Lentis/Internet Subcultures

The internet has changed the way people interact and form groups online. For example, it facilitates interactions between users from across the world who may share the same obscure interest, it provides an extensive set of publicly available resources, and it assists in the organization of large groups. Here, we will explore three specific case studies of subcultures that have been shaped and changed by the internet: fandoms, gaming communities, and online celebrities.


A fandom is a subculture or community of fans that share a common interest--often a hobby, book series, television show, or movie. These fans usually invest a significant amount of time and energy involved with their interest, differentiating them from the casual fan.


Fan art for the Sherlock TV series on an English telephone booth

Even before the rise of the internet, fans formed communities to discuss their shared interests. Fans of Sherlock Holmes are widely considered to have comprised the first modern fandom. In 1893 after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem, fans held public mourning demonstrations to protest the character's death [1]. These protests influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to resurrect Sherlock Holmes.

In this era, becoming an "ultimate fan" required going out and, in this case, purchasing and analyzing all the books and short stories. Similarly, the first television shows only aired once, so fans couldn't go back and watch the same episodes over and over again, and movies only showed in theaters. Also, organizing community events was difficult and limited by locational proximity.

Effect of the internet on fandomsEdit

The rise of the internet had a significant effect on the way fandoms were formed, organized, and maintained.

First, it provided a central location for information. Fans now had access to resources like Wikipedia, online books, and previous TV episodes, so they could go back and scrutinize every detail or look for continuity gaps. Many games, movies, and television shows have their own websites and wiki pages that function as comprehensive encyclopedias.

This wider availability of resources spurred fans to create new material. Fan-created material like fanfiction and fan-written guides like James Cameron's Avatar Survival Guide grew in popularity. The internet enabled aspiring writers to find collaborators and share their new material with other fans, even launching some popular fanfiction writers into stardom [2].

Finally, the internet facilitated interactions between fans and provided a medium for them to work through. Fans now use forums or discussion boards to trade ideas, share theories, and have heated debates [3]. These forums have even influenced the media itself. In an interview, the writers of the Glee television show discussed the Glee fandom's influence on the storyline of the show and revealed that they made changes to the plot based on fan reactions [4].

The internet provided resources that aided the development and organization fandoms. It also lowered the barrier of entry for new people to become fans and join fandoms.


The internet has significantly influenced gaming and gamer culture. Early video games were designed for one or two players and played with close friends. Magazines like Nintendo Power provided the main source of game information, such as game strategies, tips, cheat codes, and reviews.[5] However, the invention of the internet and improvements in speed and availability throughout the 90s increased prevalence of multiplayer gaming and communication between gamers.

Multiplayer and MMO gamesEdit

See also: Lentis/Massively_Multiplayer_Online_Role-Playing_Games

The internet facilitates online play between thousands of players simultaneously. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) evolved out of the Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) in the early 90's and became one of the most popular methods of game cooperation [6].

Networked multiplayer games such as Doom expanded in the 1990s. These were commonly played on LANs because of the slow internet speeds of the time, but eventually full online play became dominant.[7] Other popular multiplayer shooters included Quake and Counter Strike.

Gaming has become a much more global and social phenomenon, where previously it had been limited to close friends. Players organize, collaborate, and compete on large scales and form strong attachments to games and other gamers.


The internet has also revolutionized gamers' ability to communicate, organize and share information. Gamers use blogs, wikis, forums, and Reddit to share game related information like strategies, advice, theories, and fan-made content which would have been formerly available only through magazine subscriptions. They also use social media platforms to form communities, sometimes referred to as "clans" or "guilds"[8]. These organized groups of gamers often use dedicated VOIP services like Discord and Teamspeak to communicate and organize in-game.[9]

Gaming videos and live streamingEdit

Game streamers can now use platforms like Twitch and YouTube to record and live stream games. These platforms connect otherwise ordinary gamers with thousands of fans. According to a report by SuperData Research, more people watch Gaming Video Content than HBO, Netflix, ESPN and Hulu combined.[10]

Full-time streaming has become a new career for many, although some full-time streamers struggle to manage their work-life balance because they are always trying to maintain their stream's popularity[11]. Twitch even has a feature which lets streamers connect with their fans during non-gaming day-to-day activities. This bleeding of streamers' online lives into their personal lives has other consequences, including unwanted attention and advances from fans, as in 2015 when the popular streamer Ellohime found a teenager at his doorstep who traveled thousands of miles to visit him uninvited.[12]

Advertisers take advantage of this phenomenon with sponsored content on Twitch, which allows video game producers and other brands to sponsor streams featuring their newly released content. After some controversy, Twitch now requires that streams with sponsored content be labeled as such to improve transparency.[13]

Internet CelebritiesEdit

The internet has given the opportunity for anyone with web access and a camera to become part of a celebrity subculture, creating what is now known as the internet celebrity. It has not only enabled the average person to gain fame and a following, but also allowed traditional celebrities to connect and interact with their fans on a more personal level. This connected culture on the internet has also evolved into a new form of paparazzi.


Thousands of people have been able to make a decent living and gain a substantial following on YouTube. With over a billion users and over 30 million visitors per day, there is ample opportunity to gain fame through this popular site. [14]

Shane Dawson, Lilly Singh, and Liza Koshy have all used YouTube to change their lifestyle and gain popularity. Combined they have over 30 million subscribers on YouTube, have made millions in the course of their careers as YouTube partners, and are all under the age of 30. These celebrities have participated in movies, television shows, red carpet events, and have been sponsored by major brands. Lilly Singh was even named in the top three highest-paid YouTube stars in 2016 at $7.5 million. [15].

The internet feeds into the subculture of Internet celebrities through social media regardless of the genre of work (i.e. beauty, comedy, gaming), and the same can be said for other platforms as well, such as Instagram and Twitter .

Internet ScrutinyEdit

The internet has complicated retaining privacy and avoiding criticism. When celebrities post about their lives online, they are immediately subjected to attention from fans along with thousands of haters.

Teen Vogue Magazine wrote of an incident where Miley Cyrus's 14-year-old sister, Noah Cyrus, posted a picture on Instagram of her new haircut, which elicited many negative comments. [16]. The teenager wrote, "Everyone please stop hating on me... I’m my own person I can do whatever I want. Please stop being so mean. Do you think I enjoy reading comments tell[ing] me I’m ugly and I’m trying to be someone I’m not when I’m only being myself. I can’t believe the words people are saying to me right now. Please I beg of you just stop." [17].

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, has a popular segment on his night show called "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" where famous celebrities react on camera to hate messages they receive through Twitter. While the segment has gained popularity for it's comedic aspect, it depicts the continual, online scrutiny of celebrities.

The Shade RoomEdit

Companies like The Shade Room have gained popularity by offering celebrity gossip over the convenience of Instagram. Founded by Angelica Nwandu in 2014, it only has about 11 staff members; however, The New York Times named it the "TMZ of the internet." [18].


As shown in these three cases, the internet has provided resources that aid the formation and organization of communities. Since many of these resources are available to anyone, it has also lowered the barrier to enter new subcultures, and it has made it possible for anyone to become a celebrity. There are many more examples of internet subcultures, and of particular interest to us is the role of the internet in organizing the Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. However, we leave these expansions to future work.


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