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Escapist's fanfic issue

I've never heard of The Escapist before, but they have put out a "Fanfiction issue" whose biggest problem seems to be that they assume everyone understands what that is without ever really examining the topic.

A good example is the article titled Corporate Fanfic, which discussed the case of The Watchmen and how corporations are capitalizing on fans by putting what they want to see on screen, regardless of how it skews the original. This seems like a rather interesting discussion idea, not unlike some posts I saw in the past months on [community profile] metafandom that complained about how all the increasing slashiness in media properties could be as harmful to normalizing the depiction of gays and lesbians as making them invisible. However, not only is the author mixing the issue of serialized storytelling with fan fiction, he can't decide who it’s targeted to. He says, for example, that corporations are including fanfic themes in works to appeal to a general audience:Read more... )

IT Research Challenges to Advance Open Government

I attended the following presentation this week and found the discussion of needed research in the area of increasing the usability of online communities interesting. So I thought I'd post the write-up here in case others might find it of interest.

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My own impression is that the comment regarding grant work was the most telling of the presentation. While Hearst talked about prizes and challenges, such an approach is poorly targeted to academics. It is, however, well targeted to corporations or entrepreneurs. These days a lot of academics have to raise half their salaries through grants. They can't put in several years of work on the off chance that they might win a prize. This is particularly true given that all grants must include overhead expenses which go to the academic institution, so their employers would also lose out on such a process. In addition, the sort of work Hearst describes -- collaborative online work with no specific outcome -- goes against the publishing need of academics who are rewarded much more lightly for anything but traditional (and frequent) publications.

At the same time, his comment about who would participate in such projects strikes me as being on-the-nose. No online communities, regardless of how passionate the user base, tend to have a great many people doing all the work. It's generally a small core group, and even these people rotate in and out of intense activity. So who would have the time and motivation to take part in these various endeavors? Corporate reps -- either openly or undercover. Businesses are already hiring many PR people to work through social networking sites to promote their products and spin their image. They're the ones who have a stake in what gets decided by public policy, and to make sure that things go their way. If this effort at public input starts making inroads into public policy and expenditure, I'm pretty sure that "public participation reps" will be an area of future employment.

Media Studies 2.0

Some interesting stories about media products around today. First, this aptly titled article, Book Publishers Go Stupid, discusses Simon and Schuster's decision to release e-books 4 months after hardcovers. I thought the author made some good points about how this is another case of large institutions clinging to old revenue models, but then I also think that $10 for an ebook makes no sense. If I can get a paperback for $8 or less then that should be the maximum cost for the ebook which doesn't have the same associated expenses. (Plus, shouldn't we be encouraging people to use less paper?) What's more with the Apple Tablet coming out next year, which can only serve to boost e-reading, this market will only grow.

The foot-dragging music industry is trying its version of Hulu with Vevo. Since I was around for the launch of MTV there's a certain nostalgia to the idea of Vevo, especially if it comes with VJs and music news, but I'm not clear how it's going to be that different from sites like Yahoo!Music, or, you know, MTVmusic.com. Articles like this are suggesting that it's going to be a music portal with everything in HQ and eventually streaming concerts. Hulu has done really well for itself in its first year so if Vevo can market itself well it could build a good slice of the pie. I just think from what was said it's too little, too late.

That may also be the case with many Media Studies programs. Read more... )
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How do you know what's real?

Yesterday I went to a lecture on "Media Life: A Life Lived in Media" by Mark Deuze after having heard an interview he did regarding his new book. I found the interview rather more informative but there were some interesting tidbits in the lecture. (You can access his slides here.)

The speaker's previous book was about people who work in the media industries, and how there is now a shift to creating content about content. What we once called marketing is now considered a form of content creation itself, as it is used to push attention to other content. That book explored the frustration of people who had gone into these industries to tell their own stories, only to find themselves instead promoting the work of others.

With the new book he is looking past changes for those working in the media to what the general public is going through. He has turned this into a philosophical question about media as an environment that we live in rather than something external that we access or utilize through tools. Read more... )
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Reactions to a few articles

In Rethinking the Long Tail I thought there was an interesting challenge to the idea that niche sales are the way to go for businesses. The authors argue that actually there is a greater concentration of popular entertainment now than there used to be. I was also interested to read this discussion of how ads tend to appeal to people through Time vs. Money and to think about how this related to fan activities.

