Crowdfunding the Future

Media Industries, Ethics, and Digital Society

by Lucy Bennett (Volume editor) Bertha Chin (Volume editor) Bethan Jones (Volume editor)
©2015 Monographs XII, 274 Pages
Series: Digital Formations, Volume 98


The concept of crowdfunding, where grassroots creative projects are funded by the masses through websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, has been steadily gaining attention over the last few years. Crowdfunding the Future undertakes a dynamic interdisciplinary approach to the examination of the new, and growing, phenomenon of crowdfunding and its encompassment of digital society and media industries. The book offers a wide range of perspectives and empirical research, providing analyses of crowdfunded projects, the interaction between producers and audiences, and the role that websites such as Kickstarter play in discussions around fan agency and exploitation, as well as the ethics of crowdfunding. With a series of chapters covering a global range of disciplines and topics, this volume offers a comprehensive overview on crowdfunding, examining and unraveling the international debates around this increasingly popular practice. The book is suitable for courses covering media studies, fandom, digital media, sociology, film production, anthropology, audience, and cultural studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Funding the Future? Contextualising Crowdfunding
  • Section One: Crowdfunding Platforms and Ethics
  • 1. Up Close and Personal: Exploring the Bonds Between Promoters and Backers in Audiovisual Crowdfunded Projects
  • 2. Crowdfunding the Narrative, or the High Cost of “Fan-ancing”
  • 3. Exploiting Surplus Labours of Love: Narrating Ownership and Theft in Crowdfunding Controversies
  • 4. On the Sale of Community in Crowdfunding: Questions of Power, Inclusion, and Value
  • Section Two: Social and Civic Crowdfunding
  • 5. Four Civic Roles for Crowdfunding
  • 6. Crowdfunding and Pluralisation: Comparison Between the Coverage of the Participatory Website Spot.Us and the American Press
  • 7. Is It Fair to Monetise Microcelebrity? Mapping Reactions to a Crowdfunded Reporting Project Launched by an Italian Twitter-star
  • 8. Because It Takes a Village to Fund the Answers: Crowdfunding University Research
  • Section Three: Fandom and the Media Industries
  • 9. Fixing Television by Funding a Movie: The Crowdfunding of Veronica Mars
  • 10. Public Service Announcements With Guitars: Rock ’n Roll as Crowdfunding Cause for Amanda Palmer and IAMX
  • 11. The Role of Crowdfunding as a Business Model in Journalism: A Five-layered Model of Value Creation
  • 12. Crowdfunding and Transmedia Storytelling: A Tale of Two Spanish Projects
  • 13. Kickstarting Big Bang Press, Publishing Original Novels by Fanfic Authors
  • 14. Building a Better Kickstarter: Crowdfunding My So-Called Secret Identity
  • Afterword: The Future of Crowdfunding
  • Conclusion: Where Next for Crowdfunding?
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index


List of Illustrations

Figure 1.1:  How did you find out about the Project? (First and last supported projects)

Figure 8.1:  Twitter network visualisation schema

Figure 8.2:  Combined Twitter network for all Research My World projects

Figure 8.3:  Twitter network for a successful Research My World project

Figure 8.4:  Twitter network for an unsuccessful Research My World project

Figure 8.5:  All inbound web traffic for the Research My World projects

Figure 8.6:  Combined pledge timeline for all Research My World projects

Figure 8.7:  Timeline of pledges and total Twitter activity for one Research My World project

Figure 11.1: Value creation process in crowdfunded journalism ← vii | viii →

← viii | ix →


List of Tables

Table 1.1:   Reasons for donating to a project

Table 1.2:   When supporting a project, what importance do you grant to the following factors?

Table 1.3:   Sources of information

Table 6.1:   Distribution of subjects between suggested and published stories on Spot.Us

Table 6.2:   Comparison of stories published on Spot.Us and the average American newspapers with circulation over 200,000 copies (%)

Table 6.3:   Thematic comparison of stories published on Spot.Us and the aggregated average of Time, Newsweek, and US News magazines (%)

