Springsteen fans, #bruceleeds, and the tweeting of locality

William I. Wolff

Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, United States

[0.1] Abstract—This article presents a case study of one Springsteen-affiliated hashtag, #bruceleeds, which emerged from the Springsteen fan community to organize tweets about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's July 24, 2013, concert at First Direct Arena in Leeds, England. A grounded theory analysis of #bruceleeds tweets from before the start of the Leeds concert shows significant interaction among fans and local businesses. By using the concert-specific hashtag #bruceleeds, fans and others who used the hashtag co-create an emerging concert experience grounded in a physical space. Drawing on theories on social interactions, classification systems, and mapping, I suggest that the #bruceleeds hashtag facilitates the metaphorical representation of a physical space—in this case, Leeds, England—and the emergence of a complex system sharing features of an information ecology consisting of fans, local businesses, civic organizations, and the technologies they use.

[0.2] Keywords— Audience; European fans; Fan community; Information ecologies; Music audience; Twitter

Wolff, William I. 2015. "Springsteen Fans, #bruceleeds, and the Tweeting of Locality." In "European Fans and European Fan Objects: Localization and Translation," edited by Anne Kustritz, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 19.

1. Introduction

[1.1] In his ethnography of music audiences, Tramps Like Us: Music and Meaning Among Springsteen Fans (1998), Daniel Cavicchi reveals the extent to which various media helps fans transform, enhance, and make meaningful a fan's connection both to the object of their fandom and to other fans. Cavicchi observes, "Music is not a product to be consumed but rather a performance to be experienced, not a static 'text' that is mass-marketed but rather a dynamic event of communication unfolding through various media in space and over time" (1998, 89). When Tramps Like Us was published in 1998, media that afforded the creation of community included fanzines, computer discussion groups, concerts, and other face-to-face informal gatherings (Cavicchi 1998, 161–66). Though those mediums are still important for Springsteen and other music fans today, blogs, online forums, and social media spaces like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr have rapidly taken over as preferred outlets for fan discussions and community building (Duffett 2013; Sanderson and Cheong 2010; Magee et al. 2013; Recuero, Amaral, and Monteiro 2012; Bore and Hickman 2013; Blaszka et al. 2012; Smith and Smith 2012). Specifically in terms of music audiences, Nancy Baym (2012, 2013) writes about the transforming and often tenuous relationship between fans and musicians as a result of social media. Liza Potts (2013) showcases how musician Amanda Palmer has been able to leverage social media and fan participation using the Losers of Friday Night on Their Computers #LOFNOTC hashtag to raise money and undermine the traditional relationship between artists and record labels. Lucy Bennett considers the impact of social media on the behavior of fans of musical acts R.E.M. (2011), U2 (2012a), Lady Gaga (2013b), and Tori Amos (2014).

[1.2] Despite the recent increase in the number of scholars focusing on music fan audiences, Bennett is correct when, in her introduction to a special section of Participations on music audiences, she laments the dearth of empirical studies about this group of fans (2012b). It is even more surprising that there has been no scholarly work on Springsteen fans since Cavicchi's ethnography. It is surprising for two primary reasons. First, Springsteen fans worldwide are a literate, communicative, and archival group, publishing Springsteen-dedicated books, blogs, fanzines, and wikis; creating Facebook pages; uploading YouTube videos; and tweeting about Springsteen. Second, there has been much scholarship on Springsteen and his music (Garman 2000; Harde and Campbell 2010; Womack, Zolten, and Bernhard 2012) as well as three international symposiums at Monmouth University in New Jersey in 2005, 2009, and 2012 dedicated to his work ("Glory Days—University of Southern Indiana" 2014). The lack of recent studies on his fans is a gaping hole in a growing body of work on Springsteen and his music.

[1.3] In this article, I discuss a case study of one Springsteen-affiliated hashtag, #bruceleeds, which emerged from Springsteen fans to organize tweets about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's July 24, 2013, concert at First Direct Arena in Leeds, England. Coinciding with the start and end of Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball tour, between February 2012 and October 2013 I archived over 2.5 million Springsteen-related tweets—including all tweets containing the word "Springsteen"—and those with 2013 European concert–specific hashtags that have a #bruce[city] construct: #bruceleeds, #brucebergen, #brucemilan, and so on. A grounded theory analysis (Strauss and Corbin 1990; Charmaz 2011) of #bruceleeds tweets from before the start of the Leeds concert shows a significant amount of interaction among fans and local businesses. By using the concert-specific hashtag #bruceleeds, fans and others who used the hashtag—that is, local businesses—co-create an emerging concert experience grounded in a physical space. Drawing on theories of social interactions, classification systems, and mapping, I suggest that the #bruceleeds hashtag shares properties of an information ecology (Nardi and O'Day 1999) that in part facilitates the metaphorical representation of a physical space—in this case, Leeds, England—and the emergence of a complex system of fans, local businesses, civic organizations, and the technologies they use.