Henry Jenkins' post on the Future of TV surprised me by not mentioning what I consider the most important change to TV in the last five years -- shortening seasons.Read more... )
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This is fandom?

I took a look at Participate: The Revolution of Fan Culture (which made me wish that, as in most cases where "revolution" is used, people used the more appropriate "evolution.") About 16 minutes in, it discusses fanfic and references LJ. However it gives only a passing nod to the vast amount of participation in places such as FFN and LJ, to focus instead on fan films and the fans who have become part of the entertainment industry (all the interviews are with people who make a living or make money from fans). This odd skew was perhaps most apparent in one interview segment where Lucas is referenced as the fanboy who changed things by being a geek and making a geek film. I thought an even better argument for Lucas being a fan and a revolutionary was what Lucas did for the technical side of filmmaking, not to mention the financial side by demonstrating the incredible empire-building power of merchandising. What troubled me is how "Participate" skewed the definition of fan, and also suggested that the "revolution" in question was in fact the commercialization of fandom.
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Locating Your Information

This post by Nielsen on where people were searching for Iran election coverage is rather interesting. Where they looked depended on what related term they used. The mix of sources continues to show priority of official sources but also reveals the importance of unofficial sources. Of course, as Stephen Colbert's brilliant segment on Jeff Goldblum reacting to news of his own demise points out, the gap between unofficial and official news is pretty tenuous these days.

This article which suggests Jeff Bezos is the Steve Jobs of the book world posed an interesting scenario.Read more... )

Speaking of publishers, this post about university presses and their differing nature from commercial presses had some interesting discussion:

"Moreover, university presses are in the unusual position that their authors and their readers are interchangeable and share a professional community, a community that has strong opinions about the print/digital transition, and, in the aggregate, exerts considerable influence on university policy. Though the press may have strong financial, logistical, and institutional incentives to go digital, if a significant segment of their academic authors/readers insist on printed books while shunning the digital product, the transition is bound to be troubled."
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Open versus paid access

This news
about the spread of institutional repositories struck me as a real contrast to the other recent news about Elsevier and Merck. It seems to me that institutional repositories for academic work are a much better alternative, both for preservation and access, than commercial publishing today. What I also wonder is if they wouldn't be a more legitimate source of material than for-profit publishers who don't seem to offer any great benefit compared to non-profit outlets. (Just as an aside, take a look at the tactics Merck is employing during the court case that inadvertently revealed the campaign Elsevier helped Merck produce.)

Of course, libraries have long been under a terrible crunch from the escalating cost of periodicals, so open source publications are simply a must in the future. But just as there is current discussion about the necessity for print journalism, and what its unique and important qualities are, it seems to me the same discussion needs to be going on about academic publishing. One difference, of course, is that news is a prized commodity to the recipients but spread in many ways, of which print is only one. But academic publishing is a must for the producer for indirect reasons that have less to do with distribution than prestige. It seems to me in the discussions I'm reading, that the people most objecting to the loss of print journalism are …print journalists. And while I can understand the upset over the loss of a steady paycheck versus the job insecurity of freelancing (this article pointed out how people make more money in larger corporations than small businesses) this doesn't really tell us anything about the value of the end product based on its form of production. It seems to me that rushed deadlines and competitive urges are as likely to skew news reporting as the lack of resources hampering independent journalists. And then there's the motivation factor. In the same program that discussed how local bloggers had already been covering news neglected by Seattle's two daily newspapers, was the story of how the NY Times may have had a major lead on Watergate before anyone else, but did nothing about it. As a commenter pointed out " Media scholars have long observed that because the Post's reporters weren't part of the sometimes cozy relationships between reporters and officials, they were better able to follow the story. The administration wasn't going to provide the everyday leaks and "background" briefings that so much Washington journalism depends on to this day."

All of which is to say, can institutional repositories provide not just better access and lower costs for academic publications, but perhaps provide other benefits in terms of the quality and reliability of research? In what ways are for-profit publishers needed?

Winning formats

Two stories caught my eye recently, one discussing how MySpace is declining while Facebook use continues to increase. My knee-jerk reaction to the MySpace story was that its users had always skewed young, and were now either using Facebook because it's so ubiquitous on college campuses, or simply wanted to try something new. And while most people are online to at least some degree, it strikes me that college-educated young people are still its heaviest users. I also wondered if Facebook is simply easier to use from mobile phones? Given how visually unfriendly I've always found MySpace on a computer, I have a hard time imagining it's all that phone suitable. I also suspect that whatever the application which demands the least time and commitment is going to get the greatest buy-in, at least in the short term for high volume use. Also important is that MySpace is going to lose a good chunk of revenue from Google soon. How will MySpace monetize itself, especially if use continues to decline?

