BitTorrents and 'Family Guy': Teenage Peer Group Interactions Around a Peer-to-Peer Internet Download Community
Education and Arts
Communications and Arts, Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
One of the cultural innovations enabled by broadband services, if expressly prohibited by copyright laws, is the downloading of films and television programs via the Internet. Such downloading activities have been made more feasible by the development of the BitTorrent protocol, which makes it comparatively simple to source large multimedia files using peer-to-peer networks. This paper examines the interactions within and justifications offered by a face-to-face community built around the BitTorrent-facilitated collection of Family Guy, an animated US television series. Like many others, this BitTorrent community overlaps with a LAN community. LANs use cables and a local area network to transfer materials from hard-drive to hard-drive within a face-to-face peer group. Within LAN communities, a high download capacity (as determined by the member’s family’s Internet account) coupled with a large storage capacity confers a highly-valued status as a key member able to supply a range of materials to the group including broadcast film and television content as well as other products such as pornography. Although the activity has some of the hallmarks of fandom, the over-arching model used here is that of consumption linked to the practice of collecting. Some members of this BitTorrent community used the technology to consume multiple series of different genred-television programs and complete collections of directors’ films, such as all the works by Quentin Tarantino. In arguing that a consumption model is appropriate here, reference is made to the ways in which members convert the products they consume into a social currency by trading jokes and sayings from within the Family Guy collection.