Smark Power : the collective intelligence of the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) and its influence on the career of former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit
thesisposted on 06.12.2017, 14:06 by M Lee
Typically they are known as ‘smarks’, collectively they are known as the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC). This study of the mostly internet-based texts of the IWC shows that members of that informal alliance largely conform to the norms of fan culture and behaviour described in previous studies of fans in other entertainment genres. Celebrity is shown to be a product of publicity, promotion and fanaticism, and audiences connect with stars through involvement with the characters they portray and they identify with actualities as presented in the media. Fan culture involves obsession to know everything about the stars, worship and moral judgement. However, it is contended in this dissertation that there are factors that distinguish the IWC from other large fan groups. These arise in part from the unique format of pro-wrestling as a blend of theatrical and sporting product, and in part from the convergent technological ground that enables such a widely-disbursed, anarchic and yet cohesive body to exist and exert influence. It is argued that the collective intelligence of the IWC members who produce, filter and remediate all manner of source material from gossip, rumour and speculation, to news, to secret wrestling ‘insider’ information has forced the dominant industry player, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to revaluate its production strategies. The role of the IWC in the breaking of kayfabe—the industry code of silence on the illusory aspect of wrestling—is highlighted. Using textual analysis technique this study focuses on the career rise and tragic downfall of former WWE performer Chris Benoit. It is contended that this wrestling veteran became a significant marketing image of the WWE’s global media empire as a direct result of the influence of the smarks of the IWC.