Thursday, September 01, 2005

Week 8: Fan Culture & The Origins of Participatory Culture

Hello! This week we shall be delving into the deeply fascinating, and sometimes deeply disturbing, world of fan culture.

Fan culture has existed for a loooong, looooooong time but, with the development of digital technology and the internet, has recently moved into a whole new playing field. Fans, who have long sought the expansion of particular 'narrative universes' so they can relate to and interact with them in new ways, can be considered pioneers in testing the boundaries of, and expanding upon, the interactive capabilities of new technology especially in relation to creative production and broadcast. What was once private creativity has stepped into the public sphere. The tools of production that were once only in the hands of a few are now available to more people than ever before. One of the reasons why fans are so important to the growth of participatory culture is because, due to their realm of interest, they picked up the tools and started creating. Whether it be websites, fan fiction, digital film or the creation of online communities, fans have helped take mainstream media products (and the potential of new technologies) to the next level.

[X] This is a general intro into fan culture, specifically the different categories of fan fiction. Just skim through this and use it as a point of reference if you get confused by any of the categories of fan fiction mentioned in the readings:

[X] "Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?:Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture" by Henry Jenkins at:
This article is really useful, he just lays it all out. At the end there are links to fan films and it would be good to look at one of the ones he mentions, as there are just soooooo many out there!

[X] 'Star Wars and the Fracas Over Fan Films.'

This is an interview with Henry Jenkins about his thoughts on fan culture, Lucasfilm, Star Trek and Viacom.

[X] 'Private Uses of Cyberspace: Women, Desire, and Fan Culture' by Sharon Cumberland
I thought this was an interesting look at erotica and the internet. As much as people (eg. grand theft auto situation) want to ignore it, the ease with which users can appropriate new identities on the net makes it(for some) the perfect forum to explore unexpressed desires, fantasies etc. Cumberland relates what she perceives as the liberating effects of anonymity specifically to fan culture and some of its' female-authored fiction. (But don't worry -there aren't any excerpts of it in this article!)

The above are the core readings, below are some things to look at/try if you have extra time or if your curiosity is piqued: This site gives awards for the worst -ie. the most fawning andworshipping- of celebrity fansites. Do these give fan culture a bad name? If fan culture is an expansion of a professionally-produced 'narrative universe' so fans can interact with it in a grass-roots way, what is the deal with celebrity fan sites?

To show how massive fan culture is on the net (as if you don't already know!) using any search engine type in any of the following and see how many sites appear: Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy, Lord of the Rings. To see many fan films on almost anything that has ever been on TV.

"Before the Holodeck: Translating Star Trek Into Digital Media." by Janet Murray and Henry Jenkins (It's really an excuse to read about Star Trek.)


[X] How have fans helped pioneer participatory culture and what forces does Jenkins see as threatening its development?

[X] What are some of the ways in which internet fan culture could be said to influence mainstream media? (Eg. The franchise obsession and which films do and do not get the go-ahead.) And vice versa?

[X] Fan culture can be said to have the potential to explore and question ideologies of mass culture. Does it? Why/why not?

[X] What is the future of digital fan-filmmaking?


Blogger Hilary said...

its meant to be in colour ;)
Since its erotic I think you should make the text reflect that in colour....maybe some red...mixed with black...
go for it!

Fri Sep 02, 03:52:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

oh oh and its so nice to see i've had an influence on you with the Wiki article ;)

Fri Sep 02, 04:13:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

haha your erotic article is actually something I will read for my 'erotic thesis' on slash and masculinity!
thankyou :)

Sun Sep 04, 04:00:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sun Sep 04, 08:21:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

I'm sorry about the lack of exciting colurs, but I'm pleased that it has been noted! I love the colour but I feared that I would try it and, being the novice that I am in all things bloggy, I would somehow create a rift in the time-space continuum.

