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[QUOTE] From A connected country: Sweden—Fertile ground for digital fandoms | Christina Olin-Scheller and Pia Sundqvist | Transformative Works and Cultures

In Sweden, older siblings are generally the ones who introduce younger siblings to various fandoms, such as digital games and fan fiction sites, thus further conflating online and real-life relationships (Swedish Media Council 2013a, 2013b; Olin-Scheller 2011).


Technological advancement, English proficiency, and fandom activities are all closely interrelated. However, being connected to the Internet and being heavily involved in digital fan activities do not necessarily imply that one’s main focus is international. Instead, digital activities are associated with closeness, both in terms of relationships (friends sitting on the same couch when going online) and geographical locations (attending local cosplay or gaming conventions). This way of being and acting as a fan is likely not limited to Sweden or Swedish fan communities; it is probably also the case in other areas with ubiquitous Internet access and English-language proficiency.

A connected country: Sweden—Fertile ground for digital fandoms | Christina Olin-Scheller and Pia Sundqvist | Transformative Works and Cultures

[QUOTE] From Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p240-241

Since the 1980s, it has become common for talented dōjinshi creators to be recruited by professional companies and become popular on the mass market. Many famous artists have had a past in the dōjinshi scene or are still involved. Artists—including Ozaki Minami (1989–91, Zetsuai) or CLAMP (2003–9, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle; 1992–present, X: 1999)—became famous in the dōjinshi world before conquering the professional market, and artists such as Koge-Donbo (1999–2003, Pitaten) and Hiroe Rei (2002–present, Black Lagoon) are still very active, regularly selling dōjinshi at fairs. Dōjinshi like Masamune Shirow’s Black Magic (1983) or Minekura Kazuya’s Saiyuki (1997–2002) were directly converted into popular professional works.

Professional artists selling dōjin products on the side have been a common practice for a long time. In the summer of 2004, 5 percent of all circles participating in Comike were headed by a professional mangaka or illustrator, while another 10 percent had some professional experience. Similarly, it is common for erotic game producers to allow their underpaid artists to sell their drafts and sketches as dōjinshi, giving the artists a second wage and the company free promotion.

[META] Tabletop, on Geek and Sundry: Improv Meets Instructional Video

It’s hard for me to explain just what I find so entertaining about the Geek and Sundry Network’s webshow Tabletop. It’s not a huge transmedia playground like The Guild, and it’s not a zany talk show like The Flog, but rather a half-hour (by TV time) webshow, in which a rotating cast of three geeky New Media creators get together with Wil Wheaton to play a tabletop game. I knew that that Wheaton, who co-created the series with Geek and Sundry founder Felicia Day, would shine in this environment by the sheer enthusiasm with which he related the rules to the game he played in the first episode. However, I remained suspicious that he could reliably recruit actors who would take so readily to the concept. From my own limited experiences with tabletop gaming, I feared that, even with significant editing, some games and some sets of people simply wouldn’t have it in them to create an entertaining half hour of television. Fortunately, I was completely wrong, which I conceded when I watched the June 29th episode, in which Buffy‘s Amber Benson, The Guild‘s Michele Boyd, and YouTube’s Meghan Camarena teamed up with Wheaton to play the hilarious card game Gloom.

Before the Gloom episode, I felt like I was watching instructional videos — incredibly well-made instructional videos, populated by highly-likeable New Media celebrities — but still instructional videos. However, the Gloom episode changed all that, and, for the first time, invited me to relax and enjoy improvisational comedy and storytelling, with the game resembling a series of thoughtful prompts, and a loose structure, rather than constraining the players’ in-game actions to the point of first-timer confusion. I say this not to critique highly complex games — I am a huge fan of long-arc commitments to any storyworld, be it a game, a television series, or, my favorite, a transmedia universe populated by fictional gamers — but rather to suggest that the show realized one of its creator’s major goals in the Gloom episode. Wheaton summarized his two-part mission in a May blog post about Tabletop, in which he said, “I want to inspire people to try hobby games, and I want to remove the stigma associated with gaming and gamers.” In order to inspire the broadest range of viewers to try out new games, I think that the decision to feature a different game in every episode is wise, and I think that offering games that allow a diversity of skill sets to be showcased is important. For example, any opportunity to highlight Amber Benson’s macabre sense of humor is an opportunity for a fine moment in webshow history, and I’m glad that this show took it.

