Title: The enormous world of miniatures: from fans to hobbyists, experts and social media entrepreneurs
Abstract: The online sharing of hobby activities is a prominent fixture of community engagement sustaining the viability of entrepreneurs working in the niche creator industries. Lockdowns during the global pandemic led to greater participation in accessible hobbies. They increased attention to niche hobby content for education, entertainment and community building across social media sites and screen media platforms. However, not all hobbyists creating content for fans of particular niche interests seek to transition to full-time production. This paper reports on new research investigating the niche content genres within the global miniatures hobby, ranging from toys and collectibles to tabletop games, painting, modelling and commissions. It explores how niche-creator content enables new opportunities for diversity and representation within these communities. By drawing on interviews with creators and examining a range of miniatures hobby case studies, the research seeks to document the grey areas between personal expression, fan participation, the mediatisation of hobbyist expertise and the conditions of successful and sustainable entrepreneurial niche content creation. The approach draws on the theoretical overlap between fan studies and persona studies and recent contributions to what Cunningham and Craig (2017, 2019) call Social Media Entertainment. It will examine issues facing workers in the niche creator industries, from community management, patronage and sponsorship to intellectual property considerations and the demands of platform algorithmics. Given the precarity of work in this domain, it is important to recognise that all participants in this industry face these challenges, regardless of their entrepreneurial intentions.