Another article involved the growth of on-demand publishing. I thought it was interesting to see that on-demand book titles have now outstripped traditionally published titles. Given our current economic climate it hardly seems surprising that bookstores would want to cut down on inventory, and publishers would be acquiring fewer titles. Also not surprising is that many think eBooks are an area of future development, since its sales avoid the problems and costs of distribution associated with print. I do think the whole question of a standalone device for reading is still up in the air. Personally I think the Kindle will only ever be a niche product, but that may depend on how many services get bundled into it. I know of one person who wanted to get one solely for the built-in, low-cost WiFi which has apparently been boosting Sprint's numbers. But it seems like development may be going in the opposite direction as well.
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Tracing usage

I've mentioned in my personal blog that I think 2009 is the year when fan fiction has become, if not a mainstream pastime, at least a term understood by many in the media and requiring less explanation in the press. What interests me though, is how this term is being re-interpreted by a wider audience to become, less about actual fan fiction, than about what the speaker sees as related issues. In some cases we may agree with them, in others, the usage seems a little nebulous.

For example, this blurb in the L.A. Times discusses trailer vids as part of the "fan fiction universe." While I personally feel trailer vids aren't nearly as similar to fanfic as, say, AU vids, or commentary vids that do interesting things with POV, I would agree with the title which slots creative fan work in visual form along with its written form. In a similar vein, Jon Stewart's use of the term to describe FOX news' creative reinterpretation of facts, grasps the spirit of fanfic (even though I doubt much political fanfic has actually tread that particular ground).

On the other hand, this post about the accurate imagineering of a car seems to be using the title to describe creative speculation. While this certainly describes some forms of fanfic, it's a bit of a stretch to apply it to car design specifically. More importantly, while fanfic is certainly speculative, this seems to put a certain emphasis on anticipating canon which seems to be very typically male to me – as if the purpose of fic is to guess (correctly) where canon will go and "winning" if one guesses right.

Whereas it seems to me that most fanfic I read seems to take a very different POV about canon, in exploring areas it's not expected to go, or reworking areas where it's been. Whether with characters or storylines, the fanfic focuses on reopening doors that have been closed off, or blazes new trails, sometimes ones where the creators were unable or unwilling to go.

All of which is to say, in what ways do we see the wider media grasping the elements of fan fiction in its more traditional sense, and where is it being broadened or applied in rather different ways?

Nielsens, welcome to the 21st century

When reporting on Dollhouse's renewal, Maureen Ryan asked Could the tyranny of the Nielsen overnight ratings be over?. From what I can tell, at least that method has some accuracy. After participating in their sweeps week diary surveys, I'm really appalled that so many people's jobs depend on this sort of information gathering. Read more... )

Public review versus peer review

A classmate passed on a link to the Chronicle of Higher Education's brief write-up of a study done by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He ran an experiment with his latest academic book comparing the peer review provided to his book on a public blog compared to the peer review commissioned by his publisher. His results were, I thought, unsurprising (although good to have some evidence for). "Blog commenters tended to focus on discrete paragraphs and points, and rarely compared ideas in one chapter to those later in the work. But the blog readers offered more detailed input than the anonymous reviewers solicited by the press."
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Welcome to Sim Studies!

A first post is always a little daunting, especially when the focus of a community is a bit amorphous. But I thought I'd start out by explaining why I formed it, and what I hope can happen with it.

I am on the final leg of my dissertation in Library and Information Science, hoping to deposit in October. I am also not planning at this time to pursue a tenure-track position, although I am hoping to teach again in the near future. And it occurred to me that there may be others out there like me, either in their final stages of education, or job hunting, or just independent scholars who are looking for some conversation and discussion of their areas of interest. And there are also likely people who are in none of those positions but simply find it interesting to read about or discuss topics in the overlapping areas of entertainment, fan studies, and technology because those issues are relevant to their life. My own work so far covers these three areas and intermixes a bit of literary history, social informatics and media studies -- so SIM studies.

I realize I may end up being the only person posting and talking here, but hopefully not!

I thought I'd kick things off with a recent interview on Henry Jenkins blog about transmedia entertainment. I realized in trying to figure out a tag for this post that I was trying to decide what interested me about the topic. Read more... )