Transforming academic and fan cultures

TWC Editor

[0.1] Abstract—Editorial for Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 1 (2008).

[0.2] Keywords—Fan studies; Open access; OTW; TWC; Web 2.0

TWC Editor. 2008. "Transforming academic and fan cultures" [editorial]. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 1. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2008.0071.

1. Introduction

[1.1] The field of fan studies has exploded within the last few years, and with the publication of this first issue of Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), we're pleased to be a part of it. We've seen a shift toward a more introspective acafan model of scholarship, with self-identified fan-scholars publishing work in a variety of venues. The expansion of Web 2.0 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0) and a wired Generation Next (http://people-press.org/report/300/a-portrait-of-generation-next) means that work on fan-related topics, particularly topics related to online interactivity, has immense relevance.

[1.2] TWC, the Organization for Transformative Works (http://transformativeworks.org/) (OTW)'s academic journal, aims to focus on this kind of fan-based interactivity. OTW, a nonprofit organization founded by fans as an advocacy group, also seeks to collect, archive, and contextualize fan works, and the academic journal grows out of OTW's desire to create a theoretical framework that explains and contextualizes fan artifacts. We think that discussion of fans and the derivative artworks they create are culturally meaningful, and the time has come for the creation of a venue to permit discussion and widen the playing field. We want to provide a place where the fan and the scholar come together—perhaps in the same person, perhaps not, but always with an eye to analyzing fans and their contributions to culture.

[1.3] The last 15 years have seen a disciplinary expansion. Early fan studies grew out of media studies and ethnography, but today, historians, folklorists, and literary scholars are just as likely to write about fans, bringing with them exciting new critical frameworks and different methodologies. We hope—as the first issue of TWC demonstrates—that the interdisciplinary scope of the journal establishes a space where scholars from different disciplines can meet and share their various approaches. It's also an invitation for others to see the breadth of the field, learn of its relevance to other areas of study, and add new ideas.

[1.4] In addition to providing a forum for essays, TWC, as an online-only journal, has the potential to be excitingly multimedia. Essays in this issue contain screencaps, embedded videos, audio clips, and hyperlinks. Our reading of fair use (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/about/submissions#copyrightNotice) means that TWC is able to consider essays that other journals will not. We hope that this will inspire authors to write essays that wouldn't be publishable in other venues.

2. Open access

[2.1] It isn't just the ideas expressed in this first issue's essays, reviews, and interviews that excite us—although they do, with submissions from acafans, journalists, and creative writers that run the gamut from personal essay to deeply theorized academic writing. Fan culture has long struggled with issues surrounding copyright, generating many a heated discussion about the legality of derivative artworks such as fanfic. In addition, access by nonacademics to academic texts has been made unnecessarily difficult. We think it's important that knowledge not be locked away behind university subscriptions and password-protected access.

[2.2] TWC has therefore chosen to copyright under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). Our commitment to open access (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/about/editorialPolicies#openAccessPolicy) guarantees that the research TWC publishes will be available to all, including and especially the fan communities that are the subjects of many of the essays. TWC's copyright guarantees that the ideas presented in TWC are freely shareable: the content may be reposted anywhere with proper credit. To ensure that the content is as widely read as possible, TWC indexes through EBSCO (along with several other services) and files metadata with DOI (http://www.doi.org/) to make sure that the URLs to the essays will persist. In fact, we chose to use an open access system for our software as well: Open Journal Systems (http://pkp.sfu.ca/?q=ojs), which is part of the Public Knowledge Project.

3. Theory

[3.1] The peer-reviewed Theory section of TWC is traditionally academic. In this issue, the Theory section exhibits the range of content and theoretical approaches within current fan studies. De Kosnik's analysis of the current political landscape, Stein's contribution to genre theory, Kustritz's engagement with gender and queer theory, and Coppa's documentation of an important part of fan vidding history show how broadly fans and fan theories can and must be understood. Abigail De Kosnik's "Participatory Democracy and Hillary Clinton's Marginalized Fandom" applies fan theoretical models to contemporary Democratic political behavior. She reads Obama supporters as a dominant fandom and explains the strong emotional responses among many Clinton voters through the lens of marginalized fandom. This essay demonstrates how fan theory can be utilized in other disciplinary arenas—here, applied to the political arena to explain patterns of behavior while calling for a critique that could strengthen participatory democracy.

