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[QUOTE] From An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design | Casey Fiesler, Shannon Morrison, and Amy S. Bruckman

Rarely are computing systems developed entirely by members of the communities they serve, particularly when that community is underrepresented in computing. Archive of Our Own (AO3), a fan fiction archive with nearly 750,000 users and over 2 million individual works, was designed and coded primarily by women to meet the needs of the online fandom community. Their design decisions were informed by existing values and norms around issues such as accessibility, inclusivity, and identity.

An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design | Casey Fiesler, Shannon Morrison, and Amy S. Bruckman ift.tt/2fs23fp

[QUOTE] From A brief history of fan fiction in Germany | Vera Cuntz-Leng | Transformative Works and Cultures

The significance of manga and anime in German fan fiction remains recognizable today. 29 percent of all pieces of fan fiction uploaded to FanFiktion.de and 49.5 percent of the 148,220 fan writings on Animexx are categorized as manga/anime (the latter unsurprising considering that the Web site caters to anime and manga fans), whereas the international FanFiction.net archive lists only 25.3 percent of its 41,183,979 texts in these categories and Archive of Our Own (ift.tt/1ffprbE) not even 12 percent (Table 1).

A brief history of fan fiction in Germany | Vera Cuntz-Leng | Transformative Works and Cultures ift.tt/2bMqZdK

[LINK] An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design (CHI 2016)

ift.tt/1SgE54y

cfiesler:

In which my study about the design of AO3 not only gets into the big publication venue in my field, but also wins a major award. Fandom is amazing, and I want all the computing scholars to know it, too!

The link in this post is to my blog post about the paper, which is the TL;DR version. But here’s an even more TL;DR version, i.e., what I think is most interesting to fans about this work. (Disclaimer: I’ve been on the legal committee of OTW since 2009, but this work was entirely independent of them! I also didn’t screen potential study participants for any particular attitudes towards OTW or the archive.)

Why did you study AO3? My dissertation was largely about social norms about copyright in online creative communities. I interviewed a lot of fan creators over a few years, and when we talked about copyright norms around things like attribution, remixing remixes, etc., a lot of people mentioned specific AO3 design features. I’ve been following AO3 closely since it’s very beginnings, and I know that there’s something really unique and amazing about it: It’s a massively successful online platform built completely by the people who needed it, built to reflect their values and norms. And the majority of those builders have been women. It’s amazing! And I thought, there is probably something that designers can learn from this.

So for this study I (with the help of an undergraduate research assistant) interviewed a bunch of AO3 users, as well as people who worked on the development of the archive in the early days. And by the way: THANK YOU TUMBLR because I had so many volunteers that I had to turn people away. Trust me, this never happens. All my colleagues were super jealous. I was like, well, you guys really should study fans because they’re awesome.

What is feminist HCI? First, HCI is human-computer interaction, so welcome to my discipline! And feminist HCI (here’s the paper about it!) is the idea that a lot of the central commitments of feminism – like empowerment, agency, equity, participation, identity, advocacy, social justice – are great things to integrate into interaction design. Imagine if all of these things were really important to the people building the technologies that you use!

So how does this apply to AO3? Talking to folks about AO3 made it clear that a lot of the values that were baked into the design are the same values at the core of feminist HCI. For example, participation: this is the entire reason that AO3 exists, so that fans themselves have control over their own space. And accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity – there are so many little design decisions towards these things, an attempt to try to make sure that not only does everyone have the ability to use the site, but that everyone feels welcome. One of my favorite quotes: “If you think you’re a fan, then you’re a fan, and you’re welcome here.” And also, the tagging system at AO3 is pretty amazing – not only did most of the users I talked to speak at length about how this improves over other sites they’ve used, but also the user-created folksonomy means that the archive doesn’t make content judgments. You can use any tag you want, and this actually becomes a pretty powerful thing because even a system picking categories for you to choose from (e.g., gender or relationship options on social networking sites) is an exercise of power. And the way that AO3 handles identity and pseudonyms is pretty nuanced, too. It all adds up to many small things that users really seem to appreciate. (The image below is from the Tag Wranglers page on Fanlore – this is in my paper, so it’s probably the only CHI paper to have the phrase “mermaid!sex” in it.)

And what did you learn? Besides just presenting AO3 as a case study of feminist HCI as successful, there are also some useful lessons for designing to reconcile competing values. After all, fandom doesn’t always agree on priorities! This of course is a huge problem in lots of contexts – the idea that you can’t please everyone. And of course, not all of AO3′s design or policy choices have been popular over the years. But there are a few things that AO3 does to mitigate some of these value tensions. For example, fan history is important! It sucks when archives disappear (Geocities anyone???) and all those stories you loved are just gone forever. But control is also important! If you want to wipe your fannish identity off the face of the earth, you should be able to do that. So AO3 has orphaning, which lets you erase your name/identity/footprint from fics while not erasing the fic forever. Another example is the content warning system, which was a compromise between the desire to not cast judgment on content (”your kink is not my kink but I will defend it!”) as long as it’s legal, and the desire to protect people from stuff that they don’t want to see or is triggering. Of course, this solution isn’t perfect, and some of my interview participants talked about wanting a “tag blacklist” to help even more. But in short: AO3 does some cool and thoughtful design things that are interesting to people studying HCI.

So now what! Well, I’m a professor now, and I hope to keep studying these sorts of things. I’m interested in feminism and women in technology (remember the Barbie remix? Yeah that was me, I was Internet famous for about a day), online communities and especially fandom, and social norms and law. If you want to know if I do more studies of fans in the future, you can follow me here or on Twitter. Because can’t stop won’t stop writing!

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated, volunteered, or shared, because this kind of work isn’t possible without awesome people to talk to. And you can read the full paper at the link at the top of this post!

[META] An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design (CHI 2016)

An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design (CHI 2016):

cfiesler:

In which my study about the design of AO3 not only gets into the big publication venue in my field, but also wins a major award. Fandom is amazing, and I want all the computing scholars to know it, too!  

The link in this post is to my blog post about the paper, which is the TL;DR version. But here’s an even more TL;DR version, i.e., what I think is most interesting to fans about this work. (Disclaimer: I’ve been on the legal committee of OTW since 2009, but this work was entirely independent of them! I also didn’t screen potential study participants for any particular attitudes towards OTW or the archive.)

Why did you study AO3? My dissertation was largely about social norms about copyright in online creative communities. I interviewed a lot of fan creators over a few years, and when we talked about copyright norms around things like attribution, remixing remixes, etc., a lot of people mentioned specific AO3 design features. I’ve been following AO3 closely since it’s very beginnings, and I know that there’s something really unique and amazing about it: It’s a massively successful online platform built completely by the people who needed it, built to reflect their values and norms. And the majority of those builders have been women. It’s amazing! And I thought, there is probably something that designers can learn from this. 

image

So for this study I (with the help of an undergraduate research assistant) interviewed a bunch of AO3 users, as well as people who worked on the development of the archive in the early days. And by the way: THANK YOU TUMBLR because I had so many volunteers that I had to turn people away. Trust me, this never happens. All my colleagues were super jealous. I was like, well, you guys really should study fans because they’re awesome.

What is feminist HCI?  First, HCI is human-computer interaction, so welcome to my discipline! And feminist HCI (here’s the paper about it!) is the idea that a lot of the central commitments of feminism – like empowerment, agency, equity, participation, identity, advocacy, social justice – are great things to integrate into interaction design. Imagine if all of these things were really important to the people building the technologies that you use!

image

So how does this apply to AO3? Talking to folks about AO3 made it clear that a lot of the values that were baked into the design are the same values at the core of feminist HCI. For example, participation: this is the entire reason that AO3 exists, so that fans themselves have control over their own space. And accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity – there are so many little design decisions towards these things, an attempt to try to make sure that not only does everyone have the ability to use the site, but that everyone feels welcome. One of my favorite quotes: “If you think you’re a fan, then you’re a fan, and you’re welcome here.” And also, the tagging system at AO3 is pretty amazing – not only did most of the users I talked to speak at length about how this improves over other sites they’ve used, but also the user-created folksonomy means that the archive doesn’t make content judgments. You can use any tag you want, and this actually becomes a pretty powerful thing because even a system picking categories for you to choose from (e.g., gender or relationship options on social networking sites) is an exercise of power. And the way that AO3 handles identity and pseudonyms is pretty nuanced, too. It all adds up to many small things that users really seem to appreciate. (The image below is from the Tag Wranglers page on Fanlore – this is in my paper, so it’s probably the only CHI paper to have the phrase “mermaid!sex” in it.)

image

And what did you learn? Besides just presenting AO3 as a case study of feminist HCI as successful, there are also some useful lessons for designing to reconcile competing values. After all, fandom doesn’t always agree on priorities! This of course is a huge problem in lots of contexts – the idea that you can’t please everyone. And of course, not all of AO3′s design or policy choices have been popular over the years. But there are a few things that AO3 does to mitigate some of these value tensions. For example, fan history is important! It sucks when archives disappear (Geocities anyone???) and all those stories you loved are just gone forever. But control is also important! If you want to wipe your fannish identity off the face of the earth, you should be able to do that. So AO3 has orphaning, which lets you erase your name/identity/footprint from fics while not erasing the fic forever. Another example is the content warning system, which was a compromise between the desire to not cast judgment on content (”your kink is not my kink but I will defend it!”) as long as it’s legal, and the desire to protect people from stuff that they don’t want to see or is triggering. Of course, this solution isn’t perfect, and some of my interview participants talked about wanting a “tag blacklist” to help even more. But in short: AO3 does some cool and thoughtful design things that are interesting to people studying HCI.

So now what!  Well, I’m a professor now, and I hope to keep studying these sorts of things. I’m interested in feminism and women in technology (remember the Barbie remix? Yeah that was me, I was Internet famous for about a day), online communities and especially fandom, and social norms and law. If you want to know if I do more studies of fans in the future, you can follow me here or on Twitter. Because can’t stop won’t stop writing!

image

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated, volunteered, or shared, because this kind of work isn’t possible without awesome people to talk to. And you can read the full paper at the link at the top of this post!

image

[LINK] A thesis on the AO3′s tagging system

transformativeworks linked to a study of AO3 tagging and said:

A thesis written about the AO3’s tagging system “attempts to begin exploring the question of what kind of environment the site’s particular blend of open social tagging and some behind-the-scenes vocabulary control, plus hierarchical linking, creates for the users who search through it for fiction.” The study, conducted in 2012, had a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods and the survey was completed by 116 people. “The current online information glut calls for some sort of subject labeling to facilitate efficiency in searching, but the volume of information is well beyond a size that could ever be dealt with by information professionals. “Social tagging” is an approach to this problem that lets non-professionals attempt to organize online information via tagging, for their own and one another’s use. But social tagging is a new and rapidly evolving field, and so no consensus has yet been reached on its overall usefulness, or on what best practices might be.”

I have no time at all to read this right now – any interesting findings or ideas in there?

[META] ilovecharts: Crossover fics between the top 20 TV fandoms on AO3

ilovecharts:

Crossover fics between the top 20 TV fandoms on AO3

-saspiesas 

[An explanation and thoughts behind it]

Data analysis of the AO3 using processing.js, a programming language for visualizing data on the web. When you’re done reading the explanation for the AO3 chart, go to the processing.js site and try mousing over the koi animation at the bottom of the page. So shiny. I want to learn this and use it for ALL THE RESEARCH DATA.

[META] Radical Creativity: Fandom and Digital Praxis

I’ve spent most of the last week at a series of digital events – Innovate/Activate 2.0, the Students for Free Culture Summit, the Swinging and Flowing conference on digital inclusion and diversity, and Rita Raley’s talk on tactical media. Looking over my notes, I don’t think I can synthesize all of it into one coherent post on What This Means for Fandom, but there are some common themes that seem to keep coming up.

One thing that’s occurred to me, apropos of Lev Grossman’s now famous description of fans (“The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language”), is that it’s not just that fans talk back to culture, it’s that fans make their own culture. This seems like an obvious fact, but in the age of digital tools and new media, there’s actually a significant expertise differential in terms of technologies and platforms that fans, by and large, scale with great gusto, confidence, and motivation. Thinking back to my own fannish history, for example, I taught myself html at the age of thirteen to post my very first fanfics on theforce.net back in the time known as the day, and I’ve continued to teach myself a variety of video and web applications and platforms just so the reach of my fannish desire to make things doesn’t exceed my grasp too far. Helen Milner of UK Online Centres, who works to broaden digital equality by connecting first-time users to the internet, mentioned in her presentation today that the most significant barriers to people learning to use the internet are access, motivation, skills and confidence. It’s all of those things that fandom can and does teach, and I’m really not surprised that the only two majority female and female-identified open source projects on the internet, Dreamwidth and the Archive of Our Own, are associated with fandom or are explicitly fannish, respectively. Where else but fandom is there a community that takes it so much for granted that girls and women can learn tech just like men?

Rita Raley, in her talk on tactical media (which she helpfully defined as an “interventionist and critical genre of new media art”), said so many things that seem applicable to fandom that I wonder whether or not there’s an article, or at least a short piece for the Symposium section of TWC, in explicitly comparing the two. One thing that especially stuck with me, as I left campus and went to the grocery store and went home to cook dinner, was Raley’s claim that tactical media teaches that critical reflection is at its most powerful when it does not adopt ostensibly outside spectatorial position, that proximity to the object being critiqued breeds not corruption nor contempt but strong insights. Fan video, in particular, would seem to confirm this insight, as people including Francesca Coppa and Kristina Busse have argued before. Raley also argued that tactical media is a form of radical creativity organized, to some extent, around the notion that “if regimes are perceptible, it becomes possible to work concretely toward structural transformation” and seeking to do just that. Fandom can, at its best, do the same thing, in terms of almost any hierarchy in society – who else has read the one where Tony Stark isn’t rich, and almost everything is different?

Moreover, Raley argued, tactical media art by and large dispenses with the “fantasy of exteriority,” the idea that it’s even possible (let alone desirable) to take some sort of outside, spectatorial position of judgement on the object of critique, and this too seems to me to be a crucial point to bear in mind, not just about fandom but also about digital activism in general. The Friday keynote speaker at Innovate/Activate 2.0 was Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who delivered a rather inspiring talk about the successful anti-SOPA protests earlier this year that nonetheless contained some claims begging for qualification, perhaps most notably his earnestly Silicon Valley faith in the notion that the internet is a meritocracy of ideas in which “all links are created equal.”

There are a lot of people who know better, fans among them, and one of the things that was most valuable to me about I/A 2.0, and talking to my fellow attendees as a committee chair of the OTW, was the renewed sense I had of fandom as one among any number of modes and nodes of online engagement, digital activism, cultural resistance. For example, the OTW is considering strategies to expand its presence and the presence of fan perspectives on fanworks on Wikipedia? (“Disruptive diversity,” one speaker today called this, leveraging digital tools to change dominant narratives.) Maybe we could talk to the Wikimedia Foundation, who are working to increase representation of women among Wikipedia editors and articles. Fandom isn’t isolated, and one consistent theme reiterated by all of the veteran activists at I/A was the fact that, as one speaker put it, “If we organize, we win.” There are a lot of other people who share a lot of fandom’s core concerns, if not our pasttimes, and despite our differences, we’re stronger together.

[META] Transformative Works, Transformative History

The latest issue of Transformative Works and Cultures has arrived, and it’s a special issue about “Fan Works and Fan Communities in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” edited by Nancy Reagin and Anne Rubenstein. There’s a lot of great material to sift through, so I’ll focus on the ideas that struck closest to home for me, particularly those articulated by Alexis Lothian in her symposium piece, “An archive of one’s own: Subcultural creativity and the politics of conservation.” But before I get to Lothian’s thought-provoking meditation on the politics of archiving fanworks, I will situate it within one of the major research questions posed by Reagin and Rubenstein in their introduction to the issue.

