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03 November 2010 @ 10:58 am
my [unpopular] thoughts on FA's attempt to find funding  
[personal profile] seperis has a great post discussing her thoughts on FictionAlley's entry into the Pepsi Refresh Challenge.

(she links to both Unfunny Business post and Fail Fandonanon for more info, and you can follow the trail back to the original FA post if you want.)

Here's my response....
Thank you.

I had a tough time with this one last night when I started to see posts talking bout how shameful FA was, and while I completely disagree with the language FA is using to legitimize their request, it seems to me that there is a fundamental and institutionalized (if we can call fandom an institution, which ok, i know i'm reaching, still) feeling that what we as members of fandom are doing is somehow not at all a life enriching activity. It's just porn.

Again, however, I'm not trying to say that it's on the same level as building ramps for physically disabled kids to get into their school, BUT,

Part of the cultural discourse around fandom and fandom projects is that we often get labeled as 'frivilous', 'meaninless', 'time wasting', or even 'addictive'. And we've been trying for years to change those views and to legitimize fandom activities to the outside world as sources of community, support, healthy exploration of sexuality, creative expression. I firmly believe that fandom can be both positive and negative - a kind of community that has educational components but also a community that is problematic. But it's not ALL problematic.

While one strain of fandom studies initially attempted to legitimize fan activity as great because it promoted literacy, lead to professionalization in writing, and even new language acquisition -- yet in the last couple of years has pushed back against itself by noting that these kinds of affordances are not uniformly developed if one is in fandom -- (I think the real answer is somewhere in the middle - yes, participation in fandom does promote some very specific types of literacy and critical thinking, but not necessarily the ones that are seen by state-sanctioned education as being important), what we have now is a kind of catch 22. No one wants to over-claim the benefits of fandom, and because of this people are very careful to under-claim its benefits. And this leads to this conversation of shame.

Additionally, I think much of the rejection plays right into the dominant capitalist discourse that does not recognize fandom labor as 'real work'. Because the bar to participation is so low, and most of the discussion around fandom labor is a discussion about 'free labor' (and again comes up against the patriarchical tendency to not recognize female labor as labor because it is not seen as generating capital). And, from the comments and conversation around this FA moment (and taking a glance at secrets on any day at fandom secrets), there is a great deal of internalized shame about fandom activities that reinforces the idea that, while we may spend a couple of hours a day being creatively inspired to write, to create art, to participate in conversations, to support each other, it's all a waste of time and not worth anything.

Now, again, you can point to any post on unfunny business and note there's a great deal of negative that happens in the fandom community on any given day.

But why is it more legitimate to participate in a local community band than it is to participate in an online community creating writing? Both have traditionally been seen as 'frivolous' activities that don't create anything worth selling, right? And the key here for me is, even if I change that sentence to read "community creating porn" I still think porn is legitimate creative expression. It may provide different kinds of satisfactions than playing music does, but to me, there are still satisfactions.

Is what FA is doing legitimate? I'm not sure. But I don't think it's as *SHAMEFUL* as everyone is claiming.

also posted to dreamwidth | you can reply here or there | um, but don't worry, i'm still an lj girl
seldomifeverseldomifever on November 3rd, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
I had the same reaction as you when I read about this last night. Fan fiction is art, and art as a cause is legit and deserves funding. Am I sure this Pepsi thing is the right way to go about it? No, but I understand why they felt justified trying.

my monkied brainkatekat1010 on November 3rd, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks lady. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

And I will say that the post I'd read by one of the FA admins asking people to vote definitely *did not* present their case in the best way - she used inflammatory language, and failed to set out specifics of spending and their rationale for why they even applied in the first place. BUT, this whole 'shame on you FA' thing seemed pretty excessive to me.

Also, it's interesting because some people are criticizing the notion that buying servers/server time doesn't do anything to support the community - but in some ways buying servers is just like buying art supplies and renting room to do the artwork in.... it's like they forgot server time is *how* fan works stay up, you know?
seldomifeverseldomifever on November 3rd, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
The nastiness of the commenters put me off far more than FA's request. Disagree, don't participate, but tone down the hateful rhetoric. Someone's dopey idea is not *that* big a deal. But the internet's fraught with the self-righteous. I'm glad you spoke out against their extreme response - and in such a reasonable way, too. :)
your royal pie-nessentrenous88 on November 3rd, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure it was the "I've done the research and I'm here to tell you that there are far more sources of funding available to starving children in Africa than there are to fan-oriented websites." (language that was since edited) that set people off and led to the endeavor being characterized as shameful. Saying it's "incendiary" or "inflammatory" doesn't quite hit the mark of the startling lack of empathy and entitlement in the original statement.
my monkied brainkatekat1010 on November 4th, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
Sure, that seems to be one of the strains of disgust and protest. And saying I'm not using strong enough words to describe what she did I can understand - but for me incendiary & inflammatory are two words that I actually feel strongly express my level of frustration. Again, I totally understand you might want me to use stronger words, but I was trying to keep a level head as much as I could.

