Discord as a fandom platform: Locating a new playground


  • Welmoed Fenna Wagenaar University of Groningen




Affordances, Boundaries, Fan fiction, Mood, NSFW, Play, Play rules, Polymedia, Rhythm, Social media


The VoIP and instant messaging platform Discord has seen immense user growth over the past few years, including among fans involved with transformative works. Analyzing Discord from a framework of polymedia and play provides new insights into what Discord affords these fans and how they navigate the platform as part of their fan practices. It shows how the platform has been adopted and adapted in ways that facilitate fan play and allow for play moods to be created, strengthened, or maintained. Discord provides a suitable playground for fans, because it allows fans to negotiate closed online spaces where they can play freely, without outside disruption. These spaces can be organized in ways that distinguish between play and nonplay and maintain fannish principles of warning and consent. In addition, Discord provides an extra dimension to the experience of taking part in fan fiction exchanges, creating a compelling, collective mood in servers that people can continually come back to. Positioning this within a broader network of platforms and affordances that fans navigate shows how Discord fulfills particular needs and niches, especially with regard to Not Safe For Work material. More generally, this study provides a framework for understanding the reciprocal and dynamic relationships between users, affordances, rules, and structures in contemporary platform society.