me + instant update culture in the Richard Armitage fandom: personal reflections, 1

I wrote that last post at least partially for Tree, who said yesterday that it would take her hours to find the updates she wanted. I hope that she and anyone else who wondered, “how do people find this information so quickly?” now have an idea — even if they still want to rely on newshounds rather than looking for updates themselves. Staying up-to-date involves no magic and is not especially difficult — not to denigrate the skills of anyone who does it including myself, but success at finding Richard Armitage news is a matter of perseverance rather than brains. It requires is a little skill with a computer keyboard and an almost infinite willingness to hang on the computer screen and press “refresh” on one’s browser. After you do it for a while,  you develop some intuition about where information will appear and start to look a little more broadly for news. It’s not for everyone. It will always be easiest for people with the fastest web connections and the most time (for whatever reason — because they’re housebound, or they work in a job with constant web access, or are bored, or retired). If you work a normal, busy nine-to-five, if you don’t sit behind a desk or always turn off your phone at work, if your job involves mostly human rather than computer interactions, or if you prioritize face time with family members and friends over screen time, it’s not going to be something for you.

So having explained “how to do it” at the intro level, and having said that, as someone who’s participated periodically in the quest to excavate information for the immediate update (and the effort to pass that — and other publicly available information I’ve found — on to fans), I wanted to reflect on its varying significance to me.

I became a fan early in 2010. Armitageworld was a wholly different place. Passworded fan forums (three major ones at that moment — a few earlier ones have disappeared) and imdb had been the major venues for interaction up till that point, but things were changing. At that point, there were four major fan websites, fewer than a dozen blogs, a handful of active facebook groups, and almost no one on tumblr or twitter. Armitage’s career was also in a very different place. Spooks 8 had just been broadcast; he was making Strike Back; and that spring we had publicity for Strike Back and the second two Heyer audiobooks. That spring and summer he was making Spooks 9, for which we had a lot of publicity — and just as that was broadcast, he made Captain America: The First Avenger, which was followed by the official announcement of his casting as Thorin Oakenshield and a near-blackout of news for several months until the vlogs started appearing.

“News” felt different than it does now. As I’ve noted, fan encounters with Richard Armitage were (comparatively) scarce. They were often discussed behind the passwords; the individual fan communities for various projects (Robin Hood; Spooks) played a more important role in transmitting information, especially when some of their fans made set visits. At the same time, the general fear about sharing personal information on the Internet was lower and so more detailed or personal information was sometimes available. I think we felt a sharper line between the personal level of news and the official things that came through the press. News came regularly, but almost exclusively in the form of material related to publicity for a project, much of which was incredibly repetitive. Video interviews were the exception and usually resulted from television appearances. Practically none of the newer social media were involved, although toward the end of 2010 one could tweet questions to a few prospective interviewers. A totally new photoshoot happened rarely — it’s hard to imagine a series like Guylty’s *ooof*s because material would have been quickly exhausted. Much of what existed to be discussed among fans consisted of Armitage’s actual performances. Once Armitage began work on The Hobbit, practically no news was available, sometimes for months.

In that atmosphere “me + richard armitage” was born, with the intent of not functioning as an information creator or aggregator — not least because in my professional life, I was responsible for excavating, organizing, indexing and presenting synthesis of historical information. I wanted to be irresponsible, here. The initial intent behind the blog was thus to respond to information impressionistically, not to purvey it. That initial plan turned out to be unrealistic, for two reasons. I couldn’t completely change my spots. First, I am interested in information and the ways in which it’s created and disseminated and I very quickly got involved in writing about source critique, which meant that I had to learn how to establish the reliability of different data, so that I had to plunge into the world of Armitage news. Second, though I had wanted to write more impressionistically, I found myself thinking in the same terms I think in other contexts — so I wanted sources for the claims I made — I wanted to know the Armitage canon of information — and that meant: closer involvement with the information level of all of this.

For most of 2010, nonetheless, the amount of information seemed manageable. A daily or sometimes twice daily (in the case of a television series publicity blitz) check of the major fan sites kept even the most involved fans fully up-to-date. Information appeared in predictable places, mostly organized around foreseeable dates for which one could be prepared. As Armitage was employed in the UK, the information usually appeared during UK business hours. That situation started to change in the spring of 2012, when Peter Jackson’s vlog updates became more frequent, but the real turning point was ComicCon 2012, when the news information stream picked up (and with a few brief pauses) became relatively constant. The sources of news shifted to Los Angeles and Wellington, which meant that one could find new things round-the-clock. Moreover, Armitage’s increasing status in the profession meant that the social media level of information that had been so scarce before (encounters, sightings, pictures, tiny bits of gossip) and which had appeared only in a few places was now comparatively abundant and likely to appear almost anywhere people left a social media footprint. After The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey appeared, large pieces of the fandom sprang up on tumblr and twitter got a huge boost.

In that atmosphere, the fan sites had to change — to decide how frequently they were going to update, in light of the pitter-patter of mouses clicking over to other, faster media; to diversify their information delivery to be present in those other media; to review whether they would still provide comprehensive coverage or simply highlights; and where they would stand on the coverage of information available on social media that occupied a dubious status between “official news” available to everyone and communications like selfies that would, a decade earlier, largely have remained private or, in the early days of the fandom, probably have stayed behind a password. It also became a realistic possibility for bloggers and facebook page operators to disseminate this information in real time — there was more of it, we could react more quickly, and we could do it with ease. So several years of hierarchies about the dissemination of information were put into flux, slowly at first, and then, by December 2012, forcefully.

