Boing Boing featured an excellent interview about fandom with Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture and Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers.
Why fans make better scholars
Henry: Fandom taught me how to read television. Television is a challenging medium for critics. A long-running television series may run on for 100-200 hours of content. Academic critics don’t typically work on that scale. It isn’t like reading an individual novel or watching a single film. For a time, academics would choose episodes almost at random for close examination in the classroom, feeling that any given episode might represent the series as a whole. Fans have always insisted that each episode contributes something vital to the life of a series: even when television series were largely episodic, they look for the connections across episodes, and now that television is more serialized, they are very good at tracing how characters grow over time and anchoring that growth to specific transformative moments in particular episodes. They do some of this work as individuals, but they do more of it as a community of readers, who compare notes, pool knowledge, and thus can deal with the scope and complexity of rich television narratives. As critics, they are so far ahead of either academics or journalists in terms of dealing with television as television…. Fandom describes a creative lifestyle, not a subservient relationship of worshipful awe before some creative artist.