But there are also a whole ton of comments (at least at Unfunnybusiness) that basically say "it's porn, so it doesn't have any legitimate business being considered a community activity" and that's what I'm taking issue with and trying to discuss. I'm not trying to defend FA, but instead trying to talk about how I just saw this huge outpouring of rage/shame against fandom by fandom.

I guess my end question is - why isn't fandom activity seen as a legitimate community building/creative practice by fandom itself?
your royal pie-nessentrenous88 on November 4th, 2010 12:58 am (UTC)
You certainly should use whatever words you deem appropriate; I just think that a discussion that talks about the language as inflammatory would do well to mention the specifics, the evidence of what set people off. I do actually understand you're using this as a jumping-off point for some other considerations, but I would just say, where are we starting -- it's worth delineating why the outcry began, because it matters to the conclusions you're drawing later.

That being said, yes, I saw some of those comments, but I don't think there was a uniform, en masse cry that fandom/fanfiction is completely worthless, so -- I don't agree with you that there was a stringent reaction by fandom to fandom. I think people reacted strongly to FA specifically, and I do not think that there was not an across-the-board agreement on the point that all fandom/fanfiction is porn and totally unworthy.

I guess my end question is - why isn't fandom activity seen as a legitimate community building/creative practice by fandom itself?
I don't agree that we can make this conclusion from this instance alone. In examples I've seen over the years, I would say rather that fandom does see itself as legitimate community building and creative practice. That's why we raise awareness and hold fundraisers and creative-product driven fests for people who are involved in fandom and in need, not just for fandom-specific tools and resources, but for the day-to-day expenses that allow them to participate in fandom in the first place (fen contributing for people's rent in cases of emergency, writing implements in cases of disrepair and need, putting in money for scholarships to send Fen of Color to WisCon, etc.)

I think part of what you're seeing is that fandom, while at times eating its own, also has a strong urge to take care of its own. There are fan organizations and conferences and other resources that do things like try to help connect people with resources to run fan websites and enable fan participation. I'm not certain why FA, in the specific instance here, didn't apply to those (or at least email its member base to ask them to contribute before making an ill-considered grab for funding -- I mean, I would be fascinated to hear anyone argue that their proposal was well thought-out or capably presented in its current form, and they *do* have members who were not aware that their hosting was in danger, who they could at very least have asked to contribute some amount toward running costs). So yeah, there's a kind of reaction against and disgust for people who don't even bother to ask in-house, if you know what I mean, before trying to compete for grant money marked for charitable and arts organizations.

I can see contributing/sponsoring/providing grants for organizations like OTW. That organization has specific legal and educational missions, and though some people might not support them for various reasons, they far more clearly have a FA, which doesn't have a real educational purpose or clear charitable mission -- whether or not fanfiction is worthy as an endeavor or product, this is the measure of the organizations applying for funding -- so I really don't think it's the best peg to hang an argument on for fandom community building and legitimacy -- and while I see the argument you're posing, I think it's appropriate to turn to the instance that brought up people's reactions and your discussion here. $25,000 -- it's a ton to run a website.

Personally I'm wary of the idea of FA or any fanwork-driven website applying for charitable support to run a server. It seems like it would be trespassing some legal issues of copyright. While I think the time I spend writing and reading and discussing fanfiction (and of course that's just one small component of fandom at large) very worthwhile, I don't think it is worth cash -- and we are talking about funding here, about cash (though I understand you're trying to raise issues of worth and labor in a way that complicates a simple equation of monetary compensation for activity).
sahiya on November 4th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
Interesting. Very different from everything else I've read, but you make some valid points. I think part of the problem is that the idea was framed so very poorly, with none of the salient details included and in such flippant language, not to mention there was the usual defensive reaction when people pointed out Teh Fail. *le sigh*

I'm still scratching my head over the $25,000 thing. That's just a boatload of money for a fan website.