Tisha Turk on vidding and fandom

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Tisha Turk on vidding and fandom
Interviewer: The Knox Student
Interviewee: Tisha Turk
Date(s): April 6, 2016
Medium: online
Fandom(s): vidding
External Links: Tisha Turk on vidding and fandom - The Knox StudentThe Knox Student, Archived version
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Tisha Turk on vidding and fandom is a 2016 interview conducted for "The Knox Student," a college publication.


I got involved with vidding when one of my friends got me into the show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — this was back in the early 2000s. We spent a lot of time on the phone talking about the show, but we also started going online to see what other people had to say about the show, reading episode reviews and analyses that people were posting on their blogs. One of them posted a link to a vid — this was before streaming video, so it was a link to a download from someone’s web page. I watched the vid and thought it was pretty smart, but I hated the song they’d chosen. I thought, “Wow, I wish someone would make a thing like that set to music that I actually like,” so I went poking around to see if I could find vids set to music I liked, but I didn’t have any luck, and that was when I realized that I was going to have to make it myself. I downloaded a trial version of Adobe Premiere and started messing around with it, and pretty soon I was hooked. I was in grad school at the time, getting my PhD in English literature, so you would think I would have gotten excited about fan fiction, but I was never that interested in fic. I was working on my dissertation proposal at the time, so reading and writing were my day job; the last thing I wanted to do was more reading and writing. Plus I’ve always been a huge music fan, so combining music and interpretation — which is what my favorite vids do — seemed like the best of all possible worlds. But it was close to ten years before I started studying vids academically. I’ll be talking about this some on Friday — how on earth does someone with a PhD in English end up writing about music videos? — but for now I’ll just say that even though I had kind of accidentally ended up with a great background for writing about fandom and transformative works, it wasn’t at all what I set out to do. What happened was that some other academics started writing about vids and vidding — I was interviewed by one of them for a thing he was writing — and when I read the results, I thought, “Dude, you are seriously missing the point.” It was just so obvious to me that this person didn’t really know very much about vids and vidding — hadn’t watched a lot of vids, hadn’t hung out with vidders, and, especially, didn’t know much about how vidders and vidwatchers talk about vids amongst themselves. So it was actually a lot like how I got into vidding: I looked at what was already out there and realized that if I wanted the conversation to change, I was going to have to help change it. There were several of us in that boat, academics who were also in fandom, who kind of looked around and looked at each other and said “Well, I guess we better roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Fans talk about fandom all the time; we don’t need academics to explain vidding to us, or fic, or art, or cosplay or any of the other stuff we do. But there are a lot of reasons why scholars might be interested in fans and fandom. From a media studies perspective, fans are interesting because a lot of fans don’t just consume commercial media, they do stuff with it — sometimes things that the original creators or copyright holders didn’t anticipate or don’t approve of. From a literary perspective, fans are the ultimate close readers, people who really care about the details of a text and can talk about it all day. From a writing studies perspective, which is mostly where I come from, fic and vidding can tell us a lot about what motivates people to create and what supports them when they’re doing it. From an anthropological perspective, fans are interesting because they form communities or affinity groups that operate in ethnographically observable ways. From an economic perspective, fans can have an enormous impact on the success of a show or movie: We’re the people who see it multiple times in the theater, who drag our friends to see it, who buy the DVDs and t-shirts and action figures. From a computer science perspective, fandom is fascinating because two of the largest female-majority open source coding projects in existence, including the Archive of Our Own, came directly out of fandom. You get the idea.