||The purpose of this research was to explore the meaning of K-pop official fandom name to Taiwanese fans and the ways in which the name works as a symbol of social identity, and consumption rituals under such fanship. In essence, pop fanship was examined in the context of social networks and online virtual community. Based on McCracken¡¦s (1986) Meaning Transfer Model and Kozinets¡¦ (1999) Typology of Virtual Community of Consumption Member, research concerns emerged and were focused. The concerns were (1) the way in which K-pop social identity and social norms were perceived in the official fandom name and online virtual community; (2) the way in which consumption rituals of fanship were enacted by actual fan cheering and supportive behaviors; (3) the difference in fanship consumption meaning for and among different types of fans. In-depth interviews with K-pop fans were collected for the purpose of this study. PTT_SNSD, an online K-pop fandom social site, was selected as the target site from which K-pop fan interviewees were identified and recruited. To identify different types of K-pop fans, measures based on Kozinets¡¦ (1999) typology of consumers were administered. As a result, ten fans each representing four different types of K-pop fans volunteered and were then recruited. The four types identified were devotee, insider, intermediate of devotee-insider, and low-consumption-and-self-centered.|
To answer the research questions the study was set to explore, analysis and interpretation was generated and drawn from the texts of interviews. First, fandom name did work as a social identity that reinforced a sense of community and being a responsible member. However, the degree of which the social identity was perceived by the interviewees altered depending up the context. Second, PTT_SNSD, the online virtual community played an important and mediator role in which it facilitated fanship learning and consumption, and generated fandom identification. All of which assisted the interviewees to achieve individual and collective identity as a K-pop fan. By their accounts, supportive behaviors were instrumental in performance of McCracken¡¦s rituals of possession and grooming as a fan at individual level and cheering behaviors were instrumental in exchange ritual at social level. Moreover, being a spectator of fanship consumption rituals and a participant of PTT_SNSD facilitated the process of fandom learning, making meaning transfer smoother. The last, there was no significant difference among the four types of K-pop fans, i.e. , devotee, insider, intermediate of devotee-insider, and low-consumption-and-self- centered. Most interviewees indicated that information and social exchanges about idols was the main reason they participated in PTT_SNSD. They perceived fanship consumption as an everyday leisure activity as well as a way of life. However, the meaning of fanship consumption seemed to be in transformation along time, and its value weighed against pragmatic consumption decision. Except for insiders, the other types of fans inclined to mobilize between insider- and devotee-type of consumption under certain circumstances.
Both academic and practical implications can be drawn from this qualitative study of K-pop fans. With regard to theory grounding, the study provides a theoretical interpretation that fanship consumption is interlocked with social identity and community identification, both at individual and group level. With regard to marketing practices in Taiwanese pop music industry, the study calls attention to the importance of creating social identity and fostering consumption rituals for and among fans. Symbolic meaning of being a fan can be learned and transferred from adopting a fandom name, participating in concerts, and collecting idol merchandise.