Do it yourself: fan community “pirate” productions 2/3

Sans titre-2

by Aurore Gallarino, published on 14.05.2012

Aurore Galliano offers a new perspective as part of a series of articles which provide a complete overview of certain fan practices, many of them related to storytelling, and their transmedia potential. She brings us a look at “fan community story factories” and explains “expanded universes: home-made franchises”.





Everyone can call to mind, or even find in their cupboards, a mug, a t-shirt, or figurine featuring the hero of a film, TV series, manga or other story. Fans are generally assumed to be collectors, an assumption which we will not call into question (see Bromberger, 1998; Le Guern, 2010). For our purposes, we are more interested by collectors’ items which are directly produced, manufactured and reinvented by fans, rather than by the entertainment industry. The most common types of content created by these communities naturally include encyclopaedias and other fan guides which take a fairly systematic approach to list all the resources related to a work and serve as a reference. When the industry fails to produce the tie-in products or transmedia extensions of fans’ dreams, they tend to roll up their sleeves and get to work on designing the items that they would like to find on the market.



The entertainment industry develops numerous tie-in products, but fan communities often compete with them by creating their own versions of the products. For example, while the online Warner Bros shop offers different items tied to the expanded universe of Harry Potter, including t-shirts, replicas, figurines and jewellery, fans manufacture and sell the same type of products on crafting websites.

Example: iPad stickers created by fans


Fans sometimes create their own versions even when official tie-in products do exist. So even though the Warner Bros shop sells an official “Deathly Hallows” necklace DIY fans have launched their own “made in fandom” Deathly Hallows necklace on e-commerce sites for crafters.



Fans may also use resources from other franchises: rather than readapting existing franchises and tie-in products, they take on franchises which have never been tailored to their expanded universe in order to create their own “pirate” franchises.

For example, although there are numerous adaptations of Monopoly based on universes like Star Wars or The Simpsons, there is no official Harry Potter version. The Harry Potter fan community, frustrated by the lack of a wizarding version of the game, faced the challenge head on: a group of fans simply created their own larger-than-life version of Monopoly.

Some existing franchises, like the strategic life-simulation video game The Sims, offer a way for fans to express themselves. Thanks to the degree of personalisation which players enjoy, fans have used the DIY tools included in the game to create their own objects, hairstyles, and clothes, leading to a piecemeal expansion which could be called “The Sims: Harry Potter”.for

Fans have used other features of game, combined with their own Harry Potter version of The Sims, to play out original scenes from the books and produce their own films. For example, one fan has used The Sims 2 to direct a very convincing series of videos re-enacting the storyline from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, creating all of the locations as well as the characters, their costumes and their lives from A to Z.

Here we have a screen shot of the opening scene from Harry Potter, when Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid drop off the baby Harry on the Dursleys’ steps.

It should be noted that EA Games, which publishes The Sims, offers the same type of franchise with the recent release of a Sims 3 collector expansion pack which is entirely based on the life of the singer Katy Perry. By integrating well-known figures into a fictional game, EA Games is imitating the uses and practices already widely enjoyed by fans.



Fan enthusiasm can also be found in other media, which are harder to manage. For example, there is a Harry Potter musical called: “A Very Potter Musical”. A group of fans has gone as far as writing and composing a musical, which is somewhere between a parody and a self-referential look at their own practices, inspired by their favourite expanded universe.



The myHogwarts website, which aims to extend the fan experience in the most immersive way possible, is the latest project developed by the English-speaking Harry Potter fan community. The website, set to open in June, is a cross between an RPG forum, a social networking site, and a fan club, in the tradition of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It distinctive feature is its aim of creating a bridge between the fan world and the real world for the community of Harry Potter readers.

The description given on the website says: myHogwarts is a social network for Harry Potter fans… but it’s also so much more than that. Like traditional social networks, we allow you to add friends, have profiles, send messages, write on walls and everything you’re used to. What those networks don’t offer, however, is the ability to meet new Potter fans from around the world, socialize in your House Common Room, collect Chocolate Frog Cards, listen to an all-wizarding radio station, read and write books for the Hogwarts Library, meet other fans in your local area, take in-character Hogwarts courses and much more.”

With myHogwarts, fans hope to make fandom last. Ten years ago, when the first Harry Potter fan communities were being organised, social networks did not yet exist. These communities now actively use new tools and existing platforms to colonise and appropriate other sites which are increasingly in keeping with the digital and cultural practices of audiences. If social networks represent a form of self-expression (Granjon, Denouël, 2010), then social networks of fans are all part of the expressiveness of fans and the identity of a community via new forms of storytelling.



- The Deathly Hallows – Unisex Harry Potter Inspired Deathly Hallows Necklace Hematite Gunmetal Three Peverell Brothers Guy Man :

- “Sims” version reproduction of the actor Rupert Grint :

- “Sims version” of Harry Potter, an original fan creation: :

- Katy Perry in a one-to-one encounter with her Sims alter-ego :



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author Aurore Gallarino

Travaillant actuellement comme chargée de médiation sur les réseaux sociaux pour le Centre Pompidou, je m'intéresse avant tout aux audiences et aux créations amateurs. Récemment diplômée d'un master 2 recherche en info-com, je continue cette année en "free-lance" mes recherches dans le champ des études culturelles, de la fan culture, de la convergence, de la culture participative, des nouveaux médias et des métamorphoses médiatiques en général.