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LEGO Fandom, Cyber Feudalism, and Convergence Culture in

by Ethan Tussey

by Garret Castleberry for IN MEDIA RES

The LEGO Group (TLG) experiences unparalleled market growth in recent years partly due to recession-crippled retail chains like K*B toys and the meteoric rises in attention to (formerly) niche spaces within the culture industry. Combine generational nostalgic interest in LEGO’s ambiguously creative and thus less alienating commodity with TLG’s license-heavy sellout centrifuge with fandom-focused properties like Star Wars, Hollywood tent poles series (Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, etc.) and now transmedia comic properties like Marvel and DC [these two “always already” competing rivals for market space]. Such an unprecedented cultural-capital boon generates cross-branding fan interest amidst the company’s breakthrough success in Warner Bros. meta-contradictory blockbuster The LEGO Movie.

Prior to such loftly market conquests, TLG produces cultish followings that mirror the communal, interactive, and playful spirits of first wave fan studies (Gray, Sandvoss, & Harrington, Fandom (2007)). posits a unique fan site that specializes in LEGO’s “classic” sub-category, Castle. But while the site operates independently, forum users are intensely policed when it comes to posting or even gossiping about early photos of sets or getting off topic beyond Castle-centric topic threads. This kind of “cyber freedom” echoes feudalism in a medieval-historical sense and issues of hierarchy in a theoretical-Kenneth Burkean sense (talk about "symbol-using and symbol-used.").

Despite these limitations, Classic-Castle benefits creatively from nonlinear convergence technologies that allow geographically and temporally dispersed LEGO Castle fans to generate and share interests and information through a number of convenient social media avenues. Hyperlinks accompany posts and connect alternative LEGO-focused websites like Eurobricks or BrickLink where forums and auctions allow fans to expand and negotiate their literal/figurative LEGO caches. Joe Meno, editor of LEGO fanzine BrickJournal pinpoints commercially how, "The adult Lego users have been a steadily growing group since the late-1990s, with the internet playing a major role" (see Biachtal & Meno, The Cult of Lego (2011)). Adult fans embed original photos and videos using off-site album accounts to avoid crashing Classic-Castle’s server. What transpires in C-C's online forum is a kind of LEGO Master Builder mimesis that simulates physical medieval role-play, showcases exhaustive creative labor that usurps LEGO's own models in size and scale, but also communicates an expense-heavy endorsement of LEGO collectivity where time (physical labor), money (political economy), and creativity (“Play Well” as LEGO’s slogan goes) "freely" promote further consumptio

LEGO and Fandom

A fan video

from 1346 Lego Battle of Crecy, Hundred Years War (2013)
Creator: Brick Dictator
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey