Fandom Does Not Use Technology. Technology Uses Fandom

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Title: Fandom Does Not Use Technology. Technology Uses Fandom
Creator: Morgan Dawn, and commenters
Date(s): December 16, 2014
Medium: online
External Links: Fandom Does Not Use Technology. Technology Uses Fandom, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

is a post by Morgan Dawn made to her journal on December 16, 2014 regarding fandom culture, visibility, and the then-current hot-topic discussion about fanfic and reviews being posted to Goodreads.

This post generated 92 comments, some of which are excerpted below.

Some Topics Discussed

From the Post

Fandom usually jumps into technologies, uses them, and then acts surprised when we realize that we have no clue what we're doing or how the use of the new tech has changed an aspect of our fandom culture. Right now a few authors are posting notices that you need permission to link to their fanworks in "public spaces". Or that they'd prefer their readers comment on their fic where it was originally posted. Each author gets to unilaterally define what is public with the expectation that every reader will follow because that is part of the "social contract". So for today Goodreads = public and is not a place to list or review fanfic. Tumblr is OK (for now) because it is not seen as a "public" space.

It used to be easier to know what to expect of other fans but the moment we went online, the fannish social contract was voided due to sheer size and complexity of online interactions. Add the fact that new platforms and new ways of interacting keep coming out every 20 minutes and you have a hot conceptual mess filled with poorly understood expectations.

I know that when we went online in the 1990s few of us had any idea that fans would be publicly posting their porn fanfic to open access websites (no. stop. think of the children!), displaying their explicit art where anyone could see (blush), and tweeting their love of RPS and knotting fic (OMGWTFBB!). By those standards, we have all breached the original fannish social contract of keeping fandom a "safe space" simply by interacting with one another in public and online. And I suspect that 20 years down the road, we will again struggle to recognize "fandom" as it continues to be reshaped by technology.

So I would rather see us practice mindfulness and awareness that the tools and platforms we use change us and our culture instead of snapping at one another because we've changed and that we no longer know what to expect from one another.

Because to be honest, I have no clue any more. And I'd be wary of anyone who claims otherwise.