Table 8.1:   Research My World projects

Table 12.1: The Cosmonaut – Official transmedia narrative universe

Table 12.2: The Cosmonaut – Official paratexts

Table 12.3: The Cosmonaut – Metatexts

Table 12.4: The Cosmonaut – Regular producers and movie investors

Table 12.5: Panzer Chocolate – Official transmedia narrative universe

Table 12.6: Panzer Chocolate – Official transmedia paratexts ← ix | x →

← x | xi →



All three of us have been contributing to crowdfunding campaigns since 2010, supporting friends who are independent filmmakers, who have projects on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But it wasn’t until the phenomenal success of the Veronica Mars movie campaign that the world seemed to sit up and take notice of crowdfunding. Amid conversations and discussions conducted with each other and via social media, we wondered if any academic work had been done on the topic. And if not, why not? Thus, our journey into editing this volume began. We couldn’t have done this without the support and encouragement of several notable colleagues. First, immense gratitude and thanks to Steve Jones, for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to embark on this endeavour, for his encouragement, advice and guidance on the first draft of this collection. We would also like to thank the contributors, who worked to an extremely short deadline and were gracious in making the changes we asked them to. We are also indebted to Paul Booth and Will Brooker for their support during the editing of this collection. Thanks must also go to Mary Savigar and Sophie Appel at Peter Lang for their help and advice throughout the process of writing and submitting this manuscript.

Individually, we also have people we would like to thank. Lucy would like to thank her parents for their constant and incredible support; her friends: Iñaki Garcia-Blanco for all his kindness and encouragement through the years; Bertha and Bethan for being so supportive and enthusiastic; Janet Harris and Ellen Kirkpatrick for being there through the process; Matt Hills; Amanda Brook; Cheryl and Claire; plus all her other friends, family and colleagues who have supported her in any way. Bertha would like to thank her parents, aunt, and uncle for their continued support, and her brother for bouncing ideas about the book title. Numerous friends and colleagues, such as Matt Hills, for always being there and generous with his advice; Lori Morimoto ← xi | xii → and Selmin Kara for their constant cheerleading; Holly Dignard and Lisa Wilson-Wright, for introducing her to the concept of crowdfunding; and last, but not least, to her two co-editors, Lucy and Bethan for always being patient and supportive. Finally, Bethan would like to thank her family and friends for their love and support: Matt Hills for his advice and guidance, PhD-related and otherwise; Lucy Bennett and Bertha Chin for their patience and enthusiasm – both academic and fannish; and Tony for his unending belief and encouragement. ← xii | 1 →


Introduction: Funding the Future? Contextualising Crowdfunding



This edited collection stems from our initial efforts in editing a themed issue for New Media & Society (2015) on the concept of crowdfunding, where grassroots creative projects are funded through micro-payments by backers through websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. This practice has been steadily gaining attention in the last few years, across numerous different sectors of society. As media and fan studies scholars, we had engaged in discussions on the topic with friends and colleagues, in person and via social media, about the impact that crowdfunding may wield on the future of media studies. We contributed to these discussions in journals (see Chin et al., 2014) but the absence of scholarship on crowdfunding surprised us, which led us to connect with New Media & Society and successfully propose a special issue. We received a huge response to our original call for papers for the issue, with the proposed articles covering a breadth of disciplines and topics. To that end, and with the idea in mind of creating the work on crowdfunding, we felt a broader overview of the subject and the global discussions taking place within it would better suit an edited collection. Therefore, this anthology seeks to examine and unravel the international debates around crowdfunding and thus brings together contributors from a wide range of academic disciplines and countries. We include papers that offer different perspectives on the processes of crowdfunding projects: from analyses of the crowdfunded projects themselves, to the interaction between producers and audiences, the civic possibilities opened up by crowdfunding and the role that Kickstarter plays in discussions around fan agency and exploitation, as well as the ethics of crowdfunding itself. ← 1 | 2 →

A Short History of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding appears to have come into the public consciousness with the launch of the Veronica Mars (UPN/CW, 2004–2007) movie Kickstarter in 2013 (and indeed, many of the chapters in this book refer to this). Creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell explained to fans in their March 2013 Kickstarter video that their $2 million funding goal would get a small movie made and demonstrate to Warner Brothers that fan interest in the show remained strong. The 30-day crowdfunding campaign actually raised $5.7 million, making it (at the time of its launch) the largest and most successful film project in Kickstarter’s history (Bennett, Chin, & Jones, 2015). Since then, successful crowdfunding campaigns have been spearheaded by musicians such as Amanda Palmer (Potts, 2012; Williams & Wilson, forthcoming), director Spike Lee, and actors Zach Braff and LeVar Burton. Despite its permeation in popular and digital culture, hardly any definitive work has concentrated on crowdfunding itself. Daren Brabham (2013) dismisses crowdfunding as uncreative, and it only appears briefly in Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green’s Spreadable Media (2013) as another potential disruption to the traditional relationship between audience and producers. Yet, the chapters in this volume demonstrate that crowdfunding is not limited to the creative industries, and as the practice matures, content creators in various fields such as journalism, local communities, and even academia, who turn to crowdfunding are finding more critical and innovative ways of engaging with and strategising crowdfunding campaigns.

