robin_anne_reid: (Default)
robin_anne_reid ([personal profile] robin_anne_reid) wrote2011-02-19 04:52 pm

Public/Private/Local/Global: Rhetorics of Social Justice Debates in Anonymous Fan Memes Online

Working on a pilot study on fail_fandomanon for a conference next month.

Have copied/pasted all text from the first entry (July 4) in fail_fandomon into a file, stripping out the LJ formatting and some command text (Link Reply), etc. I worked from the view=flat mode, and the final document in Word is 701 pages long, over 260,000 words.

My next step will be making a text file and working through it with the aid of a marking tool (xml): alas, the tool does not do actual marking! (That's one thing we hope to work with the computer science people on the Digital Humanities grant--i.e. can a program work through a text and mark certain elements!).

If anyone would like a copy of the text file (or the .doc file, though it will be HUGE), drop me a message at Robin_Reid @ tamu-commerce.edu

This is the corpus tool I'm using; http://www.wagsoft.com/CorpusTool/

Here's the abstract for the presentation.



This presentation considers the extent to which the pre-internet social definitions of private and public, global and local, have changed on the internet. Some perceive the internet as a utopian space that can enable unprecedented forms of participatory democracy (Henry Jenkins). Jenkins has argued, in Convergence Culture, for the usefulness of studies of online science fiction/fantasy fandoms because so many in those groups were early adopters of new technologies and because of what their interactions and communities can show about the larger issues of people accessing new technologies to participate in media production and, potentially, political actions.

Fans who participate in social justice discussions state their intent of trying to change the dynamics of "fandom" (offline and online), framing sff fandom as a type of local community despite the international demographics. My rhetorical analysis of some critiques of social justice debates will focus on a single community. This community originated with fans who perceived their ability to speak freely about social justice issues as being limited by the ways some Big Name Fans (BNF) can send groups of people to harass anyone who disagrees with them. They see the need for the freedom of anonymity because of power hierarchies in fandom.

The critiques and controversies include: whether posting about social justice issues online is useful (compared to offline volunteer or activist activities in a local community); how the dominance of American fans has led to marginalization of fans from other countries and, in social justice discussions, how American assumptions continue marginalization; whether an individual's own journal or blog is private or public (this question is made more complex by the fact that the LiveJournal and Dreamwidth platforms allow a user to control access to posts made in their journals, and thus to discussion) compared to community discussions (which may also be locked down). The study of this community certainly speaks to the issue of how some forms of rhetoric can affect aspects of social justice.

Background: Many science fiction/fantasy fans who are active in online media fandom in a variety of social networks/platforms publish their work under fannish pseudonyms rather than the legal names. While outsider dismiss this choice as cowardly, many fans have good reasons to separate their public fannish activities from their public or professional activities conducted under their legal names. Since some areas of online fandom are predominantly female (including those producing stories and videos, some of which are controversial in content), and since research shows women are more likely to be harassed on (and off)-line, the choice of fannish pseudonyms in internet fandom is understood by many as a commonplace safety choice. The fannish pseudonym ("fan pseud") is not seen as the same thing as being anonymous because a fan can have years of history and production and interaction under her pseudonym. Many "reserve" their pseudonyms on new social networks even if they do not intend to make use of them, simply to make sure they control the name. In contrast to fans who participate in fandom under a pseudonym, there are those who participate anonymously (of course, some do both).

One type of event that has caused controversy over the years is the "anonomeme." There are two basic categories: a named fan can start an "anonymous" thread in her journal, with the program set to allow anonymous posting and with IP tracking turned off. These are often either "hate" or "love" threads that invite fans to express their emotions about other fans anonymously. Another category is the anonymous community: fans operating under pseudonyms that are not their primary ones will start a community which is established solely to allow people to post anonymously. These are controversial because some of the posts are simple attacks on other, named (pseudonymous) fans; however, there are also spaces in the communities where many fans have the opportunity to post anonymously what they do not dare to post under their fan pseuds, exploring ideas and positions that are perceived to be dangerous to express in fandom or that have led to so much controversy in the past that discussion is seen as impossible outside an anonymous space.