2.Springsteen and his European audience

[2.1] Bruce Springsteen released his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., on January 5, 1973, and was immediately hailed as the next Bob Dylan—a blessing and a curse. The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle appeared on November 5, 1973. On May 22, 1974, in the Boston alternative weekly The Real Paper, Jon Landau, who would one day become Springsteen's producer, manager, and mentor, wrote: "Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock 'n' roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Those words would, to Springsteen's dismay, become a promotional slogan for CBS Records upon the release of Springsteen's third album, Born to Run, on September 1, 1975. On November 18, 1975, during the Born to Run tour, Springsteen and the E Street Band made their first ever European appearance at London's HammerX Odeon, the first of four dates in England, Sweden, and the Netherlands. In anticipation of Springsteen's visit, British weekly music newspaper Melody Maker put Springsteen on the cover of its November 15, 1975, edition under the heading "Smash Hit Springsteen." The issue included a cover story and an interview by Ray Coleman conducted earlier in the year in Los Angeles. In the interview, Coleman asks Springsteen, "Do you consider yourself the future of rock 'n' roll, as you have been described?" Springsteen replies, "Hey, gimme a break with that stuff, will you? It's nuts, it's crazy. Who could take that seriously?" (2013, 68). That hype, however, made it all the way to London, where the Odeon marquee read in block letters, "Finally, London Is Ready for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band" (Davies 2013). Walls around the theater were plastered with posters reading, "I've Seen the Future of Rock and Roll and Its Name is Bruce Springsteen." Inside the theater, the lobby and seats were covered with miniature posters. Seeing that, Springsteen, feeling like he was becoming a construct of CBS Records, lost it and ripped them all to shreds (Carlin 2012, 212). However, the show at the HammerX Odeon that night—and Springsteen's poster-ripping spree—have become part of Springsteen legend, and in the liner notes of the 2005 DVD release of the show, Springsteen (2005) writes, "It was the show that put us on the map in England and began a long and beautiful relationship with our fans overseas."

[2.2] That relationship, however, has not been without controversy. In July 2012, Jon Landau posted "A Thank You to Scandinavia" on Springsteen's official Web site, in which he describes the

[2.3] two shows in Gothenburg [as] among the very highest moments in Bruce and the Band's history of performing. As in all of Scandinavia, the crowds were among the greatest I have ever seen—for any artist. The audience comes with a great knowledge of Bruce's work, a depth of feeling for all of it, and a special empathy for his artistry. As a result, Bruce and the Band are free to be as spontaneous and loose and emotional as they can possibly be. The results are nights of pure magic.…We play for so many audiences around the world, but none are better than we find here. (Landau 2012)

[2.4] Landau's phrases—"among the very highest moments in Bruce and the Band's history of recording," "the crowds were among the greatest I have ever seen," "none are better than we find here"—were not very well received, to say the least, by some of Springsteen's American fans. Many took to Springsteen's official Facebook page:

[2.5] you think no crowds or people are better than sweden according to jon landau then stay in sweden. We don't want performers in the US that think we are second best. For that matter neither should any crowd.

[2.6] "None are better" than Sweden? Are you f'ing kidding me Jon? Wow, what a slap in the face to the fans in NJ…For decades we've been the crowd that supports Bruce—sells out 10 nights in a row, whether its the arena, Giants stadium or wherever…always on our feet, singing at the top of our lungs for our homestate boy…but in your entire career as Bruce's manager, you say "sweden"…?? Whatever—how easily you forget…we live and breathe Bruce and his music, and even the same air…

[2.7] Wow.…been a Bruce fan since 70's.…been to 30+ concerts…this hurt a liitle Jon, Bruce, and E Street Band. To say "best ever" is a bit much, but we [his US-based fans] have been the ones liking his works from the start…there wouldn't be a Bruce and E Street if fans like us didn't go to venues early on…sad that Bruce does all his longest shows in Europe…we'd stay that long and be vibrant if given the chance. Wish I hadn't read this post. (Springsteen 2012)

[2.8] One of the major Springsteen fan blogs, Blogness on the Edge of Town, published a commentary by Pete Chianca under the heading, "Maybe Springsteen's European Audiences Are Better" (2012). Chianca wonders how it came to be that "European fans have become the primary and most dedicated purveyors of Springsteen's entire oeuvre, and they're willing to prove it (all night) by giving themselves over to the spirit of the proceedings, come rain, sleet, snow, late hours or whatever else gets thrown at them." Chianca is in part referring to the roll call system that is currently used at shows outside the United States. In this system, fans organize when and where those with general admission standing-room-only tickets will queue and receive an entrance number (usually written in marker on their hand). Over a period of several days, fans return at set times to check in. If they miss a check-in time, they lose their place in line. Fans enter the venue in the queue order. Those with the lowest numbers are the ones who stand in front and get to touch Springsteen, feel his sweat, and maybe get called on stage. Some fans travel from show to show waiting in roll call lines with the reward of standing a couple of inches from Springsteen. Respected Springsteen fan and prolific tweeter @casinonancy (2014) shared with me after reading a draft of this article that these fans will often choose not to tweet roll call locations and times early in the roll call process. Instead, they will "DM or text each other when a pit line is starting…until they are assured of their number. They then share everything they have." Pit queuing is a significant ritual for European shows, which has the effect of building community, increasing fan loyalty, and boosting fan prestige.