[3.2] Louisa Ellen Stein's "'Emotions-Only' Versus 'Special People': Genre in Fan Discourse" uses the case study of Roswell and its fan discourses to stage an intervention in genre theory. By arguing for genre as a set of discursive threads that include not only the TV text but also production and fan authorship, Stein suggests that such an understanding allows for more differentiated readings of fan conversations. The essay looks at the complex responses of Roswell fans to the story lines and marketing strategies, and it suggests the importance of listening to fans' complex engagements with genre discourse.

[3.3] Anne Kustritz's "Painful Pleasures: Sacrifice, Consent, and the Resignification of BDSM Symbolism in The Story of O and The Story of Obi" uses a close reading of two short novels—one an erotic classic, the other an homage and fan classic—to explore the role of BDSM discourse and symbolism within general and fannish contexts. By focusing in particular on the feminist and queer inflections of the fan story, Kustritz suggests that BDSM in fan discourse offers a multidirectional interrogation of power and its erotic force within and outside of the narrative itself.

[3.4] Francesca Coppa's "Women, Star Trek, and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding" offers an historical overview of the beginnings of fannish vidding culture as well as an interpretive framework to understand fan vids. By tracing current fan vidding practices to an originary interpretive and identificatory place in the reception of Star Trek, Coppa locates fan vidding as a deeply feminist endeavor, one that melds the desiring body and the technological mind. Vids are fundamentally different from more contemporary user-generated content in the way the vids' creators engage critically and theoretically with the media text. Vids thus require a different analytic and interpretive approach, even as they partake in current remediation and remixing culture.

4. Praxis

[4.1] TWC's peer-reviewed Praxis section uses theoretical frameworks to make an important point about a specific text, fandom, or cultural event. TWC's first issue presents a wide range of topics: Tosenberger writes on classic TV fandom, Ashby film anime, Ford soap operas, and Arnzen horror and pedagogy. Madeline Ashby's "Ownership, Authority, and the Body: Does Antifanfic Sentiment Reflect Posthuman Anxiety?" uses specific anime films as metaphor for the role of women's writing online. Ashby uses the image of the cyborg, literally and figuratively, to explore fan subjectivity, copyright concerns, and the bodies of and in texts as she offers a close reading of several anime texts and sketches them onto fannish responses. Michael A. Arnzen's "The Unlearning: Horror and Transformative Theory" offers a practical pedagogical piece that uses a particular classroom writing exercise revolving around horror texts to indicate the central importance of transformation in writing as well as in the emotional and intellectual responses to genre texts, and how these transformative responses ultimately become teaching tools.

[4.2] Catherine Tosenberger's "'The Epic Love Story of Sam and Dean': Supernatural, Queer Readings, and the Romance of Incestuous Fan Fiction" illustrates how close readings of fan fiction can serve as analysis of the show itself. By reading the fan fiction's preferred central incestuous pairing within the literary context of Gothic horror, Tosenberger concludes that far from countering the show's internal logic, such a reading expands and supports many of the show's internal plot points. She reads fan fiction with and against the show and the fandom to show how fan creativity can provide crucial interpretive and corrective moments for fans. And Sam Ford's "Soap Operas and the History of Fan Discussion" offers a historical account of fan discourses in soap opera fandom, showing the conceptual continuity between pre-Internet social networks and contemporary online community. Ford illustrates the relevance of historical accounts and argues that pre-Internet infrastructure is vital to understanding current discourses.

5. Symposium

[5.1] TWC's Symposium section was designed as a fluid category for fannish meta and personal essays. We want many voices to be heard, including nonacademic ones. Fan communities have been producing complex and insightful discussion for years. However, their publication in specialized zines, mailing lists, and blogs has meant that the content has too often been inaccessible and unknown to outsiders, meaning that academic study of fan texts and cultures has failed to take into account communities' discussion of their own activities.

[5.2] Symposium seeks to fill this gap by widening the audience for what fans call meta. The section's name is an homage to the Fanfic Symposium (http://www.trickster.org/symposium/), a Web site that archives media fans' essays about fandom. This section in particular provides a platform to bring nonacademic discussion into conversation with institutionally located scholarship on transformative works and cultures. Submissions on fans, texts, and communities don't have the institutional requirements—and limitations—of the peer-reviewed sections of TWC. This issue features three essays that analyze the conditions of production for meta discussion in media fandom, and we invite you to listen in on an academic conference panel where acafans discuss some of the conflicts and contradictions in contemporary fan studies.