And I knew that reading would come in handy for you and your thesis Hilary! :)

Sun Sep 04, 11:26:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Hey Liz,
Just to say I thoroughly enjoyed your seminar today, I think the readings were great and we got into some really interesting issues!!
It was also good, cos your struggle with phrasing your clever and interesting questions probably prompted us to think a bit more!!
I shall write my official comment later, but just to say good job!
Oh and I loved "Lucas in Love" was so funny.....:P
I cant believe how quickly uni is going guys! :(

Wed Sep 07, 09:06:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

As for this week's discussions, aside from the whole "George Lucas fan" aspect, I was quite surprised how a considerable number of matured women had interest in erotica...more of a shock I'd say after reading "Private Uses of Cyberspace: Women, Desire, and Fan Culture". I had always naively believed that those sexual lusts were for men...well I suppose if women indeed have those lusts, this cyberspace serve a good purpose in allowing women to express and explore such desires which is far more harmless than implementing it in real life:(


Thu Sep 08, 08:59:00 am 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Gwen why did you remove your comment?
Anyway, so my thoughts on this seminar are as follows, and this IS going to be short:

I think that fan culture offers and important break in the dichotomy that has arisen between producers and consumers. Fan fiction and film, offers a space for the 'consumers' to interact and explore cultural products, and to maybe bring them back into a more productive 'folkore/culture' type environment. I think its important for producers to recognise the right of fan culture and fan produced cultural products, and to realise that when they create something, that beyond their own rights to intellectual property and copyright law, that society has a right to. Every great story takes from those that came before it, and in the instance of fan culture, people are contributing to the continual production of great stories, and forming and enviroment in which creative people can work.
That said, I still think that on an abstract level an producer (or an artist in the cases we have been considering ie a writer,filmmaker etc) should always be respected, and at times I think fans would do well to consider their emotions and rights regarding an authors work. WHile I dont necessarily agree with JK Rowlings total crackdown on Slash writers, I think it is reasonable to expect her to have a vested interest in keeping her ORIGINALLY INTENDED childrens tale from being taken down paths previously unimagined by her.
I think Fan Culture has an important place in society, and definatly in society's future, but I still think there is a way to go before everybodies interests can be managed and respected.
CHeers Liz, and thanks again for a enjoyable seminar.

Sun Sep 11, 09:32:00 am 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Ok, please note the following grammatical and spelling fixes:

'a producer'

And what I mean by 'previously unimagined by her'.
Well, I think JK Rowling may simply be taking the view that there is no room for what may at times be considered 'sexually explicit' fan produced writing in response to a children's work, featuring mainly 'child' aged characters. WHy fan culture may have an important role in subverting dominant ideological beliefs implicit in texts, one could argue that a Slash reading in THIS instance may not be entirely appropriate.
That said, I still think people have a right to read an interpret a text in their own way.
Its a hard situation to call, I think both sides have an equal right in this instance!

Sun Sep 11, 09:42:00 am 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

Hey all,

Regarding to J.K Rowling and her objection to slash fiction, I think it was inevitable that her characters be involve in erotica storylines. It is after all, slash fiction. She should and must expect these extremism.

After all, it is these stories that broaden the possibility of future storylines (even if serving just as inspiration/food for thought etc)Not to mention keeping the vibe/fad/morale up of both the author and the fans.

Ultimately, if an author does not like what's been published by the fans, they can CHOOSE not to read them at all. Out of sight, out of mind ;)

Sun Sep 11, 01:02:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Hi guys,

I found the implications of this week's topic particularly interesting given my focus on writing as a future career. The thought that someone could use the characters and world you so carefully create and take ownership by involving them in new own stories is certainly challenging from a writer's personal perspective.

However, from the perspective of participatory culture, I would certainly agree that fan fiction/films give the wider community a chance to further their investement in a way which can be mutually benificial for both official creator and fan creators. One example, which I've noticed during my current adventures on ebay, is the amount of unauthorised creativity invested in the British comedy series Little Britain. Ebayers have made replica dolls, badges, pins, full costumes, posters, mugs, all slightly dodgy, but created with true enthusiasm.