[2.9] During the summer 2012 European leg of the Wrecking Ball tour, longtime fan and fan writer Caryn Rose followed Springsteen on an eight-day, five-country, seven-concert journey (checking in at roll calls, talking with fans) to find out for herself if European fans were substantively different from those in the United States. Rose published her account in Raise Your Hand: Adventures of an American Springsteen Fan in Europe, finding "it's not that the fans are necessarily better, but that the audience as a whole is different in crucial ways that have a direct impact on Bruce and the band's performances in Europe" (2012, 103–4). In August 2013, Chianca posted another article to Blogness, "US vs. the World: Should Bruce Springsteen Address 'The Europe Issue'?" Here he wonders why Springsteen hasn't graced the United States with a concert in over a year and instead has "spent 2013 putting on some of the longest, most surprising and well-reviewed shows of his career around Australia and Europe."

[2.10] Springsteen, however, has addressed the European issue over the years. In January 1999, he told Mark Hagen in Mojo that "we really connected with the European audience.…The greatest thing that I did was go back in the 80s and to continue to go back. It has been the centre for an intense interest in the work that I've done" (Hagen 2013, 246). Indeed, Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh describes the fans in at Hovet arena in Stockholm, Sweden, during the 1981 European leg of The River tour as "just on the friendly side of riotous" (1987, 36). Addressing the Stockholm crowd, Springsteen hinted at the special relationship that was burgeoning among him and the E Street Band and the fans:

[2.11] I've learned a lot over here. I've learned the importance of the audience, the importance of you in the show.

[2.12] Because we come out and we play, and we play hard and try to tell you the things that mean a lot to us, and what you respond the way that you have tonight and last night, it's like a big "me too," you know…

[2.13] It's in a buncha little things. I want you to know that it means a lot to is just how quiet you've been in the slow songs since we've been here. I want to thank you a lot for doing that. (Marsh 1987, 37)

[2.14] Echoing those feelings of a growing bond between artist and fan, in the February 28, 2003, issue of Entertainment Weekly, Springsteen acknowledges that "for the best part of a decade, we've had a bigger audience overseas than in the States. Two thirds of my audience has been there; they were very connected to the Tom Joad record, very connected to music that was explicitly America, [so] there must be tremendous commonality felt about the values of those songs" (Tucker 2013, 274). @Casinonancy (2014) concurs: "I think the European audience fundamentally understands this is a co-created performance and they have to play their part. As Bruce says 'I can't get there on my own. We need you.' Also in Europe we have a different sense of people as artists and we expect our artists to often be controversial and political and we are comfortable with that."

[2.15] Record sale and tour data support these claims, with record sales outside the United States accounting for a higher percentage of total sales since the release of Tunnel of Love in 1987 (Earthslayer 2012) and European box office receipts higher than in the United States in 2008 ("Magic Tour [Bruce Springsteen]" 2014) and 2012 ("Wrecking Ball World Tour" 2014) (the years where I was able to find sale numbers). European shows have tended to be longer and the set lists more diverse than those in the United States (d_vdlinden 2013). In summary, Springsteen's European fans, like the American fans Cavicchi studied, are dedicated, valued by Springsteen and his organization, and worthy of study.


[3.1] Tweets analyzed in this study were archived between July 17, 2013, and October 21, 2013, as part of a larger study to archive Springsteen-related tweets during his 2012–13 Wrecking Ball tour. One large archive captured all tweets with the keyword "Springsteen." Individual archives were set up to capture hashtag-specific tweets for concerts that had their own hashtag, including #bruceleeds. The concert at the First Direct Arena was chosen at random from European shows in English-speaking countries (England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland).

[3.2] All tweets were archived using yourTwapperKeeper, "a quasi-standard for tweet datasets" (Bruns and Liang 2012; see also Gaffney and Puschmann 2013), which collects the tweet content, username, URL, reply username, and other information. Created in 2011 by John O'Brien after he disbanded his popular TwapperKeeper archiving system (Bruns 2011), yourTwapperKeeper collects tweets from Twitter's search API and streaming API containing a particular search term (such as keyword or hashtag) and archives them on a server set up by the researcher (Kelly et al. 2010). Highfield, Harrington, and Bruns (2013) have pointed out that despite yourTwapperKeeper's robust archiving abilities, one limitation is that it does not collect retweets that have been created using Twitter's retweet button. Twitter's retweet button does not allow a user to edit the original tweet before publishing; it just forwards on the original tweet in full. Retweet button tweets show up in a follower's timeline with the original author's username and avatar, and a notification that it was retweeted by someone else. Manual retweets, on the other hand, show up in a timeline associated with the retweeter's username and avatar, as well as in a yourTwapperKeeper archive. As Bruns and Liang (2012) note, "No dataset captured by using the Twitter API is guaranteed to be entirely comprehensive…however, such research nonetheless remains valid and important." In addition, though the analyzed corpus is extensive, the tweets are not representative of all the tweets possibly tweeted about the Leeds concert. The #bruceleeds archive, for example, did not capture tweets about the show that did not include the hashtag. In addition to yourTwapperKeeper, I used the Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet (TAGS) (Hawksey 2013; Gaffney and Puschmann 2013) and the associated visualization environment, TAGSExplorer, both designed by Martin Hawksey, to create visualizations of the corpora.

