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Temba, his arms wide… - Morgan Dawn Livejournal:The Here And Now
The Here And Now
Temba, his arms wide…

A while back I did a series of posts about how technology has shaped – and continues to shape – our fandom culture: here,  here and here.   The short version: We do not use technology, technology uses us.  And I am not alone in blogging about this.

I came across two interesting posts discussing fandom’s migration to newer platforms and think they both fit into my belief that fandom needs to recognize the larger social and technological forces shaping our community.


First up, a fan discusses how twitter hinders fan communication

The mix of locked and public accounts, trying to follow multi-branching conversations when sometimes you can’t see what half the people are saying, and of course the character limit are all huge obstacles to good fandom discussion.....Twitter has the extra wrinkle of locked accounts, especially in RPF fandoms where harassment from “mainstream” fans of the sport/movie/musician/etc is a very real possibility. It’s understandable, but since locking is a binary, all or nothing situation, it has the effect of first isolating a locked account and then, when they’ve become a sufficiently big presence in a circle of fandom Twitter accounts, isolating newcomers from that portion of the discussion.


Next up:   a fan argues that Tumblr benefits both visual and text based fan whereas LJ mainly benefited text base fans (as a text based fan I can say that – for me – Tumblr does not work as a method of discussing with other text based fans. But that is a side point to her main point.*)


“……what I mean by that is, I see a lot of posts, primarily from writerly types, talking about how much they miss LJ and how much better it was and how the friends from LJ are the best friends they’ve ever made and stuff like that, which is fine, as someone who cut their teeth on LJ myself, I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t think they realize that tumblr—for all its many, many flaws—has made fandom participation much more accessible to nonwriter types than LJ ever was. if you didn’t write on LJ, you didn’t get noticed, you didn’t get the attention and the lifelong friends and people caring about your not-fic writing, because you just didn’t get that exposure. the same is true of tumblr, to a degree, given the creation-based nature of fandom in general [and there’s a whole other meta post to be had about fandom culture’s dirty little secret of not caring about people unless they produce content, but I’m not going to go into that here], but the difference is, on tumblr, if you can’t write creatively [like me /coughs], there are a far wider variety of entry points; gifs were functionally unknown on LJ, but on here gifmakers get a fuckton of attention, as do graphics makers, meta writers, and [admittedly to a lesser extent] vidders, and fanart has a wider platform on which to reach people…..

……this obviously has a great deal to do with the nature of the platform on which fandom conducts its activities;
 LJ was text based, so text-based content creation was king, and tumblr is image based, so image-based content gets more attention this way, but the main difference, in my view, is that LJ only had text, which resulted in written content dominating to the point of near total exclusion of nonwriters… I suspect the people singing LJ’s praises didn’t experience how isolating it could be if you didn’t produce the kind of content favored by the platform at the time. Meanwhile the relationships I’ve made on tumblr as a result of a major form of fandom interaction finally shifting to something I’m capable of doing are just as longlasting as the relationships made between writers on LJ, and I bristle a bit at the implication that they’re not.”

My thought:  when we use platforms designed by commercial entities for their own purposes, we end up absorbing some of their cultural DNA – this is not necessarily a bad thing and has been going on since the early days of Fandom Dodos (fanzines and mimeo machines oh my!) through the early days of UseNet and bulletin boards across mailing lists and into today.  But until we own the platforms; until we design them to meet our needs, we are influenced by these commercial forces in ways we often fail to examine or understand. And because we fail to understand how external forces are shaping and reshaping us, we tend to lose sight that we, as a community, do have agency. We also run the risk of losing the ability to both talk about ourselves and to ourselves in ways that bring us together.


Which is why AO3 (Archive of our Own) speaks to me on so many levels. “We own the servers” is not just a slogan – it is philosophical world view that peers into our future and says:  “Oh shit, that’s one big tidal wave coming down on us. Let’s build a boat. And if we get wet, we’ll get wet together.“  


And which is why I wish that we had better tools to communicate with our fellow fans – ones that did not encourage us to limit and self-segregate us or force us into creating artificial divisions. I am a text based fan – but I am also a vidder and can communicate visually.  I like having more privacy controls  – but I may, or may not use them, understanding that with every “locked” tweet or post I am locking myself away. I like to blog about fandom – but also about art and music and politics and social change and kittens. I love it when people tag their posts (easier to find what I want when I want it), but I don’t object to tagless posts.  I see myself as a media fan while also acknowledging that many fans who are part of my community do not identify themselves that way.


In conclusion:  


*Edited: the original post focused on tumblr as a medium for content creation and not as a medium for communication. I quoted however a bit more of the original post now that I've removed the link. [A Dreamwidth post with comment count unavailable comments | Post or read on Dreamwidth| How to use OpenID]

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3 comments or Leave a comment
metanewsmods From: metanewsmods Date: May 28th, 2015 01:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Hello! May we link this on metanews?
morgandawn From: morgandawn Date: May 28th, 2015 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
yes, feel free to do so.
meridian_rose From: meridian_rose Date: June 5th, 2015 06:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I find Tumblr is all about reblogging - it's nearly impossible to follow discussions though - and content creation isn't really valued beyond "pretty gif". There are attempts with the "edit" tags to flag new creations but it's still not a great way to find/follow/be found, though I do my best to promote content I've posted elsewhere. And I believe strongly that fanfic longer than a drabble does not belong on Tumblr; AO3 (And the OTW overall is amazing as you point out) is my first choice, along with LJ and DW, and though I use it less now, FF.net. Make cover art and promote it on Tumblr, but don't post 5k fanfic there.
I believe LJ/DW allows for deeper bonds because you can share things - personal posts, photos, original fic - with selected users via the filtering. Because you don't have to repost an entire post to reply to a comment. Because I'll share f-locked meta I wouldn't dare post to Tumblr because the culture there is so loud and violent seeming in contrast to the journal based sites. I know LJ has and will have drama/wank but one wrong move on Tumblr can see people hounded off the site and receive all sorts of hatemail in volume unknown to the journal community.
At my journal I can also post fanfic, meta, embeds of vids, graphics, rec lists, fanmixes, and anything else all in one place, tagged so it can be found later. AO3 does allow vid and image hosting but it's not a one-stop and nor should it be; personal entries and rec lists belong elsewhere.
At LJ/DW I can follow a conversation at a post with threaded replies, rather than trying to hunt through deleted posts and missing posts because someone's changed their user name for the tenth time.
The name change thing is a major reason I feel Tumblr is ephemeral; we're not supposed to create or care or bond, it's a glossy magazine you skim and recycle. Where journals, like AO3, are meant to be at least semi-permanent, where we can consider, discuss, bookmark, revisit.
But I have a lot of feelings about Tumblr vs LJ and where the pros and cons are for each, and I keep revisiting it. So I'm always glad to see other people discussing it too :)
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