[5.3] In TWC's first issue, we think it's particularly relevant that the Symposium pieces focus on the role of fans and academics in fan culture and on the way recent changes in fan and academic spaces have affected fannish and scholarly discourses. Dana L. Bode's "And Now, a Word from the Amateurs" opens the conversation between fans, acafans, and academics with one journalist fan's personal exploration of conflict and conversation in online discourse. Rebecca Lucy Busker's "On Symposia: LiveJournal and the Shape of Fannish Discourse" focuses more specifically on fannish meta discourses and the particular ways LiveJournal's interface has shaped and affected style and content, the way it has changed fannish interaction, and the way fans theorize themselves. Cathy Cupitt's "Nothing but Net: When Cultures Collide" deals with similar issues from a more academic perspective as she looks at the changes digital media have wrought in fan and academic spheres and the ways they intersect. The final Symposium piece showcases the journal's multimedia component. In "Fan Labor Audio Feature Introduction," Bob Rehak frames and presents a recording of a workshop at Console-ing Passions 2008, which itself responds to the series of conversations about gender and fan studies held in Henry Jenkins's blog in summer 2007.

6. Interviews and reviews

[6.1] This issue of TWC features three interviews that showcase the national, disciplinary, thematic, and theoretical scope we envision. Henry Jenkins, cofounder and codirector of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and one of the most prolific and influential academics in fan studies, discusses his work, the future of fan studies, and the role of fans in contemporary media and academic discourses. Veruska Sabucco interviews one member of the Italian writing collective known as Wu Ming. Wu Ming 1 traces surprising similarities between this activist project and fan writing in terms of collective authorship, copyrights concerns, and popular culture. And the three members of the Audre Lorde of the Rings, an unofficial conglomeration of academics, artists, and activists who pay attention to the queered and racialized pleasures and pains of popular culture, talk about the relationship of their blog, Oh!Industry, to academia, fannishness, and informal knowledge production.

[6.2] The reviews in this issue focus on some recent academic books on fans, fan cultures, fan works, and their surrounding infrastructures. They include Cornel Sandvoss's Fans (reviewed by Eve Marie Taggart) and Rhiannon Bury's Cyberspaces of Our Own (Katarina Maria Hjärpe), both of which focus on fans and fan cultures; Sharon Marie Ross and Louisa Ellen Stein's edited collection, Teen Television (Mary Dalton), with its interest in specific TV texts and their surrounding fandoms; and Paul Gillin's The New Influencers (Barna William Donovan), which situates fan culture in the larger online framework of the blogosphere. We aim to provide reviews of recent books and other media targeted to both the academic and the fan audiences to extend the conversation on fan-relevant topics.

7. Conclusion

[7.1] TWC's first issue only hints at what may be possible with this forum. Readers interested in writing should consult TWC's submission guidelines (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions). We also encourage readers to register: registered readers will get an e-mail when a new issue comes out, and it will also help us learn what our "circulation" is (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/user/register).

[7.2] We want more fan engagement; we want essays that engage OTW from all sides; we want personal essays that muse about what it means to be a fan and a member of a fan community; we want to provide a home for writing that explores transformation and culture—in the more familiar realms of U.S. media–oriented fan culture and in other global cultural and subcultural locations. TWC is just one place for academics and fans to engage, but we want it to reflect the rich diversity of voices and the bedlam of lack of consensus. We hope that these essays will pique your interest and spark discussion; we also hope that readers will engage with the authors by using the Comment feature of the software to leave their remarks, so we can engage in dialogue.

8. Acknowledgments

[8.1] The following people worked on TWC No. 1 in an editorial capacity: Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson (editors); Cole J. Banning, Alexis Lothian, and Julie Levin Russo (Symposium); and Deborah Kaplan, Mafalda Stasi, and Cynthia W. Walker (Review). Busse, Hellekson, Lothian, and Stasi also worked on the interviews.

[8.2] The following people worked on TWC No. 1 in a production capacity: Karen Hellekson (production editor); Margie Gillis, Shoshanna Green, and Mara Greengrass (copyeditors); Rrain Prior (layout); and Liza Q. Wirtz (proofreader).

[8.3] TWC thanks the journal project's OTW board liaison, Francesca Coppa. OTW provides financial support and server space to TWC but is not involved in any way in the content of the journal, which is editorially independent.

[8.4] TWC thanks all its board members as well as the additional peer reviewers who provided service for TWC No. 1: Rebecca Lucy Busker, Rebecca Carlson, Ian Hunter, Craig Jacobsen, Rachel Maines, Joe Sanders, Helen Sheumaker, Sarah Toton, Rebecca Tushnet, and Shannon White.

License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), ISSN 1941-2258, is an online-only Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works. TWC is a member of DOAJ. Contact the Editor with questions.