This presentation proposes to examine the major rhetorical patterns in a recent anonymous community (started July 5, 2010) called "Fail_Fandomanon." This community originated in the frustration many fans experienced with a controversy in fandom concerning disabilities issues and access issues in a small vidding con (VividCon). The controversy connects to a larger project I am working on relating to race/racism in online media fandom, a controversy that is often discussed in Fail_Fandomanon.

Part of the rhetorical framing of the community is that a small (or large) group of fans who are actively posting about social justice issues (race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, but rarely class) have created an environment in which many fans are afraid to speak about any issues because of the chance of "dogpiling" (a term which describes a lot of people a fan does not know showing up to fight/argue/call names in private/personal journals). The participants distinguish their own interests in social justice from the exaggerated and hyperbolic behaviors of a specific group (described as American, white, middle-class women, college educated, and on occasion "acafans" -- fans who are also academics who publish about fandom). This group is referred to as the "SJ" group or "SJ LJ" group. This group, perceived as having negative influences on online media fandom through recurring and public and large "fails" (a three-month debate about racism in 2009 is called "Racefail 09) is the focus of the anonymous communities desire to "blow off steam" (community profile) without public controversy.

The Fail Fandom community is active: since its founding in July 2010, there have been 41 entries posted; while that may not seem like much, each entry has approximately 5100 comments (while a LJ discussion may have up to 10,000 comments, that amount loads very slowly, so the moderators (mods) start a new entry/page when the discussion hits 5000 comments. The purpose of an entry is simply to give a new space for discussion: as of February 19, 2011, the community has received 181,857 comments.

The anonymity means that it is impossible to track how many different people post, but my methodology does not require names or personal information: it is a rhetorical analysis of the community involving a basic count of the top level threads (LJ has a threaded-discussion format), and then developing closer readings of the threads which focus primarily on SJ fandom as a whole, or individual SJ fans, to see what types of arguments exist in this anonymous space.

Works Cited:

Fail_Fandonanon. http://community.livejournal.com/fail_fandomanon/profile.
Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York U P. 2006.


And here are the categories I'll be inputting into the UAM Corpus marking program (it's an xml marking program, works on binary structure). These categories are not complete--it's just the start after some read-throughs of the text.

UAM lets me set up the categories for marking: I'll be doing a rhetorical version of a linguistics Parse Tree. (The grant we're working on will include both functional grammar and stylistics and rhetorical approaches!). In this case, rather than the syntax of the clauses, I'm marking basic rhetorical purposes of each response as a whole.

The capital letters indicate one marking category; the terms underneath will be options for marking. The method generates quantitative methodology--I'll eventually have a basic list of SUBJECT headers for main thread topics, and also information on rhetorical patterns.

These categories are *incomplete* and will be developed not only over the next few weeks as I work through the text, but in future work in the linguistics lab (this sort of analysis needs others to give feedback on categories and how they're applied!).



MOOD
Declarative
Imperative
Interrogative

CAPSLOCK
Yes
No
Some

STANCE
Agree
Disagree

APPEAL
Ethos
Yes
No

Logos
Yes
No

Pathos
Yes
No

ETHOS
Personal Identifier
Sexuality
Disability
Class
Religion
Other
Education

LOGOS
Evidence
Links yes/no
Type??

PATHOS
Love
Hate
Disgust

NAMES FAN1
Yes
No

Praise
Criticize

NAMES EVENT
Praise
Criticize

EVENT TYPES

FAILS
Academics
Accessibility
Activism
Age
Allies
Anti-Americanism
Apologies
BNFs
Breastfeeding
Children
Dreamwidth
Education
Fan Policing
Gender policing
Haiti
Kinks
Porn
Privilege
Rape
Shipping
Slash
Spoon Theory
Terminology
Tone Arg
Triggers
Trolls
US-centric
Warnings
Warnings
White cock

FANAC
Vid
Fic
Meta
Cons

Fan Disc NEED TO FILL IN

LANUAGES
English
Russian
Swedish

COMMUNITIES
Fandom Wank
Metafandom
Lol_meme
Deadbrowalking
Debunkingwhite
Linkspam
Racism 101
Spnpermanon
Scans_daily
Unfunny_business

1Both the presentation and any publication that arises from it will identify my fandom persona by name (as I've done in past publications), and note that I am one of the fans named in the community.