In this introduction, the authors explore the various points of connection between academic historical study and fan studies, noting that the two disciplines have not yet taken full advantage of the conversation made possible by their shared investments. Most importantly, they note that, rather than taking recognizably fannish subcultures and their associated practices seriously as exemplifying a particular mode of engagement with the phenomena of media history,

“historians have tended to analyze audiences and consumers as though they exemplified historical processes unrelated to media…it can be difficult to uncover what audience members or fans themselves thought, while many sources document the ideas, emotions, and intentions of the producers of commercial entertainments. “(4.2-4.4; emphasis mine)

In other words, historians have often used media artifacts and the traces left by their producers and fans as undifferentiated evidence of larger socio-historical phenomena, rather than zeroing in on what attentive fans may always have known, which I will summarize in quick shorthand as the intellectual pleasure of engaging with media artifacts on their own terms, and within dynamic interpretive communities, which in turn establish their own meta-level investments separate from the media artifact. Of course, this is by no means true of all historians — there are plenty of social historians who are deeply attentive to the history of interpretive communities and “schools of thought,” although in my personal experience, these are as likely to be found in an English or Sociology department as they are in a History department.

As to the second part of the quotation, about the tendency of historians and academics in general to privilege the producers’ interpretations of their own work over those interpretations, regardless of how loving or critical, put forth by fans, this reveals a more unfortunate power dynamic replicated by mainstream historical narratives of the relationship between media artifacts and social movements and worlds. And in order to address this power dynamic, the authors turn to the great thinker Walter Benjamin, who theorized a more intimate connection between media artifacts and the specific historical moments in which they are produced and are read (paying particular attention to the fact that these moments are not the same, that is, that media artifacts age according to a logic all their own, distinct from mainstream historical logic).

Lothian, in her symposium piece, takes on the French thinker Jacques Derrida, whose ideas were deeply influenced by Benjamin, especially when it comes to taking reading seriously, and thus, by extension, taking the archival act seriously. While Benjamin’s work speaks explicitly to questions people have about the first half of the Twentieth Century, especially regarding how film came to dominate visual culture, Derrida’s more recent work speaks even more closely to the New Media landscape fans now inhabit, making his work more relevant for pressing questions about the emerging shape of the contemporary archives of fanworks. While Benjamin’s politics remain difficult to translate onto the contemporary sphere, Derrida’s assessment of the power imbalances made visible by emerging archival practices speak closely to the concerns articulated by Lothian in her piece.

Lothian’s piece nicely delineates the ways in which fans are currently disempowered by media owners and U.S. law (ways likely familiar to anyone reading this post), and then goes on to speak to the specific and strategic value of the Archive of Our Own and the Organization for Transformative Works. Particularly in a historical moment in which the institutions that chronicle and archive our cultural moment, especially libraries, are under attack, it seems to me to be an awfully good idea to take control of our own desire to organize and collect those fanworks that we have produced and loved and learned from. But I also admire Lothian’s insistence on registering what may be lost in the process, according to the current logic of the archive.

This is the kind of rhetorical move of which Benjamin is fond — to take note of, and pay attention to, what seems to be fading, or shifting away from the center, precisely at the moment that it loses its power. Lothian’s discussion of Fandom Wank, and the way in which it represents what would be difficult to archive under the AO3′s current system, is really interesting in this regard — it reminds me of various homages to Geocities and Friendster, although perhaps it’s better compared to current conversations surrounding 4chan as the lingering anti-Facebook part of the internet, insisting on the ephemeral as a much-needed antidote to the implicit ban on anonymity from that site.

I want to emphasize the political undercurrent of Lothian’s argument at the end of the piece, where she states that “if we want to take seriously the possibility that ephemeral conflict and online sex might function to undermine dominant sexual, gendered, racialized, and economic ways of being, both on- and off-line, we cannot restrict fannish politics to the easily archivable.” Again, the difference Lothian carves out between strategic political action at the de facto “public face” of fandom and the messier, recognizably queer, politics of and within specific fan communities, is crucial to this argument. I know that I am invested in preserving the genuinely transformative energy of these more interpersonal kinds of politics, but I also think that there is a real need for nonprofit organizations like the OTW to balance the increasingly commercial rest of the internet.

Issue 6, people! Check it out!