The second part of Wheaton’s mission, the removal of stigma, is harder to assess. Those who absolutely reject gaming and geek culture because of its stigma are unlikely to watch the show long enough to realize the error in their own thinking, and those who stigmatize from within, for example, those who hate on women gamers, apparently need someone like Felicia Day to do even more than found an entire network devoted to their interests before she can prove herself. However, for someone like me, who is primarily a television fan, and only somewhat curious about expanding my horizons into games, I think that the show makes an excellent case for me to try out some of what’s newly available. (Gloom, for example, was designed in 2004, long after my lazy high school summer afternoons of rejecting Settlers of Catan had been taken over by other obligations.) I love storytelling, and I love experimental storytelling, and Tabletop provides a bridge between my love for Michele Boyd’s New Media celebrity persona and my love for creative approaches to communal storytelling. Like compulsively refreshing a ficathon, watching an episode of Tabletop gives me the sense that people can easily help each other to articulate their surprising and creative observations about the world, and that the end result will be worth preserving.

As with Wheton, so much of what Felicia Day creates and oversees is an inspiration to others to tell their own stories and to do so in innovative ways. Her Vaginal Fantasy book club, for example, has inspired women who may not have felt hailed by previous book club cultures to form their own, specifically devoted to genres that appeal to to them and their sexuality. And perhaps that is the stigma that is most flexible and removable — the stigma that people can internalize about their own desires, which they then miss the opportunity to express to like-minded friends. Within New Media culture, women who don’t feel particularly spoken to by The View or The Talk can instead watch Vaginal Fantasy, and thus perhaps be inspired to expand their fannish engagement in new directions, or simply find peace in the fact that there is such visible interest in women’s responses to literature written with them in mind.

The Geek and Sundry lineup lives, in terms of accessibility, somewhere between this weekend’s Comic-Con, and online fanfiction. Hosted on YouTube, the shows do come with advertisements, which, understandably, might frustrate people. However, the content is all original, and I am excited to see what will come of the experiment, as well as from other experimental networks, such as Pharrell’s i am OTHER, which is now showing the second season of Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl. While there is still a crucial distinction to be made between fandom proper and fandom as industrial response, I do think that experimental and independent media about which one is fannish merits a different kind of consideration than the mainstream, especially when its creators are specifically trying to reach an audience of which certain segments of fandom are a central component. The Geek and Sundry channel is far from representative of the incredible diversity of fandom at large, but its structure invites a great variety of possible responses, ranging from affirmation to imitation, and from transformation to critique. Ideally, these networks will take advantage of one another’s talent and ingenuity, as, for example, The Guild‘s Amy Okuda settles into her new role as Sam in BFF’s, a series appearing on Justin Lin’s YOMYOMF Network, thus bringing her old fanbase to a new set of creators. As this particular segment of the media landscape takes shape, inevitably fans will respond just as creatively as they always have, sometimes through industrial response, and sometimes through their own networks, which may include their own unrecorded evening of storytelling with the assistance of a card game.

[META] The Flavor Text Roundtable on Avatar Secrets

Over at my new favorite blog earlier this week, the authors held the first Flavor Text Roundtable, a critique of Ramona Pringle’s Avatar Secrets, a geeky girl-oriented version of a self-help/relationship advice website. In the interest of full disclosure, I am typically quite positive about self-help in comparison with many of my academic, fannish, and aca-fannish friends. I’m an Oprah viewer, as well as O magazine reader (let’s be really honest and admit I once spent 8 Euro, then the equivalent of about 15 US dollars, on O magazine before a transatlantic flight), and I have a long-standing love affair with memoirs from the “Addiction/Recovery” section of my local bookstore.


I quickly lose patience when I get the sense that a space of relative intellectual freedom and experimental identity exploration within digital culture is being converted into a profit machine (original Facebook, I’m looking at you). This is not because I’m so hopelessly naïve as to believe in a tech-utopian vision of the future, but rather because I refuse to accept that our conversion from users, fans, and readers, into market research subjects ought to be expedited. Norm at Flavor Text summarizes it best:

“But seeing search-engine optimized self-actualization drivel isn’t appealing to me, even when it’s dressed up in sometimes painful stories of learning how to play an MMO. While our internet dragons may not be easily understood by the mainstream media, the writing about games by gamers is almost devastatingly honest and straight-forward. My mister, when asked, described WoW bloggers’ motivation as ‘I love this so I am going to present what I think about it for free because I want other people to love it, too.’ I cannot help but feel that this business venture is an outsider trying to commodify one of my sub-cultures, and getting it hopelessly off-kilter.”

Again, to return to my original Facebook comment, the change that frustrated me most about Facebook wasn’t actually the obviously egregious privacy violations. Rather, I was most irritated by the conversion of almost every category from text box to drop down menu full of suggestions. Movies? My taste in movies? I’d love to talk about my taste in movies, yes, sure to people who are only kind of my friends. I’d love to talk about it in sentences, with references to the multiple origins of my interest in x or y. I would not love to fill out your survey about whether or not I indeed liked Inception, thus confirming your suspicion that…er…the film catered to tastes apparently common within my milieu.