Excerpts from Comments

  • comment by cathexys ("I rarely (if ever) have thought, I wish this post were on Tumblr so I could share it, but I do with this one. I am fascinated by the outrage on Tumblr, because I feel like you do, see what you're seeing: Tumblr's already so far out there from our flocked/robot&spider blocked LJ/DWs that I can't believe people are surprised that others would consider their fic Good Reads discussion worthy. We come across this ever so often (like remember the fic of fic debate where we tried to establish what can be used to transform and what can't or the can you link to tiny LJs and what if you have a huge following, is that ethical), and you nailed what's happening when fandom mores change and different fandom etiquettes clash (or new fans simply invent their own!). Anyway, thanks for a great post!!!")
  • comment by phantomas ("Yes. I've seen things on Tumblr that 15 years ago would have had me screaming for the hills and warning people to go and hide :) Now everything seems 'out there' but the understanding is not - recently, I was asked to explain the difference between fanfiction and original fiction (during a workshop) and I think I managed well enough, but clearly the questions asked were born out of false knowledge ("Yes, 50 Shades was fanfiction in origin. No, it wasn't copied from Twilight." etc etc) Anyway, yes, the tools change us.")
  • comment by elf ("On the one hand, fanfic is not, for the most part, "books" in the sense that Goodreads was intended to review. (Especially not now, with it being owned by Amazon.) GR is a social platform intending to sell books for Amazon, where they didn't have to develop the infrastructure and upkeep is minimal--and part of "minimal upkeep" means "fuck if we're going to bother setting standards about what 'is' or 'is not' a book. If someone wants to post a cereal box and review the artwork and nutritional data text, shrug." On the other, I can quite understand fanfic authors getting upset that they're getting reviews from people who don't understand canon, who are reading fanfic as if it were commercially-oriented short stories or novels. On the gripping hand... I am so, SO VERY glad AO3 exists and that the unwanted attention this will bring to fandom (because it'll bring some) will be noted and addressed by the OTW, rather than the owners of or wattpad or livejournal. That anyone who screams "this so-called book is nothing but copyright infringement of [favorite other book]!!!' will be faced with a whole academic journal and several congressional hearings' worth of documentation that no, it's not. As far as the data itself being dragged to GR--the titles, authors, a cover assigned by librarian whim, original summary and new commentary... as uncomfortable as that makes some authors, it's not illegal to make lists and links of content elsewhere on the web. GR's a mashup of and Yelp, focused on "books," an undefined topic; plenty of people screamed about their business showing up on either of those sites, and fandom, for the most part, ignored them. If we think it's reasonable to bitch about a hotel because their restaurant service sucks when the customers are in costume, well, the public is allowed to gripe about a story that doesn't make sense if you haven't read a series of novels first. It doesn't stop being remix culture because the mundanes are doing it. (The idea of tumblr not being "a public space".... oh ghods my sides hurt from laughing. Just because your stuff won't get noticed in the constant confetti blizzard of LOOKIT LOOKIT LOOKIT does not make it less public.)")
  • comment by cathexys ("yes, I think it's so bizarre that the folks getting upset are coming from Tumblr. I don't post anything there because it IS so public and out there...")
  • comment by stormcloude ("I don't know-- the idea of Goodreads (owned by Amazon) uploading fanfic metadata to pad out their content and solely for the purpose of criticizing it offends me on a pretty basic level. They're using fandom and publicizing it to make money off it. It seems a fair thing to be outraged over.")
  • comment by elf ("Goodreads isn't uploading the data. I don't think Goodreads even uploads books from Amazon--they just connect to it if there's also an Amazon listing. Miscellaneous people with accounts on Goodreads are uploading AO3 (and occasionally other places) metadata. And this is not so much to Amazon's advantage (they gain nothing from fanfic being listed, and occasionally will have drama over it), but it also costs them nothing, whereas curating book listings would take a lot of time and effort. Basically, they're not going to sort out the difference between a story published at AO3 and one published at Smashwords, or one published at, or whatever other fic-hosting site shows up. Listings take up very little server space, and the cost of curating would be much, much higher than the cost of "just allow everything, and remove individual pages when we receive a creditable complaint.")
  • comment by elf ("Yep yep; [this current flap about Goodreads is] yet another charming case of "people who like platforms I don't, aren't real fans." Fannish clubs at colleges aren't real fandom; only conventions are. Zine fandom isn't real fandom; only fan clubs are. Digital zines aren't real fandom; they have to be on paper. isn't real fandom; anyone can post there--you need to be in a zine. tumblr isn't real fandom; it's just kids pointing and squeeing. On the one hand, yes, it's bizarre to have Harry/Draco fic being reviewed and judged by people who don't know thing one about fanfic. On the other, it's not like fandom doesn't have its share of sporking reviewers who ignore whatever context the author intended and discuss the raw contents of the fic.")
  • comment by luminosity ("I kinda like the idea of all of those readers suddenly *discovering* fanfic via GR. Falling headfirst into the crazy end of the pool because they found a Teen Wolf slash story, replete with mpreg and lactation. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."")
  • comment by amalthia ("I like this too. I only found fandom by sheer chance myself. I think I would have been an avid Goodreads user if I wasn't in fandom.")
  • comment by elf ("AO3 is *not* a site for fanworks made for a specific and protected community. Neither is "And respect a culture you are not a member of." Because, of course, if you were a member of fandom, you would not want listings of your favorite fics on the site where you put rec lists of your favorite reading materials. ... didn't we see this whole argument played out in paper zines when the internet was new, and some people were posting fics on usenet? Can we make a drinking game of it?")
