The Digital Natives: Online Fandom and Community (Part Four)
Kyle Bylin, Associate Editor
With the almost staple experiences behind me as music fan, these interactions with technology provided the necessary building blocks for me to take my next step into the digital world. At this point, I found that I had a passion for writing poetry and lyrics. Favoring a word processor over the traditional notebook, the Internet ran in the background, and with it, I was exposed to Rhymezone.com, which provided me a search engine for rhymes, synonyms, and definitions. Upon my discovery of their poem zone message board, I joined in early 2002. Overtime, a necessary feedback loop was formed and it helped me develop a better understanding of how to write more effectively…
There were various inconstancies coupled with the general feeling that something was lacking from the poem zone message board. About a year later, I had discovered Linkin Park, which in turn led me to migrate to the Lyricists Corner of their forms. To become one with the community you had to comment to get comments, but everyone knows that. From the start, there were already very obvious connections being made that extended beyond the lyrics and the music itself. Dave's Thread For Self Mutilation, now in its nineteenth edition, is one that still continues to receive posts till this very day. They are a support group for cutters or anyone looking for help, who share feelings and support one another through life's changes, in a way that sometimes has everything and nothing to do with the music.
What followed was the sort of phenomenon that those of us who were involved still can't accurately explain how it occurred or came to be, even though years have passed. “This online community of battle rappers that would emerge later,” as one member, Kevin, recalls, “had humble beginnings as a specialty single "rap freestyle thread" similar to the obligatory "Introduce yourself" and "play the word game" threads that most forums usually have. It was practically unheard of at the time for anything rap-related to warrant more than a singular thread.” But, for reasons still not quite apparent to any of us, the rap scene expanded beyond the confines of that one thread. Increasing amounts of people started participating, battles had their own individual threads, and even tournaments were being organized. A digital community had been formed that transcended our own niche interest in Linkin Park or posting lyrics. It was as if the more individualized we became, the closer we were drawn to each other. Bound no longer by our musical taste, but our desires to participate, challenge, and push whatever envelope that appealed to us. Through MSN and the message board, from various parts of the world, we created, connected, and directed a fan experience that shaped our collective identities on and offline.
Further detailing the battle scene, Kevin said, “It had the general characteristics of any online forum scene; there were regulars who were continuously involved, new faces showed up – some stuck around, some didn't, 'characters'/'trolls' would spring up for mischief now and then.” This involvement and growth continued over the span of a year, but once it reached the apex of its growth, the scene slowly dissolved as interest in it started to weaken. Some of its regulars would 'retire', sometimes unannounced, and those who did stay found themselves to be the very few remaining.
Upon the release of a new album and a site redesign, the forms has also been updated and restructured, which meant that all of the posts and threads were lost. Leaving little evidence of the interaction that took place, one lone thread remains. Spanning 1,282 replies/posts and 26,822 views, the thread 'For Emcees or People That Like Rhymes' is buried, indexed and findable only through Google. The Internet gave us the tools to build a digital community which became a portal for the exploration, expression, and development of our interests. Our unique personalities and increasing individuality lead us to connect and form a place that we lacked the ability to connect with in our everyday lives. Through this medium, bonds were formed that a few of us have maintained until this very day.
Pausing for a second, as if to take in the drastic speed of years gone by, in his closing statements, Kevin finally wrote, “All I have left is my memories.”
Read Part One (A Generation of Broken Robots), Part Two (Pirates At Bay), Part Three (Youth Culture) and Part Five (Conclusions)