[3.3] I used a grounded theory approach (Strauss and Corbin 1990; Charmaz 2011) to analyze the tweets, with each tweet functioning as a single unit of analysis. From each tweet emerged a primary code and, where applicable, one or more secondary codes. Charmaz argues that "grounded theory methods consist of systematic, yet flexible guidelines for collecting and analyzing qualitative data to construct theories 'grounded' in the data themselves" (2011, 2). Of the many benefits of using a grounded theory approach, the most important is that because theories emerge from the data, any biases a researcher may have ahead of time are greatly diminished. Researchers using this method do not approach the data with a set hypothesis they hope to prove. Rather, "one begins with an area of study and what is relevant to that area is allowed to emerge" (Strauss and Corbin 1990, 23).

[3.4] The process of preparing and analyzing the #bruceleeds tweets included the steps outlined below:

  1. Download #bruceleeds corpus from yourTwapperKeeper as Microsoft Excel file.
  2. Open in Excel, adjust Unix time, which is set to Greenwich Mean Time, to account for the concert's time zone, and convert time and date to Western time and date conventions.
  3. Filter tweets according to time constraints.
  4. Building on categories generated during Open Coding (Strauss and Corbin 1990) when completing an earlier phase of the study (Wolff, forthcoming), use a modified version of axial coding (Strauss and Corbin 1990) to generate categories directly relating to a selected focus (Creswell 2006). This stage built on categories generated during prior axial coding (Wolff, forthcoming). My process was informed by Charmaz's (2011, 136) description of using gerunds for category names to showcase actions. These categories help understand phenomena observed in tweets.
  5. Code the tweets along categories generated in axial coding into one primary code and, if necessary, one or more secondary codes.
  6. Use selective coding (Strauss and Corbin 1990) to make connections between the categories defined during axial coding to help generate theories.
  7. Import tweets into TAGS to create visualizations.
  8. Write article based on findings, sending the initial draft to Springsteen fans who use Twitter to ensure accurate descriptions of fan activities. Then, following a practice advocated by Henry Jenkins ([1992] 2013), incorporate fan feedback in later drafts.


[4.1] After adjusting for time constrains, 996 tweets from 480 unique accounts in the Leeds corpus were available to assess (table 1). Of these accounts, 48 were identified as being from businesses and government organizations from within Leeds and the surrounding area. Eighteen codes emerged from the data (table 1); of these, I am most interested in discussing those related to the larger categories of Communication and Community Building.

Table 1. Codes, totals, percentages, and code definitions

ID Code Total %(n=996) Definition
1 Affiliating 666 66.9% A tweet that includes a Springsteen-related hashtag (not the use of @springsteen). Not counted when in a tweet that was retweeted unless the hashtag was added to­ a modified retweet.
2 Conversing 130 13.1% A conversation between two or among more than two users. Distinct from TUMMELING.
3 Critiquing 32 3.2% A tweet with a value judgment.
4 Emerging 7 0.7% A tweet directly in response to something happening at the concert, which contains what might be described as "a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion."
5 Generating 481 48.3% A tweet that generates a community-level excitement and energy surrounding the concert. These can be tweeted by individuals, community organizations, and local businesses.
6 Historicizing 9 0.9% A tweet in which authors locates their activities within a history of their own life.
7 Integrating 111 11.1% A tweet that integrates the language or actions of the Springsteen fan discourse community.
8 Intertextual 165 16.6% A tweet that overtly or unconsciously has its full meaning in the understanding of a larger context.
9 Locating 139 14.0% A tweet where the author locates him- or herself in a particular tour city or city space, such as a pit queue roll call location, city landmark, or local business.
10 Mediating 125 12.6% A tweet that links to an image, video, or other external media.
11 Narrating 253 25.4% A tweet describing or depicting one's own events at a concert. These tweets can be days in advance or days after, as the experience of the concert tends to begin long in advance and continue for some time after.
12 Notifying 65 6.5% A tweet using an @mention not necessarily to have a conversation but to alert someone that he or she has been mentioned.
13 Perpetuating 65 6.5% A tweet perpetuating the larger narrative of Springsteen shows: rare songs, being brought on stage, tour premieres.
14 Phatic 6 0.6% A tweet that does not contain significant additional information to place it in another code (McNely 2010).
15 Reporting 42 4.2% A tweet that informs others of events or news relating to the concert itself. Many of these are tweeted from news organizations or blogs, or from individuals linking to them.
16 Requesting 6 0.6% A tweet to the general Springsteen community asking a question or requesting information.
17 Tummeling 535 53.7% A tweet that "facilitat[es] conversation and engagement within online communities" (McNely 2010, 4)—here, retweets.
18 Yearning 23 2.3% A tweet that expresses a desire to have been at the show.