Section One: Crowdfunding Platforms and Ethics

Section One examines the various different crowdfunding platforms and the ethics associated with both these and the practice itself. Ethical discussions around the nature of copyright and ownership were at the fore in many of the articles we have read about crowdfunding, and many of these – particularly in relation to Kickstarter – are tied into the platforms used to host the campaign.

This section opens with Talia Leibovitz, Antoni Roig Telo, and Jordi Sánchez-Navarro’s examination of the bonds between promoters and backers in audiovisual crowdfunded projects. The authors note that industrial and political discourses on crowdfunding tend to emphasise the economical efficiency and embedment of the consumer into the media product, while neglecting the question of affective engagement among cultural agents in a creative process. However the authors argue that a clear relationship between a strong personal network and the success of a crowdfunding campaign exists. The chapter ← 2 | 3 → highlights the results of the authors’ online survey of backers of audiovisual projects on one of the main Spanish crowdfunding platforms, Verkami, as well as exhaustive data analysis from the platform. Leibovitz, Roig, and Sánchez-Navarro demonstrate that, while those who become early supporters of a project show strong personal ties with project promoters (informally known as the three Fs: family, friends, and fools), as collaboration extends across time and across different projects, the interpersonal bond becomes weaker and further reasons for collaborating arise. The authors conclude that crowdfunding can be approached as a creative practice where users put into play affective engagements and social values, drawing a complex picture that goes far beyond an economic model based only on pecuniary contribution.

Chapter 2 examines the role that narrative plays in the crowdfunding of the objects of fandom. Cochran begins by examining the impact that narrative has on fans – the reasons why we may become fans of one text over another, and the ways in which the text may affect our psyche once we have become fans. Cochran further ties the role of narrative into the choices we make as fans and, using the “Fake Geek Girl” argument as an example, asks how in fan communities do fans’ choices directly or indirectly impact the object of fandom. Just as important, however, is the way in which objects of fandom directly or indirectly impact upon the fan community and Cochran asks how the narrative impact of the fan object and the fan community function in a space where narratives, individual morals and collective values converge and sometimes clash. Here, Cochran uses the Veronica Mars Kickstarter as a key study, analysing responses to the campaign from backers, fans, and critics. In this chapter Cochran raises important questions about the ethics of narrative and the effect that crowdfunding may have on an object where everyone – producers and backers, fans and Hollywood insiders – feels they have a stake. Cochran concludes by reiterating that the potency of the Veronica Mars narrative was weakened by “fan-ancing” (Scott, 2013) the Veronica Mars film, but acknowledges that the crowdfunding campaign was about more than just the story. Her question whether a text has to be the best art doing what art does best to be meaningful or enjoyable is a key consideration for media scholars.


XII, 274
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
Web 2.0 online communities backers indiegogo Kickstarter
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XII, 274 pp.

Biographical notes

Lucy Bennett (Volume editor) Bertha Chin (Volume editor) Bethan Jones (Volume editor)

Lucy Bennett (PhD, Cardiff University) is a research assistant at JOMEC, Cardiff University, and co-founder of the Fan Studies Network. Her work has appeared in New Media & Society, Transformative Works and Cultures, Social Semiotics, Journal of Fandom Studies, Continuum, Cinema Journal, Celebrity Studies, and Participations. Bertha Chin (PhD, Cardiff University) is an independent scholar. Her work has appeared in Social Semiotics, Journal of Science Fiction Film and Television, Participations, Transformative Works and Cultures, and M/C Journal. Bethan Jones is a PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University. Her work has appeared in Transformative Works and Cultures, Participations, Sexualities, and the Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance.


Title: Crowdfunding the Future
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