There is an undeniable charm to ideas, products, and stories created by people who are driven by enjoyment and celebration. When sharing the experience is the focus, rather than making money or self promotion, this can be where true community spirit will flourish. I think it is certainly in the official author/filmmaker's interest to allow and encourage such unofficial involvement, as without a fan-base the product itself is nothing.

Oh, I wanted to see what happened when you removed a comment... so I did. Nothing shameful about that comment, just trying new things :)

Sun Sep 11, 07:51:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Yeah but still, for all those people that liked Noddy and Big Ears stories when they were little kids, they dont like to hear that everybody is having a good ole cackle that Noddy and Big Ears were gay and that they were not wholsome innocent childhood stories...
Ive had some people say, ie older friends of the family, that they were upset to hear people read things like that into a childrens text, because in a way it ruins the 'innocent aspect' of childrens fiction. Afterall there arent many childrens texts where the characters have sex, or have anything indeed considered more than a platonic relationship.
However, lets not get sidetracked on say, a specific homosexual aspect to fan fiction. I would ALSO consider any sexually explicit story written about childrens characters possibly a injustice to the text. Imagine if a community on the net were writing bdsm stories involving hermione and potter? Its a hard thing to judge in consideration of 'Harry Potter' because the stories, although originally intended for children have now become widely read by adults who would therefore have an interest in say writing fan fiction that was of a sexual nature.
The problem I see is not necessarily with Slash fiction, or any erotic fan fiction written about a text, but the implications of such fiction being written ABOUT a CHILDRENS text.
The thing is, that childrens stories are written especially to be seperate from an adult type sphere (in terms of sex and all that) because obviously children would not understand that kind of thing.
It would be interesting to know, whether JK Rowling would have a different view on Slash Fiction if her stories were written about adults for adults anyway?
and I dont think you can ever justify something being written and the author not reading it being the solution, because what happens if someone has taken a photo of you that you dont want on the net, and they have put it on the net, but you never get to see it? It doesnt solve the problem!!
It still has some connection to you, and it is still out there being read/ looked at?
A way to solve this problem, or to come to a form of compromise in my opinion, may be to go back to the old fashion method of fan magazines of a sexual nature of these childrens stories, that could only be sold in specific settings and were not available on the web...or maybe the stories could be slightly adjusted so as not to have a direct reference to the childrens characters?
I dont know, its just an opinion and I am a bit of an old softie for thinking there should be some innocence still left in the world for children that is not connected to sex or violence. Afterall, innocence doesnt last long nowadays...

Sun Sep 11, 08:45:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

hmm, I see your point Hillary, though by imposing certain rules on these fan fictions; it certainly defeats the purpose of what it was intended to be. A form of narration that are unrestricted; that are open to all sorts of storyline possibility by the fans.

I don't know, but 'copyrights issue' and 'creative commons' come into mind. It certainly share many similarities ;)

Anyway, restricting these fictions from web also defeat its very basic foundation of the rise of fan culture. The reason why fan fictions are so popular now days is because of the anonimiy/ease in posting up a person's work.

However I entirely agree with you that we wouldn't want innocent childhood stories be smeared by these acts. Though it is something that is inevitable and expected. Can we stop it? not sure. doubt it

Let's get a debate going! ;)

*ignite flames* hehehe ;)

Sun Sep 11, 10:43:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

haha you know that makes me think
The other day I was checking a website for an article, and it had this link at the bottom saying
I was like, what?!?!?!?!?

but anyway, yeah I like your idea on the whole creative commons thing, and I agree that the whole nature of fan fiction is to bring in ideas or storylines that havent been considered etc and like you say, it is the internet that has created the driving force that is fan fiction today.