  • comment by cathexys (""[My fan stories] are not meant for casual public consumption, they are fanworks meant to be shared in a specific and protected community." But then they SHOULD share it in a specific and protected community. Open AO3 and f#$%^& Tumblr are certainly NOT THAT. I'm sure we all remember the debates over the access limitations of flocked communities. The bad side was that limitation. The good side was that the subjects in question didn't fall over their fanfic when they vanity googled. I think what annoys me here the most is that the most vocal opponents are on a platform that is the broadest and most searchable we've ever had. And they themselves constantly copy rather than link material. And to then go and scream foul when the publicly accessible, googleable stuff gets linked? This isn't the debate we had way back when in re to metafandom, where we were worried that a blog with 5 users suddenly got linked and overrun. This is an already widely accessible and linked text that suddenly pops up in the "wrong" context. Personally, I don't like breaking the fourth wall and having fanfic in everyone's face. I minimize my digital footprint and accept the lack of publicity for certain things as a result. But you can't really have it both ways... (And I still can't believe what side I'm on here :)")
  • comment by cathexys (responding to a linked post: "That's the thing that makes fanlore and everything connected to it so important to me (and yes, academic discussions as well, I suppose)--because history does repeat itself--and maybe not as Marx proclaimed, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce... I am kind of frustrated by fans freaking out and going after other fans like this. And yes, I'm sure I've done my share of similar things in the past, but...doesn't mean we weren't wrong, just like I think they are wrong now...")
  • comment by Morgan Dawn ("I thought I knew fandom and its cycles until I started working on Fanlore. And then one volunteer began reading and summarizing the scans of old letterzines (from the 70s and 80s) and it was all there. Every topic, every debate, every freak out. Like a huge spiral going upwards and outwards and expanding and expanding. That is the power of fandom - the ability to be more inclusive and more imaginative and more enthusiastic. I hope that the "little engine that could" that is fandom keeps it going for another 40 years.")
  • comment by laurashapiro ("I am blissfully ignorant of everything that's happening right now wrt Goodreads (I think I created an account there a few years ago and never used it), but from what I read here, it looks like yet another attempt of fans to police the boundaries of fandom -- from other fans. I just shake my head and sigh.")
  • comment by elf ("It's a little more complicated than that (but not much). It's fans bringing fannish content into media spaces not designed for it, and other fans freaking out at the non-fannish attention that brings. And some of the freakout is understandable, but... it's not like fans are dragging f'locked fic or password-archive stories into googleable blog sites. They're grabbing public, searchable data from one place and posting it in another public, searchable social space. And this drama happens EVERY time fandom stretches past its current boundaries and spills over into some space formerly not known for fannish content. Maybe we need a Fanlore page for "When Fandom Content Winds Up In Mainstream Spaces," because the same cycle happens over and over. The only reason it hasn't killed fandom is that the new activity *always* brings in more new fans than old ones decide to go into lockdown mode. (Of course, much of the old guard refuses to recognize the new fans as "real enough" until they've had their own "OMG my fanfic is showing up WHERE" moment.)")
  • comment by cathexys ("I am fascinated by this conversation and my central question is how we determine what interfaces are and are not fandom. Like, Tumblr is fully indexed and you can't properly lock to a certain group of readers (at least not in the easy way we have here on DW--I know there are ways to password protect, but those seem to be cumbersome workarounds rather than basic site functionalities). AO3 bookmarks often get used as reader focused commentary. I'm not asking a rhetorical question here: what makes GR readers so different from an AO3 reader being critical beyond the author's immediate access; what makes GR readers so much different from Tumblr readers discussing an author's stories? In your metaphor of going into someone's home and taking things, you are creating AO3 and Tumblr as personal protected spaces. I know I've made that argument for LJ before, when most of us did spider and index block and conversations on here were quite separate from the non fannish world so to speak. But can we still make that argument? Are the GR readers actually strangers or are they merely other fans employing another interface? And, for that matter, are we actually having a private party here when we frequently cross retumblr back and forth with TPTB? I fully understand and agree that exposing non accessible information in public places is wrong. I actually even agree that hard to find connections published in searchable in easily accessible places is wrong (i.e., if someone lists their hometown in a random LJ post that doesn't mean it should be put on their GR page). I also agree that images are a different issue, especially when they are fully reproduced and not credited. But the outrage that I hear in the various posts and see in your comment here suggests that there are distinct communities (fans and GR readers) and that fans exist in a contained space from which GR readers "take things." Leaving aside the entire who is taking what (and again, I'm hugely sympathetic to the argument that taking material from published copyrighted texts and transforming them is not the same as taking material from within your own community and doing the same) , can we really demand that readers not comment on stories, that they can't write reviews?" [much snipped])
  • comment by stormcloude ([much snipped] "I do think that your experience with published nonfiction is fundamentally different from fanfic however. I assume you had editors, marketing, a target demographic, the goal was perhaps to make money? You published knowing that it would be reviewed and criticized and judged. I don't think fandom creators have that same mindset, nor should they. They put their works out there for different reasons. Gift economy and all that.")
