Presenting at FanLIS 2021: Building Bridges

Even though we’ve had a string of awesome conference and workshop experiences over the past half a year, now that things have been slowly restarting after all the pandemic related cancellations and postponements, the FanLIS 2021 Symposium: Building Bridges has left us with a very special warm feeling and excited buzz. The enthusiasm, the positivity and the sense of community was so strongly expressed and felt that it was impossible to not get caught up in the excitement that acted as a constant backdrop to the excellent string of presentations.

The aim of the FanLIS Project at the Department of Library & Information Science at City, University of London is to highlight the many interesting intersections between fan studies and library and information science. As Ludi Price, one of the organizers, put it in her symposium opening address “fans are a group of information workers par excellence”, what’s more they are constantly “taking advantage of all the latest technologies and affordances to seek out, share, create and express their fandom.” Thus, understanding their practices and the solutions they have found to problems around information sorting, saving, retrieval and dissemination can help inspire those working in the domain of library and information science. The example brought up by Price is again instructive here: “while LIS has long been busy chewing on how to mitigate the inherent messiness of hashtagging, AO3 has already solved the puzzle with their tag wrangling system.”

We couldn’t have agreed more with this opening address, as the JVMG project itself is premised on this very same notion that the data compiled by fan communities is a rich granular resource that both merits being recognized as such and which can be harnessed to help researchers – working on, for example, Japanese visual media – engage in large-scale quantitative analyses of their subject domains. And the presentations that followed all further cemented this notion of fan communities and fan studies having so much to offer to developments in library and information science.

Beyond the thrilling closing keynote talk by Abigail De Kosnik highlighting many facets of the legal-political-infrastructural struggles that shape the future of our knowledge preserving practices, the symposium featured a wide array of the possible intersections between fan studies and library and information science.

In the first panel Eleonora Benecchi & Colin Porlezza turned a self-reflexive – to the point of even creating a fan studies version of the popular xkcd strip Types of Scientific Papers – spotlight on the descriptive metadata employed in fan studies academic publishing itself in their talk exploring the interdisciplinary and methodological richness of the field. Next, Senan Kiryakos & Magnus Pfeffer explained some of the key features of our data processing and integration workflow as well as the way our custom web frontend helps organize and display the integrated data of the JVMG project (see the presentation slides at the end of this blogpost). Then, Aris Emmanouloudis provided an in-depth dive into the fan community around ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon’, highlighting the way archival practices around even seemingly ephemeral media events such as live streams are foundational to community building. The panel ended with Nele Noppe‘s innovative interactive crowd-sourced presentation, where all symposium participants were invited to share their thoughts and ideas in a collaborative paper on how we could imagine the tools and solutions from fan platforms and communities being used in academic discussions and publication practices.

The second panel started with Alice M. Kelly discussing how it is not just the information organizing methods of fans that academia can stand to benefit from, but, for example, the reading strategies employed by fan readers can also be drawn upon to enrich the toolkit of literary analysis. The panel continued with J. Nicole Miller‘s examination of how the expectations of fan readers in their late teens in relation to library cataloging systems are potentially informed by their experience with information organizing systems they learn to navigate on sites dedicated to fan fiction. And finally, Paul A. Thomas provided a behind the scenes look into the way information authenticity and accuracy are negotiated within fan communities through the example of the discussions around the (re)partitioning of the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time‘s seasons on both Wikipedia and its dedicated fan wiki.

It would be impossible to try and summarize the lively discussions that accompanied all the talks, which speaks volumes of just how engaged everyone at the symposium was. It was almost as if we had been at a live event and not a symposium held online. For anyone interested, videos of all the talks have been uploaded to the conference website here.

We would like to once again thank the organizers, Lyn Robinson and Ludi Price, all the presenters and the audience for this exceptional first event in a series of such smyposia to hopefully follow.