[4.2] More than 75 percent of #bruceleeds tweets show characteristics of Communication—that is, Conversing, Notifying, or Tummeling (here counted as retweets). Twitter uses the @reply functionality in a complicated way. Without a hashtag, a tweet that opens with an @reply, such as, "@vfeneboss Snap! Definitely my no 1 request for #bruceleeds," will only be seen by the author, the person being @replied to, and anyone who follows them both; such a tweet is what I am calling Conversing. Putting an @reply in the middle of the tweet is what I'm calling Mentioning: "6pm roll call at @fdarena. #BruceLeeds [URL]" and "Looking forward to seeing #bruceleeds at the @fdarena tomorrow, one of the lucky few, should be good #springsteen." In these tweets, the point is not necessarily to have a conversation with the person who runs the @fdarena account. Rather, it is a way of alerting the account that it is being discussed instead of writing "First Direct Arena," which, because they have been alerted, provides them with the opportunity to reply if they would like. When the @mention appears in a tweet, all the author's followers will see the tweet, not just those who follow both the author and the name in the @mention.

[4.3] Retweeting is a practice where users forward someone else's tweet on to their followers. Boyd, Golder, and Lotan (2010) discuss the ways that Twitter users retweet, which include the goals of the retweet, the number of characters available, and the technology used to compose the retweet. They conclude that no matter "why users embrace retweeting, through broadcasting messages, they become part of a broader conversation" (2010, 10). Rather than using the code Retweeting, I have borrowed McNely's (2010) term, Tummeling, which he adapted from Marks's (2008) discussion of the Yiddish word, tummler, "to facilitate." McNely argues that retweets facilitate conversation because they extend the reach of a tweet to an additional set of followers. Tummeling was popular in the #bruceleeds corpus, accounting for over 53 percent of tweets, with fans retweeting each other, businesses retweeting fans, fans retweeting businesses, and businesses retweeting businesses. For example, one fan retweeted a tweet from the Merrion Centre, which is down the street from First Direct Arena: "RT @merrioncentre: So excited for @Springsteen! We're ready to rock out with boss, are you?! #leeds #bruceleeds [URL removed]." This tweet from @fdarena requesting a retweet was retweeted dozens of times by fans trying to win the contest: "COMPETITION: Feeling Lucky (Town)?! RT for the chance to win an item of Bruce #Springsteen merchandise! #BruceLeeds [URL]." Tweets that exhibit Mentioning and Tummeling build community among those tweeting #bruceleeds because they increase the number of people who see tweets and therefore have the ability to compose their own tweets in response.

[4.4] In the #bruceleeds corpus, tweets that exhibit characteristics of Communication hold more meaning compared to one other Springsteen concert I have analyzed. Tweets about the April 2012 concert at the Izod Center in New Jersey show that 6.0 percent have characteristics of Conversing (Wolff, 2015). Over 44 percent of Izod tweets show examples of Narrating. Conversely, the #bruceleeds tweets only shows 25.4 percent Narrating and 13.1 percent Conversing. Network maps of the two concerts side by side make visible the differences between the two corpora (figure 1). The #bruceleeds tweets show complex communication among a core group that includes fans and local businesses. The Izod network, however, shows little communication other than unidirectional notification to the @springsteen account—an account that did not tweet once during either concert. Interestingly, 40.6 percent of the tweets in the Izod network mention @springsteen, whereas only 4.3 percent of #bruceleeds tweets do. Although there is no way to make clear a causal relationship between the location-specific hashtag #bruceleeds and the enhanced communication among users with interviewing those who tweeted with the #bruceleeds hashtag, the network map helps make visible the communication among Springsteen fans and local Leeds businesses.

Network maps of #bruceleeds tweets (left) and Izod tweets.

Figure 1. Network maps of #bruceleeds tweets (left) and Izod tweets.

