Cathrine Agnew & Irene McGinn
We decided to study the community formation and hierarchical structure of Misha’s Minions, a community that arose from the twitter feed of actor Misha Collins (http://twitter.com/mishacollins). This twitter feed, created approximately one year ago, is constructed differently to other celebrity twitter feeds that we have encountered. Rather than sharing details of his life and work, Misha Collins has created an alternate reality in which he is an overlord and his twitter followers are his minions. Taking inspiration from Misha, his fans (minions) took this idea and created a community around it. In this community they are directly inspired by the ‘tweets’ (twitter posts) that Misha posts, but they have gone further than that, creating forums, facebook groups, maps, arts and writing that all contributes to the alternate reality established by the twitter feed.
We decided to conduct this study because one of Matt Hills’ main criticisms of many previous studies on fan culture is that they assume the pre-existence of a community rather than investigating this conception.
Previous studies have nothing to say on the emergence of fan cultures, precisely because they always assume a pre-constituted fan community and hence a set of fan ‘norms’ against which the fan as subject can be measured and placed, and through which the fan as subject can be determined. (Hills 2002 pxiv)
This struck us as an area we would be interested in looking into further which is why we decided to concentrate our study on the area of community formation and hierarchy. Misha’s Minons seemed to be a perfect community for this kind of study because its origins appeared to be relatively clear, in that the community grew from the twitter feed of a particular actor. We could therefore look at the forums on the related sites from the very first post.
We identified the sociological framework developed by Pierre Boudieu as containing a number of concepts that could perhaps be gainfully applied to the development of online communities. We also looked at theorists who had used Bourdieu’s work in areas similar to ours such as Sarah Thornton and John Fiske.
In order to do this we undertook a qualitative analysis of the related forums and then augmented our conclusions from this analysis with a short quantitative survey. We found that social capital appears to hold more weight within this community than other forms of capital and that the hierarchy does not conform to normative structures.