Recent Comments

November 30, 2016 - 21:41

So, I've been thinking a lot about your question. Do you think that onscreen tags, such as the watermarks shown at the bottom of the screen during a show, would count as a strategy to linking the producers and the fandom together? For instance, Pretty Little Liars' fanbase is full of teenage girls, who most likely have twitter pages. They would then use the tag that appears on their twitter accounts which would link them to other fans of the show, in which they can develop a conversation. Also producers/cast members can also join in and respond with their fans. 

November 30, 2016 - 12:28

Noah,

I'm very interested in your vision of the expert fan and the corporatized tastemaking practices which drive our current reboots.  I think you're right that there is an ideological risk in feeding the desires of fans back to them as a new canon of retrospective - one which perpetuates the most oppressive systems by feeding audiences expected, low-effort morsels of "change" which changes very little.

I am thinking very specifically here of the "gay Sulu" dust-up for Star Trek: Beyond, in which "expert fans"—including writer and star Simon Pegg—forwarded a progressive revision of Roddenberry's universe by changing the orientation of a main character.  The original actor, George Takei, spoke with great passion about maintaining the continuity of Roddenberry's utopian galaxy, arguing that to have had the character closeted for 50 years of the series would reveal a Federation wherein it would even be necessary to be closeted or ashamed of one's sexuality (LINK).

What strikes me as more dangerous here is the revision not of Star Trek's queerness, but how this morsel of progressive values conceals a much more dangerous ideological shift to a Trek universe populated by violence-as-prime-solution, product placement and corporate consumption, and a veneer of Apple-esque polish to make such things palatable and more appealing.

Is it any wonder, then, that avowed expert fan (and fan servicer) JJ Abrams famously claimed originally not to be a fan of Star Trek because "it always felt too philosophical" for him (LINK)?  What might this aversion to complexity in corporate products tell us about the future of genre-centric media (and a possible transition into more overt ideological positioning for future texts and films)?  What is the role of the fan in embracing, or rejecting, such changes?

I can't help but wonder to what extent fan studies is prepared—while it is perfectly comfortable giving fan cultures "ownership" over their respective texts—to likewise grant ownership over the ideological problems of production to those same groups.

Thanks so much for your post!

-Alex

November 27, 2016 - 16:59

First, these are common threads that emerge from these responses are: the tension and synergy between fans and producers, affective motives and profit motives, a fan as an individual and fandom as a community, and the temporality of fans.

Shameika Harris describes the process of how fandoms build over time through social media. It is clear that fans form communities around icons and texts, however Harris also points out the processes by which fandoms structure themselves internally around themes important to their community through implicit social influence. This might take the form of contemporary fans of Sherlock en masse coming to privilege relevance over fidelity in their interpretation of the series, as described by Anna Kozak. Kozak notes that the showrunners of Sherlock refuse to explicitly confirm Sherlock and Watson as queer yet participate in queer-baiting, demonstrating the power of producers despite the significant attachment of fans. However, Glenn Jellenik's discussion of Braudy's characterization of remakes as "unfinished cultural business" enables us to take a longer view: it is fans going up against the defensiveness of producers who begin unfinished cultural business.

Fans and producers are engaged in an infinite cycle of becoming, where the fans of yesterday are the producers of tomorrow. Often cultural producers had been fans who entered the industry to finish the unfinished business posited by their generation of fans. However, as producers, they often defend their work as finished, and fend off the next generation of fans who posit new questions. This can be seen as another factor in Karen Hellekson's distinction between a producer's desire to close the text and a fan's desire to open the fandom. Even though cultural producers have tried to keep up with the sheer expansiveness of fan engagements by opening the text to multimedia adaptations and launch entire franchises as Hanna Klien and Klaus Tiber  describe, as producers constrained by a budget and profit motives, they must at some point set firmly established frames; fans are not limited by the same factors. To me, a producer who still retains a fannish self would position herself similarly to Ashley Hamouda's take on the new Beauty and the Beast - applauding that the unfinished business of feminism is being addressed, yet also acknowledging that there remains the unfinished business of a more expansive diversity.