[4.5] Within Community Building, we see Affiliating, Generating, Integrating, and Locating. Tweets that show Affiliation are those that contain a Springsteen-related hashtag, such as #bruceleeds, #springsteen, and #brucebuds—for example, "About to enter the Arena! #BruceLeeds [URL]." The hashtag succeeds in Affiliating fans' activities with the concert, whether they were at the concert or discussing it from afar. There were also some Leeds-specific hashtags used, such as #goldenticket (so named because the First Direct Arena is small in comparison to sites where Springsteen usually plays when with the E Street Band, the tickets were hard to get, and Springsteen was opening the new venue) and #getthebosstosandis (so named because a local restaurant was trying to get Springsteen to stop by for a drink after the show—and just in case he couldn't, they sent a bottle of tequila and their brand of beer to Springsteen's dressing room). Affiliating is not coded as being in 100percent of the tweets because I did not count retweets that contained the hashtag (unless the hashtag was added to a modified retweet). Retweets are an important part of communicating on Twitter. But with Affiliating, I coded those tweets where the author's immediate and obvious intention was to affiliate with Springsteen. With the retweets, the retweeter's goal seemed to be to forward the original author's tweet and not necessarily create a new affiliation.

[4.6] For Generating, nearly half the tweets were found to be generating community-level excitement and energy surrounding the concert. These include tweets by individuals, community organizations, and local businesses, such as, "Can anyone suggest a good pre-show bar for all #brucebuds to meet? #BruceLeeds [list of usernames removed]" tweeted by a fan, and "Good Luck to @FDArenaTony & the amazing @fdarena tonight for the first big event, I'm sure you will do Leeds proud. #BruceLeeds," tweeted by a local business. Often these are repeated over time to build excitement: "2 days and 23 hours remaining until #BruceLeeds [URL]," "1 day and 23 hours remaining until #BruceLeeds [URL]," and "20 hours and 46 minutes remaining until #BruceLeeds [URL]." Each tweet contains a screen shot of an iPhone with the countdown app counting down the minutes. The Leeds Chamber of Commerce, the Leeds Metropolitan Library, and Leeds Trinity University all got in on the #bruceleeds tweets, often congratulating First Direct Arena and wishing it luck on the first concert ever at the facility. A map of businesses and organizations that used the #bruceleeds hashtag pinned to a Google Map shows how pervasive the hashtag was throughout the city.

[4.7] For the code Integrating, as with all fan communities, the Springsteen fan community has invented and adopted a unique and meaningful discourse (Harris 1998, 8). For example, many hardcore fans consider themselves part of the E Street Nation (#estreetnation), and those who are friends through their Springsteen fandom call themselves Bruce Buds (#brucebuds). In specific fan contexts, phrases that might not seem esoteric hold unique meanings. For example, the term pre-show, as in the tweet, "PRE-SHOW!!!!!!!!! #BruceLeeds," refers to the times when Springsteen walks on stage hours before the official start time to play a few songs acoustically to fans at the front of the pit. The terms roll call and no-shows, as in the tweet "#bruceleeds 9pm roll call. 43 numbers given, but few non showers already. Roll call tomorrow 10am, 2pm, 6pm, 10pm. [URL]," describe the queuing process that general admission ticket holders must adhere to if they want to get into the pit: multiple check-ins through the day, and if fans miss one, they lose their place in line. These tweets are Integrating the language or actions of the Springsteen fan discourse community. Interestingly, by the start of the concert, some local businesses were Integrating Springsteen fan discourse even beyond the #bruceleeds hashtag: "First @Springsteen ticket holder to show their ticket at [username removed] gets a free milkshake!! #leeds #bruceleeds #brucebuds." There is an obvious marketing component to this tweet, and on its own, it might seem that the shop that tweeted it was merely trying to lure fans in with the gift of a free milk shake. However, within the context of the corpus, the tweet feels more benign. The shop, like many other businesses and organizations in Leeds, has caught Springsteen fever, is excited that Springsteen and his fans are in town, and is trying its best to welcome them to the community. Integrating fan discourse is one way the shop is trying to do that.

Map of locations of businesses and civic organizations that tweeted using the #bruceleeds hashtag.

Figure 2. Map of locations of businesses and civic organizations that tweeted using the #bruceleeds hashtag.

[4.8] For the code Locating, the #bruceleeds hashtag itself maps Springsteen to Leeds. When used in a tweet, it locates the person who, if not in Leeds, then is very much interested in what is happening in Leeds. The tweets coded as Locating were only those where a fan, business, or organization was actually located in a particular tour city or city space, such as a pit queue roll call location, city landmark, or local business. Tweets that exemplify Locating are: "Bruce fever is sweeping #Leeds. songs playing everywhere, Springsteen film on at the cinema, concert all over the press. #BruceLeeds," "@FDArenaTony can't wait to be part of it all!! So glad we've finally got an arena in this glorious city! #bruceleeds," and "All ready for 9am roll call at the hub of the very well organised pit que #bruceleeds [URL]." These tweets suggest that Leeds as a city and community space is very much a part of this Springsteen concert-going experience.


