One of the things I like to do in these posts is to look back at articles from Transformative Works and Cultures, directing people to things they perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise read or things they perhaps believed might have been too academic-speak for them to enjoy. An article that I would hate for anyone in media fandom to overlook is a fascinating discussion by Rebecca Lucy Busker in the very first issue of the journal. It’s about the impact on content of changes over time in the internet platforms fans use for exchanging links, posting fic and hosting metadiscussion about fandom. It’s called On symposia: Livejournal and the shape of fannish discourse. She is the founder of the website that this blog is named for, along with the Symposium section of the journal itself. The journal section and this blog consciously pay homage to Busker’s website. The TWC journal’s Author Guidelines note: “Parallel to academia’s tradition of compact essays, often published as letters, fandom has its own vibrant history of criticism, some of which has been collected at the Symposium archive. In the spirit of this history, TWC’s Symposium is a section of concise, thematically contained essays. These short pieces provide insight into current developments and debates surrounding any topic related to fandom or transformative media and cultures.” (You can insert a recruitment plug here: Anyone who’s interested in metadiscussion or who has posted meta is always invited to submit something to the TWC Symposium! Or to suggest yourself as a guest poster here.) In her article, Busker writes about the changes she witnessed when fans, many of whom had been using electronic mailing lists, began to post on Livejournal, a new internet platform that came along around 2001. In her experience, the mailing lists tended to be less focused on critical essays, and also, on lists there was very little cross-pollination between fandoms. Besides creating a wider audience for fannish metadiscussion, Livejournal, she writes, by its nature took the focus off the topic being discussed and put the fannish posters (and fandom itself) at center stage. She believes that one result of this was a wider general awareness of the many active fandoms. It’s my impression that much fannish activity on Livejournal was posted unlocked (though this might have changed after 2007?) with a “hide in plain sight, like a needle in a hay stack” approach to privacy, so it was possible to find a lot of stuff by skipping through friend-of-friend lists and noting what communities existed. Busker writes, “Fans [on Livejournal] have an increased peripheral, and sometimes even very specific, knowledge of other fandoms. Indeed, a popular meme that recurs every so often involves posting ‘what I know about fandoms I am not in.’ The results are sometimes humorous, but are also often fairly accurate. There was a time I could perhaps identify one song by *NSync if I heard it on the radio. And yet I knew the names of all the members, I could identify them by sight.” And, she believes, Livejournal also increased pan-fandom awareness of fandom controversies. In fact, Busker asserts that fandom on Livejournal “now spends as much time talking about itself as it does talking about TV shows and movies and comics.” She also believes that this journaling platform (and what she writes is probably true of Dreamwidth and InsaneJournal, though her article was written before Dreamwidth existed), by virtue of being organized around people, and encouraging discussions that span fandoms, has contributed to the growth of serious, multi-fandom discussions of racism and other social justice issues. “If the personal is political and the political personal, then a medium that by its nature mixes the personal with the fannish must contribute to increased awareness and discussion of the sociopolitical.” Reading this essay, I was struck by the pithy quote from Marshall McLuhan that I learned as an undergraduate studying broadcast television (now the hoariest of “Old Media”), to wit: “The medium is the message.”

[META] The where of it all
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