I guess that would be a problem in the instance of say Slash erotic fan fictions to remove them from the net, because it often functions as a community through which females interact and create comradship. And this would perhaps be not only destructive on the writing but also the other positive social aspects that are generated from it to remove it from an easily circulate medium...
Its such a tricky issue like you say, because both sides have rights and vested interests in not only the fan fiction but the original text or film that inspired it.
This is going to sound very wrong at an academic level to say, but to me I would see the point of fan fiction and the creativity it generates to be adding to the value of the original text.
and in some circumstances, I think erotic stories about childrens characters may be removing the original value of the text as a childrens tale. (<- this is perhaps very judgemental on my part as to what adds value or detracts from it, but run with me for a second lol)
this isn't necessarily monetry(<-I can't spell) value, its more of an abstract in that say writing an erotic story with childrens characters may remove the entire purpose of childrens writing, in that it is for children, and if adults do like it that is fair enough, but the domiant audience intended was always for a child and centered around childrens interests.
Again this is all sounding really bad on my part, and i'm probably voicing the beliefs of the 'people who dont move with the times' lol :P
I just think there needs to be a halfway point where authors and fan fiction writers interests can meet, and it shouldn't necessarily be the case that one or the other has the 'upper hand' so to speak.
I guess that could be were such things as creative commons come in. Cos traditional copyright law as we have already discussed doesn't leave much room for the fan writers.
what do you think?

Mon Sep 12, 11:12:00 am 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

Hmm, if we may take 'Harry Potter' as an example. Fans can narrate however and whatever they want, even if it may include 'adult' themes. What I'll say is that these are primarily (i hoped so!) composed by adults, and hence are 'meant' to be distributed and view by other adults.

If a children is reading it, well..he/she got to the wrong website ;)

I guess you can relate this to the exact problem faced in internet pornography. Access to these materials are meant for adults only, yet there is a risk of some nosy kid stumbling onto them. (blame the lack of protection to safeguard minors)

Perhaps what they could do is (i'm refering to slash fiction websites btw)putting up a front page advising viewers that what they are about to view might have a 'nauseating/sickening/interesting/scary/something' effect. Viewers have to be 18 or above to enter blah blah blah.

That way viewers are notified beforehand, and are held responsible for their actions. (so no more ranting or 'oh gawd, look what they've done to potter')

This might be abit silly (hehe), but as for the author viewing the material, there could be a disclaimer that says "by entering this website you acknowledge the fact that we might have change some bits and pieces of your work. If you have any objection, please click here(divert to google or something)' hehehehe ;P

Mon Sep 12, 07:24:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

ah yes, but pornography is PORNOGRPAHY!
its by adults, for adults, with adults (or erm, animals or what have you...I mean, we hope it is with adults or that could all be going down a wrong and disturbing and disgusting path which for the sake of this discussion is not necessary lol)
anyway, yes. I mean, the whole safegaurd feature of putting it on and adult restricted site IS a good idea and a fair point.And i think that is something that would be worthwhile doing, which I am sure it is already happening.
however, I think this is getting away from the original dilemma (emotional/moral/whatever) of this childrens text being used in a inappropriate way.
Ok, and once again, let me NOT say this is a specifically SLash oriented objection.
If say we run with the example of porn...and you know, I dont know much about porn but hey.
SO, some porn writing person, thinks it would be a great idea to shoot a porn flick that is say the story of harry potter, but instead of the noraml harry potter story it becomes some huge sex story of 'wands' and all that.
Now, most people would probably say that is in bad taste, and luckily, being a porn film, it will be pushed down into the 'underground' and not heard about unless you are active in porn circles.
Now although this is pretty crummy 'creative rework' or fan type creation by a porn writer, I think it has much less potential to do harm to say the author and other fans, because it is a specific and restricted work.
Its highly unlikely that a child would come across this work, or either any other fan unless they were also intersted in porn and would be unoffended.
but still, its an unpleasant creation in response to a childrens novel.
I dont know whether that made any sense to my argument, or whether it just led to the word 'porn' being written on this blog.
nevertheless, I think you might understand where I am going Andrew?
I think clearly marked sites would be a way to go, because children who are net savy may well participate in fan communities.