[5.1] Hashtags have come a long way since Chris Messina (2007a, 2007b) first proposed "Twitter tag channels" in the tweet, "how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?" (2007b), and since Audi aired the first TV commercial hashtag during the 2010 Super Bowl. Conceived as a remediation (Bolter and Grusin 2000; Bolter 2001) of Flickr tags and IRC channel creations (Messina 2007a), hashtags are folksonomic classifications of tweets (Potts et al. 2011; McCulloch 2013). Thomas Vander Wal (2007) explains that the value in folksonomies "is derived from people using their own vocabulary and adding explicit meaning, which may come from inferred understanding of the information/object. People are not so much categorizing, as providing a means to connect items (placing hooks) to provide their meaning in their own understanding." Because anyone can create a hashtag, the hashtags often emerge through a process of negotiation.

[5.2] The #bruce[city] construct emerged in June 2009 during a conversation on Twitter between two men discussing how to organize tweets for an upcoming Springsteen concert in Bergen, Norway, during the European leg of the Working on a Dream tour. Helge O. Svela, a reporter for the Bergen newspaper Tidende, asked his audience, "Skal du på Bruce Springsteen på Koengen?" ("Are you going to see Bruce Springsteen at Koengen?") and encouraged those who were going to see Springsteen at Koengan to use the #btbruce hashtag (2009a). In response, Andreas Ringdal suggested that the hashtag was a bit media specific (2009a), to which Svela replied it wasn't his decision; the tag was going to be used for the paper's Cover It Live concert coverage (2009b) and for a contest (2009c). Ringdal replied, wondering, "Ville det ikke vært bedre å brukt en generell tag for konserten #brucebergen eller lignende" ("Wouldn't it be better to have a more general hashtag, like #brucebergen, or something similar?) (2009b). Ringdal understood that when there are too many hashtags for a particular event, the information often gets watered down through a distribution to the various hashtags (Potts 2013; McNely 2010).

[5.3] While #brucebergen and #btbruce did exist for the Bergen concert, a search on Topsy reveals the #bruce[city] hashtag construct was only used for one other city in 2009, #brucesevilla, and in only five tweets (#brucebergen was used in hundreds). Then, in 2012, when Seville, Spain, opened the first European leg of the Wrecking Ball tour, #brucesevilla was used again, but in only 10 tweets. Each of the eight cities with shows leading up to Milan, Italy, on June 7, 2012, had fewer than 15 #bruce[city] tweets. Then, out of nowhere, #brucemilan had hundreds—as did each concert following. The #bruce[city] construct was used again during the European, Australian, and South American legs of the 2013 Wrecking Ball tour and for the South African, Oceanic, and United States legs of the 2014 High Hopes tour. A thorough study of all the #bruce[city] tweets would reveal the self-organizing criticality (Bok and Chen 1991; Syverson 1999) that resulted into the hashtag taking off in Milan.

[5.4] Studies of hashtags, then, are exercises in the study of naming—the study of classification systems. Every #bruceleeds hashtag added to a tweet was added after a moment of judgment when the author considered how the tweet should be understood within the context of all tweets tweeted. By adding a hashtag, the author is labeling a tweet as one thing and not another. It is a tweet about Springsteen in Leeds, England, not a tweet about Springsteen in Gijón, Spain. Though existing among the millions of tweets sent out per day, it now has a metaphorical boundary separating it from some tweets and adhering it to others. Yet despite a classification's singular name, Bowker and Star (1999) describe the extent to which classification systems are representations of the cultures from which they emerge. Ludwik Fleck (1979) has argued that in order to fully understand a concept (that is, a classification of an idea), one must study the history of that idea. Hashtags are historical artifacts subject to various external influences, such as community ideas, available technologies, and business and political interests. Their ubiquity in broadcast media, with each television show, sports event, and product displaying its hashtag, encouraging its use, and in many cases having actors live tweet during the shows (Jenkins, Ford, and Green 2013; Bennett 2013a; Raghavan 2013), suggests that hashtags exist within a media ecology that includes participants, organizations, and technologies (Schäfer 2010). The hashtag #bruceleeds is no different. In the corpus, fans, local businesses, and civic organizations coauthor a remediated version of the concert event as a result of convergent composing technologies—Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for iPad, Twitter for Android, the Web interface—and the unseen unnamed technologies that make those spaces work.

[5.5] In his groundbreaking book, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, Harold Rheingold defines virtual communities as "social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace" (2000, xx). Rheingold's definition is helpful here because it allows us to raise questions about the nature of the relationships that exist in the #bruceleeds corpus and whether we should consider the users as part of a community. Did the public discussion last "long enough"? Was there sufficient "human feeling"? Were "personal relationships" formed through the use of the hashtag? With 75 percent of the tweets showing some form of communication, we see that there were webs of connections made. But how permanent were those webs? Or does the corpus show evidence of weak ties, which Wellman and Gulia argue are "a better means than strong ties of maintaining contact with other social circles" (1999, 176). Gruzd, Wellman, and Takhteyev address whether communities can be found on Twitter by focusing on Wellman's personal network, and they found evidence of "a personal community [with] a somewhat interconnected network where some members form closer relationships between themselves" (2011, 1313). Studying a personal network is, however, quite different from studying a hashtag-generated corpus, as I have here.

