Presenting at FanLIS 2022: Fan Futures – Beyond the Archive

The FanLIS Project at the Department of Library & Information Science at City, University of London is dedicated to bringing together fan studies and library information science. Their second symposium, FanLIS 2022: Fan Futures – Beyond the Archive took place last week online, and we are very happy to have been able to once again present our work here and participate in this amazing event.

Explaining this year’s theme, “Beyond the Archive”, Ludi Price drew attention to the following points in her opening address: The archive has traditionally been a meeting point for LIS and fans and fan studies. Furthermore, fans have always been interested in telling their story, and the archive has played an important role in this. The archive has also been the place where fans and LIS professionals come together, for example in the preservation work of fanzines. In fact, fans are often collectors and archivists themselves. Indeed, the latest issue of Transformative Works and Culture, Vol. 37: Fandom Histories has a range of articles on how archives are both made for/by their various fandoms but also play a role in creating those very fandoms themselves. The goal of this year’s symposium was to move even further in this direction of exploring the relationship between fans and archives, examining how fans transgress, rework and innovate the archive.

The first panel started with Susrita Das discussing stan Twitter threads as micro archives, highlighting BTS fans’ organization of threads according to themes such as shipping or idol-fan interactions in Creating threads, making archives: a study of organizing and indexing practices around idols’ photos on Twitter. Next, in Archiving as a foundation of fansubbing: a case study on fan-made translation of Virtual Youtuber’s videos and streaming in China Jincai Jiang explained how archiving is an integral part of the workflow during the various stages of fansubbing from planning to production and release, and pointed out how even a simple spreadsheet can be seen as an archive of, for example, the division of labour in fansubbing. In the third presentation of the panel, Archival maintenance as a means of preserving a fandom’s legacy Nicole Neece introduced the ways newer fans engage with older fan fiction works in The X-Files fandom, and explained how initiatives like X-Libris help combine the materials from older archives with the capabilities of newer search technologies. Finally, in Suzanne R. Black‘s presentation ‘Princes of the New World’: fanfiction archives as machines for generating fictional worlds not only did we learn that Black Sails is actually a prequel to Treasure Island, but were also treated to an excellent discussion of fanfics’ ability to part take in resisting or replicating structural inequalities in the real world, and the role of tags in making things visible and invisible on, for example, AO3.

The second panel started with a duo of presentations that probably left most of us wanting to try our hands at book binding and/or coveting gorgeous bespoke volumes of the finest fan fiction out there. First, Naomi Jacobs and JSA Lowe introduced us to the amazing hand-crafted physical versions of the acclaimed fanfic masterpiece Down to Agincourt and discussed the many reasons for wanting to have beautiful physical copies of one’s favourite fanfic works in The design of printed fanfiction: Down to Agincourt and fanbinding as affective practice. This was followed by Shira Buchsbaum and Kimberly Kennedy‘s Fanbinding and community generated information circuit, in which they explained how the Discord based community of fanbinders, Renegade Bindary operates in line with the concept of ‘gifted labour’, sharing knowledge, resources and offering support and motivation, the latter also in the form of communal challenges, events and projects. While fanbinding generates connections in the space of fandom around the creation of physical objects, in the closing presentation of the panel, Crossover fic and the crux of fan object circulation Alex Xanthoudakis explored how crossover fanfiction contributes to establishing new linkages among different fandoms, offering both a taxonomy of the types of crossover stories and an enumeration of the conditions that give rise to these works of fanfic.

Panel three on the second day started with Zoltan Kacsuk presenting our contribution Exploring the commonalities and differences in descriptive metadata databases compiled by online fan and enthusiast communities and public administration agencies using the Japanese Visual Media Graph (the slides can be found at the end of this post). Next Mikael Gyhagen introduced us to the various ways users employ bookmarking on AO3 and also highlighted the potential impermanence of bookmarks and the challenges this entails for researching them in “Comments in tags”: exploring bookmarking cultures on AO3. Finally, in Fanwork communication through social media: a dynamic practice of celebrity fans Qiuyan Guo explained how fans organize digital relays as well as the distribution of peripheral materials via social media through the example of the Ayanga & Zheng Yunlong fandom.

Panel four started with Colin Porlezza and Eleonora Benecchi‘s presentation “I prefer to report on my subjects while I’m dressed like them…”: fan journalism and the centrality of relationships dealing with the special position of fan journalists – who are experts in their field and often dedicated to fighting mainstream stereotypes – from their motivations to values and role conceptions, drawing attention to the importance of honesty and transparency along with the ability to keep a distance while staying connected with the community. Although the theme of learning in fan communities had already been touched on regarding fanbinding practices, it took center stage in Kimberly Hirsh‘s presentation Where’d you get those Nightcrawler hands? The information literacy practices of cosplayers, in which she highlighted the significance of trial-and-error as a source of valuable information for cosplayers in relation to their craft, as well as the way members of the community interact with each other repeatedly in various online and in-person contexts, which all have their own specific affordances.

Casey Fiesler‘s keynote address Growing our own: The past and future of fandom, platforms, and policy offered a sweeping overview of the evolution of the online platform use and later creation of fan communities. Fans were often not welcome on the sites/platforms that they adopted for communicating and posting their creations. And while the draw of the new often played a role in the migration of fan communities, the inhospitable policy decisions and misplaced business considerations of sites/platforms often pushed fans to look for new online homes, which culminated in the call for the creation of an Archive of Our Own. The importance of AO3, however, goes beyond just the platform itself. Explaining the chilling effect content removal has on fan production Fiesler pointed out how the Organization for Transformative Works also helps to fight cases where fan works are taken down for copyright reasons. Furthermore, and once again highlighting the theme of learning in fan communities, the efforts around AO3 have also contributed to more people learning to code so that they can participate in growing and maintaining the platform. Indeed, fan interests from creating websites to modding games has been a source of motivation for fans to acquire new IT skills for a long time, but with AO3 came the realization for the need to foster the development of these skills among community members for the long-term sustainability and independence of the project. Another resource that AO3 and the future of fandom in general can draw on is the presence of social activism and social media skills in fan cultures. Leading on from this, in closing Fiesler emphasized that the mentality of “growing our own” and the ability to draw on so many types of expertise and activities within fandom is possibly where the future of fandom lies.

Similar to the first FanLIS event the symposium once again featured an incredibly lively chat buzzing with excitement and ideas throughout every presentation, creating a truly unique online conference experience. We would like to thank the organizers, Ludi Price and Lyn Robinson, as well as all the presenters and audience members for this wonderful event, and we are very much looking forward to FanLIS 2023 next May!


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