Playing with Fandom
Th is article addresses fandom from the perspective of LEGO Fans. Building on data
from a large study of the LEGO Ideas platform, we investigate fandom as material
narratives of play, nostalgia, and intertextuality. LEGO Ideas is a platform that
allows users to submit ideas for future LEGO products, and based on the support
of other users in the form of votes and comments on issues such as suggested price
and target market, LEGO decides whether or not to produce a suggested product.
As such, LEGO Ideas is an online community for fans of LEGO, but a surprising
number of projects employ other fan narratives such as Star Wars, Marvel, Gilmore
Girls, Beatles, and Doctor Who to name a few. When analysing the number of
projects submitted to the platform, as many as 69% build on popular texts, brands
and celebrities. Further, two thirds of the approved projects build on popular texts
and celebrities with established fan cultures.
In this article we argue that fandom becomes a way to create bridges between
a variety of users and corporate interests. Although all the active participants on
LEGO Ideas self-identify as AFOLS (adult fans of LEGO), they do not necessarily
agree about what constitutes an interesting LEGO Ideas project. One way to reach
out and draw attention to a project, however, seems to be by employing fandom
in general as leverage; that is, materialising fans’ narratives in LEGO is a driving
force – not just for social interaction among the users – but also in getting their ideas considered for production by LEGO. Th us, when AFOLs bridge the apparent
gap between toys and (often) adult fan cultures, they facilitate multiple ways of
engaging with both, in ways that underline the play and intertextuality of popular
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