In my own case, not only the transformation in context of the fandom just described has changed my relationship to information about Richard Armitage and the power hierarchies that handle it, but also my own position. I also changed because “me +” became — largely independently of a coherent plan — a successful project that fans read. I wrote on it almost every day, sometimes several times a day — so that my relationship with Armitage information became not simply that of excavator, but also one of opinion shaper. Also, I got involved in providing some English translations of foreign language press. As the blog gained more readers, my choice to highlight or ignore particular information about Armitage gave certain pieces of it greater or lesser exposure. I don’t think this differentiates me from other venues, incidentally; everyone is selective in some way. But it has meant that I’ve had to deal with / make peace with the culture of the instant update in ways that I’d never have predicted.

~ by Servetus on April 1, 2014.

16 Responses to “me + instant update culture in the Richard Armitage fandom: personal reflections, 1”

  1. […] Next, some reflections on how the culture of the instant update has affected me as a fan and a blogger. […]


  2. Thank you! I find the history very interesting as well.

    I do have a Twitter and Tumblr account and I had them open during the Jameson Empire Award event. I also was watching the Youtube live stream. My compliment stemmed from the fact that as much information as I was gathering I was finding new things on your blog.

    I am disabled and at my computer far more than is healthy. I still find all the information that is available overwhelming at times. Without going into a lot of detail I have inflammation in my brain. Some days it works fine and other days not so well. I am fearful that on a day I’m not at my best I will post and make mistakes. I’m not sure why I’ve told you that except to possibly apologize in advance if I make any blunders.


    • Goodness, I’m not the blunder police!

      To some extent it’s just facility. You know what to expect, and you get faster at finding it. I’ve been doing this for years now. Eventually, if we crowdsource it, everyone finds stuff, and we get the complete picture working together.


      • I did not mean to imply that you were the blunder police. It is more about my fear. Sometimes I’m more brave and other times not at all. While I am on the subject I’d like to say how much I admire your bravery.


        • I understand and I’ve always thought of you as well-meaning. So no worries.

          Thanks for the kind words. I have better and worse days on that account. Today was a better day 🙂 and here’s to more of them for both of us.


  3. The history professor is coming out — excellent historical record of RA’s propelling popularity 🙂 I was watching some of the interviews today and it was odd seeing RA on the British talk shows again since I’d gotten used to seeing him on the American shows the last go round. I guess he’s over there doing interviews due to the new gig. It’d be interesting to see him do the Graham Norton show.


  4. This is a very interesting piece Servetus. I think we’ve been interested in RA a similar length of time although it took me a while to think to use blogs as a source of information. However, it has been in a selection of blogs that i have been most comfortable, yours as a primary one.I have increased my workload dramatically in the last couple of years and don’t work in an environment where it would be appropriate to have a personal tab running on my computer. Actually my work is so full on, i can’t even imagine finding the time to look at personal stuff. I sometimes hear emails coming in thick and fast on my phone and i know something must have happened in Armitage world (okay – i will admit to occasionally slipping into the loo with my phone to check!). And being Down Under, a lot happens while we are asleep.

    Richardstreehouse- please don’t let a fear of blunders put you off contributing. Heaven knows, we all make them sometimes and we don’t all have as good an excuse as you do. When a fandom gets big and multi cultural it is going to happen, no matter how good your intentions. But i think most people would agree that having a hobby and sharing that with fellow enthusiasts can only be beneficial to your health, so keep it up.


    • Thank you for the encouragement. I think the fandom has been beneficial for me. I used to spend all my time online in support groups but it ended up becoming too depressing. This is MUCH better.

      bollyknickers, like you I get a lot of my information from blogs and Servetus in particular has played a big role. I lurked for about a year under my own name and now I think it’s been about a year as Tree. We do have the best inspiration 🙂


      • There’s a time and a place for all sorts of groups but sometimes it is just good to get away from real life problems and have some fun and this fandom is certainly great for that.


        • and this fandom has the function of a support group not infrequently anyway — I felt that way all last summer.


    • I don’t think the blogs thought of themselves as a source of information — that’s been a relatively recent development, if it really is one — I have more to say about this and hopefully I will get to it tonight. I think there’s a sort of question after a while, if one feels like one is repeating oneself, about what the purpose of the blog is. One could be to disseminate information. I haven’t usually had that feeling about myself — although there are some infinitely recyclable themes I have the hope that I still am finding new things to write about.


  5. Times sure have changed for Richard. Just remember the days when we waited just to see a picture of him. Thanks for finding everything you do. I don’t have the time these days.


  6. An interesting piece, Serv, thanks for the insight (hope you are feeling better). These kind of posts remind me how fast our world became – twitter and tumblr only 2 years for Armitageland, hm? – and how quickly information/news circulate (e.g. Empire Awards), not only with the help of social media but also with the new equipment like smart phones or LTE standard.


    • I think one reason tumblr has taken off is that it’s relatively phone friendly. Apparently 1/3 of all users on tumblr are accessing it via their phones. That also turns into a context where one has younger users precisely for that reason, I think.

      (I still have a dumb phone.)


      • I have a smart phone that I generally use as a dumb phone. The one exception is I frequently check Tumblr on my phone. I think it is more phone friendly than a lot of other apps – even for us older folks 🙂


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