Fansplaining: The Meme Librarian

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Title: Fansplaining: The Meme Librarian
Created by: Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel
Date(s): October 10, 2015
External Links:

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Fansplaining: The Meme Librarian is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

The interviewee is Amanda Brennan, a member of the San Diego Comic-Con panel.

It also includes two long comments by a fan regarding fandom and profit, canon, TPTB's support/non-support and interest of fanworks, how fandom is its own ecosystem, and the belief that "fanworks pretty much are not legally challenged just because corporations see them as beneficial" and the risks embedded in that last statement.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.



Fansplaining #6 is here! In this episode, we interview Amanda Brennan (@continuants) AKA the Meme Librarian. Topics covered include candle fandom, archiving the internet, why people tag their Tumblr posts with whole long sentences, and tweenage Hanson fanfic. We also respond to a listener comment from Elsa (buffer-overrun), who has some concerns with the way we’ve been talking about the interactions between fans and major media companies.

Topics Discussed

  • Fandom and Profit
  • TPTB's mostly positive relationship with fandom right now is because everyone's playing nice
  • the juxtaposition of not needing/wanting canon for a fandom to flourish, and for canon being necessary for a fandom to flourish
  • Tumblarity
  • tagging and cataloging internet things
  • memes, Know Your Meme
  • Carmilla, the web series
  • JournelFen and having to now locate it on the Wayback
  • Hanson fanfic
  • Tumblr
  • rapidly changing platforms and stodgy librarians
  • do "fandoms use platforms as opposed to platforms being, like, the seed of or attracting fandom?”
  • Reddit
  • "...people like to compare LiveJournal and Tumblr, but the web was very very different seven years ago than it is now."
  • fan self-identification
  • what is fandom?
  • Yankee Candle fandom
  • lots of comments about a con where the Supernatural actors were on panels (a Creation Con?)

Excerpts: Comments About TPTB and the Relationship Between Fans

[Elsa, buffer-overrun on Tumblr]:
I’ve really been enjoying your podcast, but there’s a couple things that I keep chewing on that I wanted to talk about. At one point in the first episode, Flourish seems to be saying that there’s a straight line between corporations seeing fandom works as “earned media,” as market research and free advertising, and the end of the Harry Potter-era cease and desist letters, and more broadly the end of the massive copyright overreach of the 1990s and 2000s. And on one hand, the free advertising idea has been around for awhile, particularly in terms of peer-to-peer, social network based sharing of media, and it seems to have gotten a lot more traction than the noncommercial “fair use” argument. And it probably is true that the flourishing of fandom spaces has had much more to do with corporate self-interest than any legal victories by the OTW. But I don’t think that’s something to be celebrated! It actually feels very precarious.
[Elsa, buffer-overrun on Tumblr]:
And then in Episode 2, Meredith Levine was talking about the production cycle of media, and basically that consumerism like fans buying stuff is how we get canon, which we need in order to get fanworks. And maybe I’m being utopian here, but it feels like fanfic is an ecosystem that’s really not that dependent on the canon. I mean, to write good fanfic the author needs to be really engaged with the original canon, and if you really love a show or a book or a song I think you have to pay for it and probably also buy copies for all your friends, because that’s how the people who are making commercial media get paid. But as a reader, I don’t need to love or even necessarily to watch Supernatural or Teen Wolf or any of the Marvel movies to appreciate the fic, particularly when you’re talking about a lot of the common AUs and tropes. All you need are a few good gifs of cute boys looking longingly at each other, and that’s enough to launch a thousand ships. But I feel like what Meredith is saying is that if we don’t participate in advertising, or making ourselves available for data mining for mega-media companies, then they’ll shut off the tap of angsty homoerotic bromances, and then the well of fanfic will run dry, which I don’t think is true.
[Elizabeth Minkel]:
The thing that we talk about with fanworks, we talk about them challenging or being unconventional or taboo or whatever, that hasn’t actually come up against these media corporations. So everyone’s just playing kind of nice and vanilla with them.
I think that we are maybe headed in that direction, but in order for that to happen I think among other things we would need to see, like, we would need to see a literary elite take fanworks more seriously, in order to publish the more challenging fanworks. Right now the things that are getting published in fanworks are like, Sexy BDSM Sexytime and— ....