 

Second, the question of this issue asks about fan motivations on the one hand, and the significance of these motivations when taking a long temporal view of fandoms on the other. Moving from an overview of all the responses, here are a number of new avenues related to the issue's question generated by individual responses and by pairing select responses:

1) Taking Hamouda's post together with Kozak's, it occurred to me that someone might defend the lack of diversity in Beauty and the Beast by saying that the story takes place in France, and thus it would be wrong to show, for example, any people of colour. Kozak's post gives us one way to ask them to reconsider - why is fidelity their primary motivation, rather than contemporary relevance?

2) Hellekson's distinction between self-perpetuation and self-interest can help us think about the difference between a fan and a consumer. It seems to me that a consumer follows the logic of profit-driven self-interest, eg someone who feels the need to buy a new cell phone model every time one comes out is following the industry's drive towards planned obsolescence. In contrast, a negative stereotype of fans is that they are people who remain attached to a text or icon beyond the time or scope that the producer intended.

3) Klien and Tieber's points about retro culture can also help us think about the role of fandom self-perpetuation across generations. Despite having lived in North America for a long time, my immigrant status becomes clear every time I do not recognize pop songs from the 60s and 70s in malls, whereas my born-and-raised-in-America friends do. In most cases, their recognition comes from their parents having been fans, who played these songs as they grew up; they have subsequently become fans despite never having watched the bands perform live. Too often we think of popular culture as cutting-edge contemporary culture, and Klien and Tieber enables us to think of nostalgia as a factor that helps fans (literally) reproduce other fans in the form of their children.

4) Scholars of fandom can be characterized as being fans of fans, in which case we also need to examine our motivations for being interested in the fan. It seems that fans allow us to find individual and collective agency and identification in a world where the culture industry is disproportionately powerful to push ideologies and exploit consumers and representative democracy might not be so representative. However, multiple responses discussed how fans have influenced cultural production over time, and this reminds us that while fandom studies is a relatively new field, we would do well to recognize that fandoms have always existed. Accordingly, we should also be open to seeing fandom in action in the past and in different societies, even when their motivations are not our motivations of today. 

October 18, 2016 - 10:19

Thank you for this response, Stephanie. I was thinking of these same questions when I taught on 'plagiarism' through copyright this week in my writing courses. I used the meme below as a way to start talking about issues of production and power. We talked about many of the issues your discussing here, particularly that there are people behind any creative work they find online (including photographs) and that they will assume different roles within these systems at different times (users of other's work, creators of work, distributors…). When we talk about writing through IP, we open up an understanding of the reasons behind rules we follow in the class outside of learning a system of rules.

 

October 18, 2016 - 08:25

I think that this is a very useful way to consider IP in the Writing Center - using a ground-up perspective of how we teach and tutor ethically, from source use all the way up to the ethics of authorship.  While your overview of this challenge is grounded in the structure and reality of the Old Dominion University Writing Center and how the QEP has driven this issue to the forefront, I do believe that many institutions are currently witnessing the same.  I believe that writing support services of all kinds will have to grapple with the complexities of authorship earlier and more broadly in coming years.

The approach of the ODU writing center strikes me as particularly fair and well-grounded.  It provides a great model for how educators struggling with Intellectual Property can often find a solution by returning to their pedagogical ethos and the theory that drives it, as you and your center did with North.  Practical perspectives and models such as this help the writing studies discipline build a body of practices - and literature - to move forward with these increasingly difficult IP and authorship questions.

October 14, 2016 - 19:11

Thanks for this terrific article, Jason! I'm especially glad to hear someone bluntly addressing the challenges of streaming media for fair use. This is a minor note, but my understanding is that violating terms of service actually *is* technically a criminal offense under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and has, on rare occasions, been prosecuted as such (e.g., US v. Drew). This is problematic, as you point out, because violating TOS means the source material is not technically "legally obtained," which is a prerequisite for any exercise of fair use. The EFF has been supporting legislative reform of the CFAA that would decriminalize TOS violations https://www.eff.org/issues/cfaa but as you point out, even if it were legal to do so, it's nearly impossible to rip a high quality stream anyway!