Mon Sep 12, 09:22:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

I pass the lighted torch back to you Andrew!
I wonder if anyone else is going to join us?
anything else you want to talk about while we are at it?!

Mon Sep 12, 09:27:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

haha Dear Hillary, there are alot of things we can talk about. Though we should stick to the topic at hand.

I still find it relevant to relate pornography (Whee! here comes the word again) with slash fiction. I can take what you said, change the keyword and it will still sound right ;)


"ah yes, but slash fiction is slash fiction!
its by adults, for adults, with adults "

Furthermore why can't slash fiction be 'specific and restricted work' too? There's no reason why it can't be.

I just googled up the word 'slash fictions' and the 3rd link listed is highly relevant to our discussion. Its about harry potter slash. (surprise surprise!) However I won't post the link here.

If you are interested you can look it up ;)

Additionally there shouldn't be a 'kill all harry potter slash' judgement because there are G-rated slash around. Slash does not necessarily need to have erotic attributes.

If I may quote a sentence from that site. "There are Potter website slash stories that are rated G, where, say, Harry and his best friend, Ron, do nothing more than look longingly across the room at each other."

Regarding the original dilemma of emotional/moral of Harry Potter. I don't know what to say. One can argue that the movies, action figures, games and whatnot that are popping up is an immoral act of cashing in on helpless children. Remember Pikachu? That's a fad. Won't Harry Potter be the same? (not sure if i make sense here, but i'll just throw it in anyway) ;p

*throw the torch back to Hillary* ;)

Tue Sep 13, 12:21:00 am 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

ah Andrew, you are most excellent, what great points!! That is VERY TRUE, not all Slash is classified as being more than G level, it can just be people looking lovingly etc etc. So in the case of the whole Harry Potter scenario with JKRowling, I think there should indeed NOT BE A BLANKET BAN in terms of copryight prosecution on all writers of Slash.
I googled Slash Fiction and on the third site I went to, which I might add didnt have any obvious R -18 restrictions, I found some Harry Potter slash in the archive, one such as this:

Professor Snape's Sex 101
with the tagline of:

"Dumbledore has Snape teaching sex education to the fifth and sixth year boys (I heard that giggle) and Harry, confronting his feelings for the Potions master, plots a offer that Snape cannot refuse.


I am sorry, but WTF!? Ok, now frankly for a childrens story to be taken into some seriously wrong areas....namely, the fact that Harry is a young boy and STUDENT of Snape, who is a far older man and has a duty of care over him. It's just that this text is going into some very wrong areas! It also had no restrictive rating on it.
Its entertaining and creative, but in this instance you could understand why JK Rowling might be somewhat worried about how HER characters are being represented!?
Hell, even i'm worried about how her characters are being represented!
Eventually I found a rating for this story.
I think JK Rowling should allow Slash fiction to be written about her text, but maybe since it is a CHILDRENS STORY it would be wise to keep any slash at a predominantly PG rated classification. Thats not to say that adults cant write the slash, or indeed any other sexually explicit story, but maybe that it should be restricted and not so freely available on the net.
Its hard to really say how I feel on this subject, because I am torn between saying, yes go for it its all creative and its fans and we need this, but also as I have written stories myself and read an entire series of books and loved the characters, I can understand how an author could become horrified at discovering some of what has been written.
You know, star trek slash, LOTR slash, basically any other kind of slash or sexually explicit written fan fiction I am happy with, and I probably would not be so inclined to argue this point. But I just feel that when its a childrens text, something has gone wrong. The characters are children. Cant we just leave a little bit of innocence around for the kids to enjoy?
so that if they go on the net and type in Harry Potter, as many would probably do, they dont have a chance of finding fan stories that involve their favourite characters in adult relationships?
anyway, good point Andrew, and I do agree that maybe this could be an instance where Creative Commons could come in and save the day, so JK ROWLING, could meet with her Slash oriented fans half way, and say "Ok, I allow you to write Slash stories, or indeed simply a Shipper story, but only to a PG level rating due to the nature of my original stories being intended for children"

