(…) fans who create new material or pass along existing media content ultimately want to communicate something about themselves. Fans may seek to demonstrate their own technical prowess, to gain greater standing within a niche community, to speculate about future developments, or to make new arguments using texts already familiar to their own audiences. As the Mad Men Twitter example proves, content often gains traction when people are given the latitude to use “official” media texts to communicate something about themselves.
Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, Joshua Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture
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On the official help site of Twitter in Japan, there is a section titled “Parody, Commentary, and Fan Accounts Policy” (Twitter n.d.). Twitter permits users to have parody accounts as long as they are clearly marked as such. Twitter users in Japan who own alternative accounts for their character bots (kyarakutā botto) refer to this statement by Twitter to justify the existence of their creations. Character bots are automated programs that post—that is, tweet—characters’ lines from popular manga, anime, games, and so on. They post regularly, and in the past few years they have become difficult to ignore, especially in fan communities.
The programmers of the bots are fans, many without specialized knowledge of programming (note 1), and the bot’s followers are also fans. Although everyone knows who programmed the bot, in the participatory culture of fans online, it seems to belong to everyone and no one. When followers converse with the bot, the interaction is visible to other fans, which contributes to an active, open, and shared form of bot play (botto asobi).
Fujoshi are not confused about what is real. They are aware of who programmed a specific character bot, just as they are aware of who the original creator (gensakusha) of the character is. As is typical of manga/anime fandom, fujoshi keep their distance from the original creator because fans are involved in secondary or derivative production (niji sōsaku) of the creator’s character, which might involve a yaoi scenario that the creator might find offensive. Nonintervention by the creator is taken as a sign of tacit approval for fan activities, including bot play.
Transformative Works and Cultures has published its twelfth issue, entirely devoted to boys’ love fandom around the globe (full press release). There are some excellent articles on Hetalia, the politics of BL in Germany, character bots on Twitter, BL in China, dojinshi, the origins of the word fujoshi, criticism from Japanese LGBT activists on BL, and more. We’ll be posting some short bits of analysis and good quotes from the articles in the upcoming weeks. Enjoy!
Transnational boys’ love fan studies, by Kazumi Nagaike and Katsuhiko Suganuma
Reflection on Chinese boys’ love fans: An insider’s view, by Erika Junhui Yi
The possibilities of research on fujoshi in Japan, by Midori Suzuki
The European Fandom & Fan Studies Conference took place on November 10, 2012 at the University of Amsterdam. It was a relatively small one-day conference, but great in terms of content and people present. I was especially pleased to see so many researchers going beyond English-language online fandoms, tackling offline fan activities or doing comparative studies with other online fandoms that communicate in different languages. There was also a strong emphasis on how fans interact with media industries and deal with fannish activities that involve money, which is one of my favorite topics. I heard a ton of interesting ideas, and others clearly did too. But I’ll let our past selves speak for themselves. Here’s a Storify with all the tweets from the #eurofandom tag, grouped by presentation as much as possible. There were a couple of participants tweeting at least semi-regularly, and I’m surprised at how much of what happened at the conference comes across pretty well by looking at the tweets. With just a handful of Twitter-happy attendees plus Storify, it’s very easy to leave a permanent record of the goings-on at any conference for anyone who wants or needs to see what was said there. It’s not a perfect system. The technology has to work, obviously; I attend plenty of conferences were wifi is still not assumed to be necessary, and even at this one, the network was a bit troublesome. Conferences with parallel panels also need at least a small group to cover everything more or less thoroughly. There were a couple of presentations during which all the really active tweeters happened to be in a different room, or temporarily comatose because of jetlag in my case, and these presentations are conspicuously absent from the timeline. Perhaps conferences should make a bigger deal out of live-tweeting to encourage more people to pick up the slack? And designate a conference historian to make the Storify later on.