[5.6] More instructive than focusing on community, I'd like to suggest what we're seeing in the #bruceleeds corpus is similar to what Bonnie Nardi and Vicki L. O'Day have defined as an information ecology: "a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment. In an information ecology the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology" (1999, 49). A hashtag is both a classifier and also a technology, which, like all language and writing, is used by people to create meaning in particular contexts (Bolter 2001; Ong 2003). In information ecologies, "only the participants…can establish [its] identity" (Nardi and O'Day 1999, 55), which is why each hashtag corpus will show different properties and practices. No hashtag corpus is the same as another. The values that emerge from the #bruceleeds ecology are affiliating, conversing, locating oneself in a community space, and community building. The tweets show fan practices: they wait in roll call lines, they get more excited as the concert gets closer, they meet up with friends, and they use language (#brucebuds) to further locate themselves with those in their affinity group (Gee 2007). Nardi and O'Day (1999) adopt the ecology metaphor instead of one based on community because the former suggests diversity and evolution, whereas the latter tends to suggest homogeneity. Information ecologies are complex systems with diverse parts that coevolve as changes emerge. They contain keystone species without which the ecology would fail to survive. And most importantly for our purposes, they "have a sense of locality" (50–51). That locality is defined directly by the use of the #bruceleeds hashtag, which helps structure the space and provides opportunities for fans and others who are interested in the concert to participate in its growth over time.


[6.1] Paulo Gerbaudo suggests hashtags act as part of a social media that facilitates a "choreography of assembly," which is "understood as a process of symbolic construction of public space, which revolves around an emotional 'scene-setting' and 'scripting' of participants' physical assembling" (2012, 12). Gerbaudo is writing about the use of social media to help organize mass protest movements, such as the protests in Tahrir, Egypt, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. For him, in this instance, social media is seen as "a vehicle for the creation of new forms of proximity and face-to-face interaction" (13) rather than a symbolic representation of events taking place in spaces already.

[6.2] #Bruceleeds tweets, however, suggest that hashtags can also facilitate a representation of assembly, which also symbolically constructs a physical space. We see the construction of physical space in the #bruceleeds tweets when fans and businesses are Locating the tweets within Leeds. A significant contributor to the ability of fans and local businesses to symbolically represent a local space is the name of the hashtag itself: #bruceleeds. Nardi and O'Day suggest that "the name of a technology defines what it means to the people who use it" (1999, 54). Here, the hashtag itself mashes together the object of fandom (Bruce Springsteen) with a particular locality (Leeds). In that regard, the hashtag is a map directly connecting the tweets to a physical geographical space. One could map a Springsteen tour by plotting the hashtags.

[6.3] Maps tell stories by segmenting the world into latitude and longitude, roads with distinct edges, and defined borders around counties, states, and countries. Denis Wood argues "maps maintain the illusion of their objectivity [by] their adherence to the factual" (2013, 13). Franco Moretti observes "maps show us that there is something that needs to be explained" (2007, 39). Peter Turchi says, "To ask for a map is to say, 'Tell me a story'" (2004, 11). Meaning in maps emerges through context-specific multimodal texts and signs. The hashtag would be much different if it were contextualized as part of the venue—that is, #brucefdarena. With #bruceleeds, however, Bruce is connected to a city, and by extension the people in the city, the fans in the city, and the businesses in the city—in other words, to a space with a distributed, segmented, and evolving identity.

[6.4] In the #bruceleeds tweets, fans, local businesses, and local organizations co-create what Leeds means within the context of the concert and how those tweeting about Leeds choose to present it. When composing a #bruceleeds tweet, one has the option of what to include, just as one has an option of what to include when mapping Leeds on a piece of paper. Both practices are rhetorical. The tweets coded as Affiliating, Generating, and Locating contribute to what it means to experience the concert as well as what it means to experience a particular part of Leeds itself. #Bruceleeds tweets from government organizations that announce bus schedules for fans flying in, where best to park, or where to get a quick bite to eat before the concert all contribute to the locality of the event, as do fans tweeting about where to grab a beer before the start of the concert, what the weather is like for those who have yet to arrive, and what the roll call times will be the following day. Indeed, the tweets are about much more than Springsteen (the official @springsteen account is only @mentioned 43 times and tweeted zero times in 996 tweets). Rather, #bruceleeds tells a story of an ecology of fans, business, and organizations composing their fandom, and in doing so remediating their practices, values, and use of various technologies.


[7.1] I thank the members of the Springsteen fan community who gave me permission to use their usernames in this article, @casinonancy for sharing her thoughts on an early draft, and @23niner for helping clarify certain phrases appearing in the tweets. I also want thank Helge O. Svela and Andreas Ringdal for generously giving me permission to quote from their Twitter conversation about the #brucebergen and #btbruce hashtags. I would also like to thank Anne Kustritz and Emma England for inviting me to present at the 2013 European Fandom Symposium at the University of Amsterdam, which directly led to this publication.

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