I would see absolutely nothing wrong with this. And I dont see how fan fiction would be losing out. Also if adults were inclined to produce a porn flick based on Harry, or say write R rated Slash or Shipper fiction, that would be fine AS LONG as there was the right method of distribution.

haha, I have very strong opinions on sex and kids!! damn this topic!

Oh, I am confused about your last paragraph talking about Pikachu? Could you explain it a bit more?

WHat are we going to do when there is no more to discuss and we have a two week break Andrew!! :P

*throws the torch back*
Ow, I think I burnt myself! ;)

Tue Sep 13, 11:38:00 am 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

*dropped the torch and burnt himself* ;O

Hah! We been debating so long I can't really remember what's the question ;P

perhaps I'll agree with you for a change. (let's find something new to argue!) ;P

Aren't there anyone else that are willing to shed some light into this?

About Pikachu, well....i'm just trying to give another example of a highly popularised product/character. I don't know, it probably doesn't make any sense.

You say above-G rated materials can be produce, and as long as there is a proper method of distribution. What will be the method then? Off-line distribution as you have previously suggested?

I still think its possible to restrict minors from reading these adult slash fictions by putting in some kind of safeguards. Such as the need to subscribe to the website and get verification before they are allowed to enter and view the materials. Hence minors will not be able to 'bump into it accidentally'.

Ultimately I don't think you can stop people from writing slash fictions on children text. It is even more difficult stopping them in an online environment. I understand and agreed with you that there are such 'tainted' materials, but we could only advise and caution them. It will be up to them to take it into consideration.

Perhaps there could be some sort of written text by JK Rowling (or any author object to these actions) describing the concern or reluctance of the appearances of these slash fictions. That way it might lessen the number of slash fictions (just to display the fan's respect to the author)

What you reckoned?


I have yet to start on my assignment. ;( Good luck to everyone!

*fling the torch straight back*

Tue Sep 13, 06:18:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

oh dear oh dear Andrew!!! You must get on and do the iGen evaluation!
Naughty boy start it right away!! I've been finishing off mine today, re-editing and doing crap to it :(

Haha, I think we have reached that point in the discussion where we agree (which I think proves what a great discussion we have had)! I think it is impossible to stop people from writing slash and erotic fiction on childrens texts if they become popular with adult audiences, but like you say, I guess the best thing to do would be to make people aware of the authors wishes clearly, and to have some protective measures introduced for children etc

I guess my thoughts on distribution for the more 'adult' fan fics would be through offline distribution yes.

I reckon we should get 110% for our participation eh? and sweeties!!! :P

goodluck with your assignment, Im sure you'll do a great job, just get cracking :P

*puts the torch in a, erm, torch holder to shine brightly until after Andrew has finished his iGen assignment :P*

Tue Sep 13, 07:15:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

This is a very late addition but I agree with the generally expressed sentiment that fan culture is largely responsible for testing the boundaries between traditional 'consumers' and 'producers' and creating a new space for interaction that harnesses and extends the scope and impact of new technologies through making them fun and relevant to pre-existing cultural loyalties/traditions etc.
(To be continued in a sec...)

Mon Oct 31, 05:50:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

That was a very long sentence. I think fan culture's power as a motivator for people to use new technologies is extremely important in the evolution of participatory culture. By allowing people to expand upon a prior relationship to a text through using their own creativity, fanfiction, films etc allow new technologies to be tried, tested and developed and new communities to be forged which rely on an ever-expanding process of information/knowledge exchange related to new media technologies and how to use them.

Mon Oct 31, 06:38:00 pm 2005  

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