Back in the mists of time, in the primordial stew of Usenet, the digital fandom was born. The online bulletin board, which officially launched in 1980 and is widely accepted as the precursor to internet forums, became a natural home for fans of all kinds to discuss the things they loved – TV shows such as Star Trek and Twin Peaks being firm favourites.
Fandom had existed long before the internet arrived, of course, with well-documented historic crazes for everything from Hungarian composer Franz Liszt in the 1800s, to the pteridomania, or ‘fern madness’, of the Victorians. Keen trainspotters and obsessive football lovers also fall into the category, as do compulsive Love Island viewers and avid followers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Fandom obviously comes from the original term, fanatic, which I think is a bit strong, but I’m seeing it evolve a little bit over the past couple of years and it’s probably moving faster now,” says Zoe Scaman, a brand and creative strategist whose report, The New Fandom Formula, uncovers how the development of the internet and a wave of new platforms are enabling like-minded communities to gather.