And that’s why I’m saying that the day that somebody writes a fanfic that really truly challenges—I mean, this is the Wind Done Gone issue. The reason The Wind Done Gone was a big deal is that The Wind Done Gone was a literary work that had a powerful publisher behind it, a direct challenge to the literary estate of Gone With The Wind. And when we see a fanfic, you know, on the front page of the Atlantic, in a discussion of like—
I don’t want another season of the show. I don’t want another season of Torchwood. [They’re] going to fuck it up again. [laughter] I just want really incredible fanworks.
[laughs] By the end of the Harry Potter books I was like, “Ack, no, you’re frustrating me! And all these people [fans] are engaging me! And I still respect you and I thank you for these books,” but the conversation that had sprung up around it was so much richer than the actual text at that point.

Excerpts: Meme Librarian

[Amanda Brennan]:
AB: But yeah, so, my thesis was that if you had a higher Tumblarity—if I recall, it was public. It wasn’t like follower count, which is not public. But my thesis was that the more you use these sentence tags, the higher your Tumblarity would be, because it shows that you’re more engaged in the community. It wasn’t really anything I could prove, because halfway through the paper they removed Tumblarity, and I lost all those numbers... I still was able to conduct research with people and instead correlated it with the number of followers, so the argument was that if you’re using these tags you’re more likely to be embedded in a community and therefore will have a higher follower count. And I got statistical correlation!
that’s why I love Meme Documentation so much. Because it’s made for Tumblr users by Tumblr users. And it’s why I loved Encyclopedia Dramatica because it was made for that weird part of the internet by that weird part of the internet. And it has its own language. It had its own way of speaking about things that the rest of the internet didn’t understand.

And I think that is super important, that communities should be self-archiving. It’s your local library. Every community on the internet needs a local library to go to and find their own history. Know Your Meme is amazing, but it’s also the Library of Congress, and they’re not going to know what this tiny town in Internet Land is doing. I want to stress the importance of communities to realize that everything is fleeting on the internet, and something can get deleted really quickly, and you lose a whole thread of whatever history you’re looking at.

I’m currently working on this project on Slender Man. I was trying to find the history of Trender Man, have you ever seen that? So in 2012 someone took a photo of a seated mannequin and it was, like, dressed in some J Crew kind of white button-down shirt and his fancy brown vest, and it’s just a mannequin without a face, so it looks like Slender Man, and…
And on one hand, I appreciate [the change in platforms welcoming fans] because I do think some of the platforms that are now very welcoming can be like, “Oh aren’t you impressed with us? We embrace fans,” it’s like no, I’m just like, “thanks for not being mean like you used to be?” So there’s that, but coming from the other perspective I think her saying that does dismiss or maybe gloss over or just doesn’t approach the kind of idea that the platform really does shape the way that people communicate and the way that a fandom grows and changes and, you know, does its thing. And I’m wondering if from your perspective as someone who hasn’t been in the very, the old traditional whatever-we-think-is-traditional you know random archives to LiveJournal to Tumblr kind of trajectory with fanfiction, you’re coming from a different perspective but you see fans, you know what I mean?
There’s no profile [on Reddit] where you can be like “Oh, here’s the list of things that I liked today on Reddit!” It’s just very, like, fleeting, and you look at it once and I guess you save it, you can have a conversation but are you really gonna go back to it? On a place like Tumblr you can collect and you can archive and you can, like, tag things and sort it by tags, and you can have a lasting impression of what you like. And when you don’t like it any more, you can delete it and start over. There’s always gonna be a new platform. There’s always gonna be a new experience, and fans will move on and have different fan experiences in those places and that’s OK. You don’t have to be tied down to one place.