On the strengths of AO3’s tag wrangling compared to other tagging systems

Laissez-faire and rigid tagging systems both fail because they assume too much—that users can create order from a completely open system, or that a predefined taxonomy can encompass every kind of tag a person might ever want. When these assumptions don’t pan out, it always seems to be the user’s fault. AO3’s beliefs about human nature are more pragmatic, like an architect designing pathways where pedestrians have begun wearing down the grass, recognizing how variation and standardization can fit together. The wrangler system is one where ordinary user behavior can be successful, a system which accepts that users periodically need help from someone with a bird’s-eye view of the larger picture.

McCulloch, Gretchen. 2019. “Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online.” Wired, June 11, 2019.

The practice of fanfic writing itself is an analysis of the media that the fanfic is based on and allows young people to explore themes that are often unaddressed in popular media (including the media that fans love) and to rework media in a way that is more relevant to his or her experiences.

Swaggerty, Elizabeth & Bahoric, Kelly. 2015. Fanfiction: Exploring in- and out-of-school literacy practices. Colorado Reading Journal. 26. 25-31.

 Racebent Harry and Ronan fan work offers queer-of-color revisions of the characters, centering around queer romances for both boys—Harry with school rival Draco Malfoy, and Ronan with his in-series boyfriend Adam Parrish. By depicting two characters of color at the center of these queer schoolboy romances, fans disrupt the white homoeroticism and imperialism of the school story genre, which both series draw upon. Such revisions also allow fans to challenge perceptions of national identity solidified by such genres. Thus, fans’ racebending of Harry and Ronan offers postcolonial revisions of Harry Potter and the Raven Cycle by challenging the predominantly white worlds they depict as well as recuperating the erasure of people of color by other fans who insist Britishness and Irishness equate to whiteness.

Fowler, Megan Justine. 2019. “Rewriting the School Story through Racebending in the Harry Potter and Raven Cycle Fandoms.” In “Fans of Color, Fandoms of Color,” edited by Abigail De Kosnik and andré carrington, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 29. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1492.

Tagging and Disability Identity Construction through Marvel Cinematic Universe Fanfiction

The exploration of identity is a common practice in fanfiction, and scholarship has consistently investigated this fan practice. Yet, despite the presence of disability and disabled characters in fanfiction, this aspect of identity exploration is only sparsely represented in scholarship. This article explores the intersection of disability studies and fanfiction studies through the lens of labelling and tagging, key elements of both fields. Labelling and classification in disability communities are often associated with medicalization, stereotyping, and erasure of individuality, while tagging in fanfiction provides a communicative framework between authors and readers. These differences in functions of labelling and tagging provide the foundation that enables tagging in fanfiction to function inclusively as a normalizing force, despite the problematic role of labelling in disability communities. 

Raw, Adrienne E. Normalizing Disability: Tagging and Disability Identity Construction through Marvel Cinematic Universe Fanfiction. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 2019.

AO3 and its design values

Since its launch in 2008, Archive of Our Own (AO3) has grown to amass nearly 750,000 users and over 2 million individual fan fiction works.2 Its code is open source, and the archive has been designed, coded, and maintained nearly entirely by the community it serves—a community made up mostly of women. Because the controversy that sparked its existence was surrounding a disconnect with the community’s value system, baking these values into the design of the site was a priority. As a result, the design of AO3 is a unique example of building complex values and social norms into technology design.

Fiesler, Casey, Shannon Morrison, and Amy S. Bruckman. 2016. ‘An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design’. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI ’16, 2574–85. Santa Clara, California, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/2858036.2858409.

Textual poacher reread, part 2

The fans’ response typically involves not simply facination or adoration but also frustration and antagonism, and it is the combination of the two responses which motivates their active engagement with the media. Because popular narratives often fail to satisfy, fans must struggle with them, fans must struggle with them, to try to articulate to themselves, and other unrealized possibilities within the original text. Because the texts continue to fascinate, fans cannot dismiss them from their attention but rather must try to find ways to salvage them for their interests.


Transformative fandom and media fandom

I am rereading Henry Jenkin’s Textual Poacher (after all, going back to one’s roots is not an unusual habit around this time of the year) and I stumbled upon this statement:

There are, of course, many different type of fans – rock fans, sport fans, movie buffs, opera enthusiasts etc. (…). I focus on only one of these fan cultures here – an amorphous but still identifiable grouping of enthusiasts of film and television which calls itself “media fandom”.