  • comment by cathexys ([much snipped]: "I'm not sure how Morgandawn used to feel--I used to be a huge proponent of maintaining closed spaces and keeping fandom away from mundanes, the press, anyone who didn't actively search it out and knew our history...and I think over the last years, I realized both practically that fandom is ever growing and fannish activities have mainstreamed to be point of clear distinction of in and out becoming near meaningless, and theoretically that that is not a bad thing. It feels like a loss to me emotionally, but the barrier to entry into fandom has become lower again and again and that's a good thing. It means our demographics are changing the more mainstream we are, and that's not a bad thing!")
  • comment by Morgan Dawn ("When I first went online fannishly I joined Virgule-L, a slash mailing list. At the time women were few on the net and were routinely harassed. Topics surrounding slash were taboo, so in order to join Virgule-L you had to use your full real name, attest to both your age and gender and sign a statement that if you shared your email account (which many of us back then did with the rest of the household) that they would not read the emails. oh and you were forbidden to mention the mailing list online. As list admin, I had to police these policies and as you can imagine it quickly became tedious and then futile as fandom overran us and stampeded online. Bur for decades I, like most fans, felt we should be playing in "fandom only safe spaces." Which is why I found LJ so terrifying - you were not just talking about fandom issues - everyone was blogging about their cats, their kids, their SO, their bunions...TMI in the open. And I still felt we were protected by what I call "herd immunity" (or the "great school of fish in the sea protects the individual fish" - it was not privacy per se, but obscurity we relied upon. But even obscurity is being eroded more and more with content aggregators linking our identities and activities and selling the info (or offering it up for free for ad revenue). I posted today about a fan who outed themselves to me via their LinkedIn account and that is only one of the many social media outlets. So my attitude has shifted away from trying to police fandom, to trying to get fandom to recognize the shape of things that are, to trying to get fans to use the limited privacy tools that we have as best as we can, and to stop snapping at each other for something none of us can control.")
  • comment by stormcloude ("See, I don't think the mainstreaming of fandom is a good thing, and that's the basis of this whole issue, so I think we'll have to agree to disagree. :)... I agree that this disrespect for privacy and personal boundaries is becoming the new norm, but it's not yet the fandom norm even now. So forgive me for sticking my heels in the mud and trying to slow down that "progress." And I liked the fourth wall and still mourn its passing. Guess I'm trying to rebuild it around myself and my friends out of the rubble. ;)")
  • comment by Morgan Dawn ("Bless fandom for never giving up and never surrendering. ;-)")
  • comment by elf ("They're applying the social standards of the new venue to fannish activity. (Which doesn't make it easy on the authors, but the point is--they're not being maliciously doxxed or outed; fans are trying to be helpful. They're doing the kind of info-roundup that most commercial authors love.) And regarding the "crit wasn't offered unless you asked for it"... when was that, because there are letterzines going back to the 70's that were packed with unrequested flaming critiques, including declarations of the authors' education, personality and moral standards, based on either their fic or their participation in the social aspects of the zines. To be fair, the crit was rarely in the same zine as the stories... but critique on GR is not the same as commenting on the story with it. GR reviews are for readers, not for the author--and I very much want review sites to be comfortable places for readers to say "I didn't like this, and here's why." Even if the "why" translates to "because I'm an immature, close-minded bigot, and this story contained ideas that made me uncomfortable" or "because the author supports [cause I hate] on her website." FWIW, I think posting fanfic on Goodreads is more than a bit ridiculous. But I'm not a Goodreads user; I don't get my book recs or my social activity there. So I'm not comfortable saying "Fandom: they're doing it wrong;" obviously it's not how I do fandom, but if I got to declare who and how is "doing fandom wrong," GR is nowhere near where I'd start.")
  • comment by stormcloude ("Yes, I do see your points. I was probably being rubbed the wrong way by one certain commenter over on goodreads who was implying that the big bad evil fandom peeps were maliciously going to come and attack the poor baby innocent GR peeps in their beds and beat them to death. Or something like that. I do still think the GR people are being pigheaded and stubborn and that fandom authors have a legitimate grievance. But that doesn't mean that folks can't come to a compromise. I just didn't see too many people on the GR side willing to do that. Call me the devil's advocate. ;)")
  • comment by Morgan Dawn ("Seriously, turn off Google indexing. The shit anyone can find on you in 5 minutes is terrifying. Oh and even if you turn it off someone else may be reblogging or quoting or linking to it and that is being indexed. And if you forget to lock it for 5 frigging minutes (yes this happened to me), it will be snatched up. Blogging on tumblr is about as public as you can get. Facebook has more privacy protections in comparison. Railing at Goodreads readers is like yelling at the one ocean wave for getting you wet. Stick around for another 5 minutes. There will be another wave. And you will be wet.")
  • comment by gattagrigia ("I think this whole thread is so fascinating, thanks for starting it, MD. I guess I was fortunate, getting into fandom right in time to enjoy the zine culture AND the comfort of email lists. I remember someone saying that she didn't like email lists, because she didn't know who those people were, but she'd gladly participate in LJ (which was wide open at the time). As elf sez, we might as well make a drinking game, and sit back with the popcorn.")
  • comment by cathexys ("I think this'll be one of those things we look back on as growing pains, but in the moment no side looks all that great (I agree that GR readers are suffering from ABB syndrome and fanfic writers fear the next step of public outings with repercussions, so both sides are arguing evil strawmen, so to speak...)")