K-POP fandom platform is changing the meaning of being an idol

Fandom has changed a lot since I was a kid. As a tween, I didn’t want to get in touch with my favorite celebrities like Britney Spears and Whitney Houston. Now I’ve talked to some of my celebrity favorites on social media, and even fought some.

Fandom technology is also changing. Parasocial relationships—mainly one-sided relationships between fans and public figures they feel familiar with for social media—are online everywhere. And the companies behind some of K-POP’s biggest acts are pioneering new ways to monetize them. They have developed an online platform that helps K-POP fans feel as if they have direct access to their idol favorites.That access helps these fans shape the way they interact with idols as a form of friendship. When How they relate to other fans.

Before the advent of social media accounts and enterprise operating platforms, most fans of Korean artists were basically Fan cafe — A type of digital fan club where fans had to prove their knowledge of a particular artist before they could access it.Initially hosted on platforms such as social networking sites DAUM, These fan cafes allow fans to connect directly with idols and can become even more intimate when connected with official paid fan club membership.

Many idol DAUM fan cafes are still up and running, but especially in English fandom, they have been away from them in the last two years. Instead, some companies have created new social apps for artists, completely bypassing third-party platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Currently, three major platforms stand out. NCSoft’s universe is Big four Includes features like “private messaging” service of Korean pop music, Exclusive music, And a voice call with an idol generated by a slightly controversial AI. HYBE’s Weverse is home to megagroups like BTS and TXT and is organized like a DAUM fan cafe. Finally, there is SM’s LYSN. It includes a truly innovative Bubble app that has found a way to offer all the benefits of TwitterDM to K-pop groups without causing many issues.

SM is a powerhouse that produces K-POP behind groups such as TVXQ and cyberpunk girl group Aespa. Its platform, LYSN, was first launched in 2018 as an “interest-based fan community.” It was a relative failure before the introduction of the bubble in 2020 Idle instant messaging service, Brought benefits to the stratosphere.. With different versions of the bubble, fans can contact their favorite idols via partially private messages that are paid on a subscription basis.The app is designed to look like a one-on-one chat window, but the reality is like a large group chat with an idol. Drop messages to thousands of fans at once See the reply when you come in.

Areum Jeong, an assistant professor of humanities at the Pittsburgh Institute at Sichuan University, said the app offers fans a real opportunity to strengthen their relationships with their current favorite idols.

“Fans are well aware that it’s technically a group chat for idols to receive messages from thousands of fans, but fans can’t see the messages of other fans. “Chung says. “Still, fans enjoy receiving messages that idols share their daily lives and thoughts. Also, the interface gives the illusion of a 1: 1 chat, and some idols respond to intimate emotions. You may feel like you are receiving a personal private message from an idol because you are sending a message. ”

That false intimacy can be a powerful force for fans who regularly use these platforms. “I like using Weverse because I like to see the interactions of the members as if they were real,” says Leigh, a fan of the idol group Seventeen, which connects with the group through Weverse. “It’s basically fun to see members in glorious group chats. Sometimes I feel like an observer, but most of the time I feel like I’m involved.”

Part of the appeal is that fans can feel like they’re looking at a more personal side than the idols they follow on less direct platforms like Twitter and Instagram.PhD students (and who are currently studying culture at BTS’s large international fan base ARMY for Nicole Santello @ResearchBTS Twitter account), It’s about all the connections that fans can make in their interactions with the artist.

“The relationship between BTS and the Army is by no means one-sided. What stands out at Weverse is that BTS is very active and often responds directly to app fans,” Santero said. increase. “It makes Weverse even more attractive, and there is definitely this greater intimacy and intimacy formed between artists and fans through these types of interactions. BTS may see your post. Knowing that makes the experience even more meaningful. “

These company-run apps don’t just provide fans with the ability to provide comfort from the artist. What appeals to some fans is that they provide support when artists are experiencing health problems or scandals, or simply when they are tired of rare downtime.

For Maxim, an Australian Stray Kids fan who has been using the bubble app for six months, it was a mix of good and bad times. “The Great Hyunjin incident of 21 was a bit of a mess for the band / fandom as a whole. I admit that I sent a little backup message of encouragement to Felix,” he said of group member Felix. Said. .. “Also, when Felix asked for a nomination and tried to sneak my taste into his agenda, I replied to the message. Again, whether he had seen it. There really is no way to know. Do you see him too? Yuri !!! on ICE also Sk8 Infinity?? (I think he will probably do that.)

Unlike other celebrity fan clubs in the past, there is no guarantee that what happened with company-run apps will stay in those apps. In fact, for medium to low quality in-app translation service that translates from Korean to English, Translation account For many of these platform-wide artists focusing solely on Weverse / LYSN and Bubble / Universe. If your idol fan base is small or unorganized outside the company-run platform, you may have fewer translation accounts. However, it does not prevent fans from sharing memes, selfies uploaded by artists, and clips of live streams as much as possible.

Its intimacy can have a hard edge. “They can be absurd or even hostile, as more fans consider themselves active consumers than ever before,” says Chung.Fans of the new idol group Enhypen Deal with a broken fandom Members may be saying n-words, and many of the conflicts between fans stem from Weverse interactions. Fans on the platform tried to hide violent and racist posts from artists using in-app features for communication between fans, but in the end, about the incident, and in the face of them. Attacked a black fan talking about harassment. Within hours of the first wave of harassment, black fans in the group went to Twitter and TikTok to share what they were seeing and how people were talking about them. .. The apps they used to connect with other fans and the idols themselves were no longer a safe place.

Still, none of these efforts would have been easy 10 years ago, and most would have been completely impossible 10 years ago. These platforms offer a whole new way for celebrities and their fans to interact and are built on, but increasingly distinct from, traditional social media platforms. And, for better or for worse, it’s changing the meaning of being a fan or idol online. K-POP fandom platform is changing the meaning of being an idol

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