October 12, 2016 - 14:19

As a graduate student at ODU, we now have to pay a significant cost in order to ensure that our Thesis is our property. Otherwise, it is the property of Proquest. So I feel very frustrated in which the way that companies will allow us to use their service, at the cost of taking the intellectual property of the creator. I personally feel very alarmed that we are heading towards a path in which the creator within academia could  lose their rights. But at the same time, without these types of agreements, many of the platforms and services we take for granted would not be a resource. 

I think it's a balancing act and I think that our rights need to not be as convoluted as they are, but more clear and concise. I think that research institutions, like ODU, using PAAS and SAAS should have an information session as to what our rights are and what we lose in using the services. I also think it would help to ask students what would be the best option for their studies, rather than making the decision for them so as to avoid any ideas or works not being unknowingly being lost by the student.
 

Security is also another issue. The firm that is providing the service or platform needs to ensure that their security is state of the art. As we could see on Dropbox, people's accounts and personal information were compromised. When institutions use services, they should be forthcoming as to what information is being used, the security, as well as liability in order to seek damages if one's personal property or identity is taken. 

October 12, 2016 - 14:00

The problem is the individual does not have the resources to levy legal action against those that infringe on their work. As the world continues towards globalization, nation-states suffer the erosion of their own borders.  There is still no true international government, as the UN does not have authority to exercise independently without the approval of other countries. It is instead considered a forum in which people discuss their problems. And while they have laws in place, they do not have any sort of ability to levy charges against the country that is not part of the International Court of Justice. Even countries that are, they could easily leave and avoid going to court. (http://www.icj-cij.org/informationindex.php?p1=7&p2=2)

 So if a country is not partaking in International law, how can one punish those that are part of said countries? It would require some sort of social organization in order to lobby countries to enter binding agreements with one another, which I think is easier said than done. What can be done if the creator's IP is violated within United Sates, however, is to lobby the Electronic Frontier Foundation  EFF—if it's digital—and/or other non-profit organizations to assist individuals with the costs and paperwork to defend what is theirs legally. 

October 12, 2016 - 13:39

I completely agree with you and personally fear if the Libraries continue to ban library books, that the knowledge goes underground. When items become illegal or banned, people will create a market—or some resource—to still retrieve the item. The government, or any institution rather, can have a difficult time in trying to regulate a black market. Prices are not heightened, but so is the discussion. Those who know about the knowledge and have access to it would talk about it outside of the eyes and ears of the public. Information is not free flowing and people are left without the benefits the knowledge can provide.  

In having works being public benefits those who have access—even if it is something we do not necessarily agree with. The knowledge, with the voice of the public, has the ability to disarm any radical viewpoints peacefully. It is why libraries and academia are an important institution to foster as the safe space for all knowledge and works. Without having the institutions that not only give us the ability to learn and become enucleated, these institutions are facilitators in the public expressing our opinions and properly defending them and sift out the "bad" from the "good", with the individual trusted to make good judgments for themselves.  All censoring does is suggest that the common individual cannot make rational decisions on their own behalf. 

October 12, 2016 - 13:06

I agree that companies have exploited the free labor of those that create mods. While this allows the games to live longer and have new content available to the user, it does pose some Intellectual Property (IP) risks as you have explained. I was an individual that was part of the Playstation Portable (PSP) hacking and homebrew scene. While involved in that scene at its infancy, I saw how the community did some internal policing in regards to who made what and who gets the credit. Granted, not every community has the resources or the population to do their own policing and disciplining, so I can see a benefit in these creators using GNU General Public License. The GNU General Public License (GPL) allows an individual to freely distribute, research, and modify it so as long as they give the creator the credit of what they made. Obviously, a company that forces those that mod to buy a license are constrained. This also ignores the fact that people who mod without permission, do not use their full name and instead some alias, preventing them from receiving any credit outside their niche. 

However, I feel that the issue comes into this is the red tape. Depending on how the mod is made and what code is used/method of creating it, I feel that it is difficult to get a GPL because it may infringe on the rights of the creator of the game being modded. So if the modders are to make any headway, laws and the licensing procedures need to be clearer.