglomerates control over the produced content (Jenkins, 2006). The Sons of Anarchy fandom creates this style of converging content and in turn a subculture of die hard fans that create Facebook sites that have over 6 million likes.
Facebook fan groups or pages that can be liked and shared offer a level of interaction with the show; show creators and various similar fan groups. The Sons of Anarchy Facebook, which is a verified fan page, meets all of the criteria for the building blocks of a Convergence Culture. Jenkins (2006) states that this form of participatory culture lets the fans make connections regarding the show by actively seeking out new information, and in the world of Sons of Anarchy fandom that could be fan artwork, or even posting pictures and quotes on the fan pages. On the Sons of Anarchy Facebook page multiple fans post, share or respond to admin posts. For example on April 12, 2014, the admin posted a picture of Jax Teller [Charlie Hunnam] and a quote from a recent episode. That post received 64,826 likes, almost 6,000 shares, and over 1,000 comments. The top comment reads “and that is the reason we love Jax. The face that he is deep enough to understand what he has become” (Pershall, 2014). This deep connection to the plot and character creation creates para-social relationships that drive fandom.
Para-social character relationships describe the unidirectional, and non-reciprocal relationships that fans create with their favorite characters (Horton and Wohl, 1956). These relationships are often created to help the viewers create a friendship that allows them to associate with the TV program or even create a self-identity. In context, the fans of Sons of Anarchy like Pershall (2014) have created these para-social relationships with characters like Jax Teller that allow them to be transported into the world of Sons of Anarchy.
The Sons of Anarchy Facebook group offers additional insight to the subculture of SOA fans. The Facebook site links to various other fan sights and social media account like Instagram and Twitter, which combine to create Jenkins (2006) Convergence Culture. By having these different media platforms sharing the same information and disseminating fan generated content, this culture grows in size and even moves out of the virtual world into real life. Sons of Anarchy cast members can often be seen at various motorcycle rallies across the U.S. and they often raffle of motorcycles that have been used in the show. The Sons of Anarchy fan subculture is the perfect example of Convergence Culture built by participatory culture because it reaches beyond just one medium and spans across the virtual and real world.
Through para-social relationships, and participating in online and offline fan activities, the Sons of Anarchy sub-culture has become very prevalent in both the riding and non-riding communities. This culture of converging information from Wiki pages to Facebook and Twitter allow the fans and creators to interact and build up the world of Sons of Anarchy, creating more than just a TV series. It will be interesting to see if the creators of the show react to the growing fan culture in ways that shows like Psych have, i.e. allowing the Twitter followers of the show tweet and vote for the ending of their murder mystery episode. Hopefully the converging Sons of Anarchy culture can impact the creation of the final season and maybe allow to show to live past its final season’s finale.
Fanlore.org. (2013). Media fandom – Fanlore. [online] Retrieved from: http://fanlore.org/wiki/Media_Fandom [Accessed: 15 Apr 2014].
Horton, D., & Wohl, R. (1956). Mass communication and para-social interaction; observations on intimacy at a distance. Psychiatry, 19(3), 215-229.
Jenkins, H. (2014). Welcome to convergence culture. [online] Retrieved
from:http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html [Accessed: 15 Apr 2014]
Pershall, H. (2014). In Facebook [Fan Page]. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from: https://www.facebook.com/SonsofAnarchy