Henry Jenkins. 1992. Textual Proachers. New York: Routledge

I’m sure we don’t identify the transformative part of fandom by the subject of their fannishness, rather by their mode of fannishness. I wouldn’t want to dismiss all the rock or sports RPF fics I sometimes catch sight of. So what is special about Star Trek or Supernatural? Do you experience your fannishness differently in relation to, say, your favourite music group and to your favourite TV show? If you do, share your story with us.

Femslash recs

Did you know you can even find recs in scholarship? Well, maybe not exactly, but they do mention examples of the practices they are talking about and when that practice is “dealing with race in a way the source material didn’t bother to”, I find those examples worth checking out. If what academia inspire is new hits, kudos and more interesting and informed comments on these fics, then I would consider that a great engagement. The art and studies part of the fandom exists in a continuous conversation, so the concept of fic recs is not such an alien concept here. What we should be careful about here is that these mentions are not endorsements or judgements, it only shows that the fic had a certain kind of content or displays a certain kind of pattern that the researcher was interested in. That interest might intercept with readerly interests and then, the community might want to amplify those patterns, but that’s not the direct aim of scholarship. So I only mean to show a certain way of engagement, not endorse specific fics, because of no part of academia (and no matter how rogue scholars we are, this blog is still too scholarly to not consider the implications) should have that kind of relationship with fan creators.

 It becomes evident from the aforementioned debates that for sections of the Swan Queen fandom—one that fights regular, often-virulent battles with canon shippers of heterosexual ships on its reading of queer subtext in Emma Swan and Regina Mills’s relationship—emphasizing of Regina Mills’s Latinidad holds enormous value, one that is no less significant than their queering of the heteronormative maintext of Once Upon a Time. In some readings of this reclamation of their favorite character’s Latinidad, fans flesh out elements of her backstory as a sympathetic villain to read the story of the Evil Queen’s rise as a narrative seeped in white privilege and racial oppression. Once Upon a Time represents the fabled enmity between Snow White and her Evil Stepmother as one wherein the cruel machinations of Regina’s mother and the master manipulator Rumpelstiltskin (played by Robert Carlyle), led to her marriage to Snow White’s much-older father, King Leopold, against her will. Tumblr user deemnfic, another fan identifying herself as a fan of color, addresses this backstory, arguing, “Regina’s forced marriage to Leopold can be likened to the position of a house slave or Mammy,” and further, that it was a clear instance of “buying” an “older girl of color—to raise the lily-white child” (deemn 2013).

Although Swan Queen fan fic engages with these readings of Regina’s story (in multiple ways, we will limit our discussion to two stories, both well-received in the fandom: Cops&Robbers by deemn (deemn 2014), which is an unfinished canon divergence story that sends the Swan–Mills family to New York and uses the fake marriage trope to advance Emma and Regina’s relationship, and Send Up a Signal (that everything’s fine) by coalitiongirl (coalitiongirl 2015), an AU that has Regina and Emma star in a television fantasy drama called Happily Ever After, which is in fact a reimagining of Once Upon a Time. Our choice of these two stories, apart from their reception within fandom, is to underline this complex wrangling of Regina’s queer Latinidad as a constitutive element of fannish subversive practices.

Pande, Rukmini and Swati Moitra. 2017. “Racial dynamics of online femslash fandoms.” In “Queer Female Fandom,” edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.908.

On the industry focus in fan studies

If there are any trends in current fan studies, it clearly has to be the shift toward industry focus and the myriad ways to monetize fan labor. Both industry and academic events concentrate on the intersections and collaborations, sometimes at the expense of independent, intrafannish engagements. Although TWC remains committed to include all aspects of the fannish mediascape, our affiliation with the nonprofit OTW and our strong belief in Open Access texts testify to our dedication to let fans speak and be heard. In fact, it is the fannish infrastructures that often have modeled later for profit models. Fanfiction.net, eFiction, Automated Archive, and the Archive of Our Own flourished long before Wattpad became popular, and more and more media departments turn toward fans themselves to successfully create transmedia properties and run outlets such as Tumblr and Twitter feeds.

TWC Editor. 2014. “Fannish Form and Content” [editorial]. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 17. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0646.