Thankfully, I already have a place to do that, one which is at least more slowly transitioning from text box into a series of yes/yes questions about how much I’m enjoying my experience. WoW bloggers do, as well, and they can better help people seeking community through the game by continuing the excellent work so many of them are already doing, than can someone at the outskirts who wants to reduce the complexity of the experience to an algorithm of simple avatar identification, and the inaccurate assumption that the game works as a substitute for all-important RL interactions.

Although I do not currently play an MMO myself, I believe that media fans in general, and particularly feminist-identified media fans like myself, ought to forge and maintain alliances with gamers because of our shared stakes in a digital culture in which we can all intellectually, emotionally, and even “actually,” whatever that means, thrive. My personal mantra is about text boxes, but the more general principle is about people speaking for themselves. There’s nothing wrong at the core of the idea of self-help or dating services, but when these are presented in a way that reduces the complex and constantly evolving community they claim to want to address and serve, it is important to make clear that this is not what’s happening.

It’s great that Pringle and others with entrepreneurial interests are excited about the stories they hear about gamers and the cool community they’re building, but, as it is with any fandom or community, it’s better to start by lurking, listening, and asking questions, rather than making sure, a la movie!Divya Narendra, that getting there first is everything. It isn’t worth it.

[META] Fans, geeks, wrestlers, and Sherlock Holmes: links roundup

Henry Jenkins, ARGS, Fandom, and the Digi-Gratis Economy: An Interview with Paul Booth, author of Digital Fandom: New Media Studies (link goes to the first part of the interview; see also part 2 and part 3). Here’s a confession: I tend to think that ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) have attracted a disproportionate amount of attention in transmedia and convergence culture circles relative to their significance (my pet theory is that academics like talking about ARGs because they experience academic research as an ARG). So the last thing I was interested in hearing about was ARGs as a model and metaphor for online fandom, and I’d originally skipped this interview when it popped up in my feedreader. But the third part of the interview caught my eye, with some interesting discussion on rethinking the gift economy model of fandom, gender, and database culture. And it turns out that the whole thing is worth reading, with some detours into Doctor Who, fan fiction, and mashups.

Matt Hills in Sherlocking, Sherlock, Knowledge and Fan Sites: Speaking of database culture (and Doctor Who), Matt Hills has a nice piece on perhaps the most contemporary aspect of the new BBC series Sherlock — the displacement of mastery of specialized categories of knowledge in favor of proficiency in tracking down relevant information on the fly. Hills of course says it better: “Because in a world where all forms of knowledge can be archived and accessed via cloud computing, Conan Doyle’s provocative hierarchies of knowledge melt into air. This Holmes doesn’t need to know in advance what he needs to know, because he’s networked – he can consult digitally at the scene of the crime.” All this, plus a bonus quote from a great Franco Moretti essay! Ironically, an ensuing debate in the comments suggests that Sherlock Holmes fandom still privileges the contrasting mode of authority through encyclopedic command of canon….

Louisa Stein in Antenna, Mad Men vs. Sherlock – What Makes a Fandom?: In a provocative piece, Stein notes the insta-fandom that sprung up around BBC’s Sherlock, “which, with two episodes aired at the time of writing, already has a full host of communities, fan fiction, vids, and fan art”, in contrast to the paucity of similar fanworks for Mad Men. Yet Stein argues that Mad Men fans have generated a wide variety of creative works which don’t fall easily under the more familiar fanworks model and arguably have a broader cultural influence.

For bonus Mad Men musing, see Michael Newman’s I would so get her pregnant, the latest in his excellent Season 4 posts, this one mapping the narrative’s various ironies.

Elsewhere, In Media Res hosts a theme week on professional wrestling. I totally blame the first piece by David Ray Carter, A History of Violence: politics, profits, and the changing face of the WWE, for drawing me back into watching WWE’s RAW this week after taking a post-Wrestlemania break. All of the posts are well worth reading, touching on issues around the production of performances, personae, and narratives that have broader resonance for media and celebrity fan cultures (e.g., Cory Barker’s Making the scripted more real? Pro wrestling and Twitter).

Meanwhile, Jason Tocci of Geek Studies examines the geek chic backlash in Scott Pilgrim vs. the Cultural Critique, while Kristina Busse looks inward in Geek Hierarchies, Boundary Policing, and the Good Fan/Bad Fan Dichotomy.

For more links on fan-related topics, see OTW’s links roundup. And finally, if you’re looking for some light reading for the weekend, Jezebel discovers Marx/Engels slash.