A new article from RoCCET Lab director Benjamin Woo and Swarming SDCC collaborators Felan Parker and Melanie E.S. Kohnen has been published online and open-access in the journal New Media & Society. The article draws on our observations of the San Diego Comic-Con’s online pivot Comic-Con@Home to consider the relationship between fan events and platforms:
San Diego Comic-Con is North America’s premiere fan convention and a key site for mediating between media industries and fandom. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Comic-Con to abruptly move its programming onto an array of digital platforms in an apparent “platformization” of the con. Informed by research on fan conventions, media industries, and the platformization of cultural production, this analysis of the online convention argues that Comic-Con was primed for platformization because it is already platform-like. Conventions organize markets, infrastructures, and governance to bring together attendees, media industries, and other “complementors.” Moreover, platform logics were already shaping the convention pre-pandemic in the form of experiential marketing and brand activations designed to capture attendee data. Rather than a radical break, the Comic-Con@Home online convention and in particular Amazon’s Virtual-Con activation are part of a longer process of reconfiguring the relationships between fan conventions, cultural producers, and platforms.
We acknowledge the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s support for this research, as well as the generative conversations with the rest of the Swarming SDCC team. We also want to thank David Nieborg, the two anonymous peer reviewers, and all those who shared comments and questions at the Canadian Communication Association and Global Perspectives on Platforms & Cultural Production conferences where in-progress versions of this paper were presented.