Award Date

May 2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Journalism and Media Studies

First Committee Member

Olesya Venger

Second Committee Member

Julian Kilker

Third Committee Member

Benjamin Burroughs

Fourth Committee Member

David Dickens

Number of Pages

115

Abstract

With more than 25 million followers and counting, One Direction is currently the biggest boy band in the world, and its fans—known as “Directioners”—have become one of the most visible and recognizable fandoms to utilize social media, especially Twitter. Drawing upon an updated version of a fan theory highlighting the interpretive community and social hierarchy that exist within a fandom, this study examines the participatory culture among One Direction fans online that helps them create and dominate worldwide Twitter trends, as well as overshadow what is regarded as more serious news topics. Although previous research studies have examined Directioners and other fandoms’ Twitter relationships, none have done so on a global scale.

This thesis focuses on the Directioner fandom’s Twitter relationships during three significant events in July 2015. The first was during the fandom’s week-long tribute to One Direction’s five-year anniversary, in which fans successfully created worldwide Twitter trends in dedication to the band members. The second focused on the worldwide Twitter trends associated with One Direction’s 2015 “On the Road Again” world tour, where fans live-tweeted the concerts. Lastly, the third was in regards to the successful trending of #DragMeDown after One Direction surprised fans by releasing its first single (via Twitter) as a foursome, months following the departure of band member Zayn Malik.

Using social network analysis to collect tweets related to the relevant worldwide Twitter trends, results showed that the Directioners’ Twitter network is made up of many large-sized clusters and a few small ones, proving a strong participatory culture in engaging with and sharing content across the fandom. Next, the characteristics of top influential users were analyzed to find out if Directioners kept their Twitter network limited to those in the same geographic location or similar in the type of Twitter account being run. The fandom proved to be an open network, without any geographical boundaries in the formation of clusters. This unique global connection throughout the network allows for the easy and fast dissemination of news. Furthermore, the existence and prominence of top influential users proves that there is a social hierarchy not only across fandoms, but also within one. Lastly, Directioners use additional hashtags, attach hyperlinks, and mention other Twitter users in their tweets containing worldwide trends to accomplish different motivations and goals, such as gaining direct acknowledgement from the One Direction band members themselves.

Implications can be made suggesting that a large and global fandom like Directioners has the ability to: 1) continue shaping the way social media is used to obtain and spread news; 2) provide valuable insight for industry professionals in terms of marketing and promotion strategies; and 3) potentially make a difference in the world by raising awareness on news topics beyond just One Direction. Future research can be conducted to examine similar fandoms (e.g., Justin Bieber’s “Beliebers”) in the context of Twitter or other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr. Further research suggests looking into how Directioners continue to utilize social media while One Direction is on its hiatus.

Overall, Directioners have a complex system of news trending on Twitter that is built on an intense emotional investment to their idols, where top influencers are able to push out information to an extensive network of followers. These smaller networks play a key supporting role in the difficult task of executing and maintain worldwide Twitter trends on a regular basis. Directioners use Twitter to maintain One Direction’s relevance in pop culture, while establishing their own status as prominent and savvy social media users in the digital era.

Keywords

celebrity culture; fandom; One Direction; pop culture; social media; Twitter

Disciplines

Broadcast and Video Studies | Communication | Communication Technology and New Media | Journalism Studies | Mass Communication | Other Communication

Language

English