When Fandom Goes Mainstream…

The most recent issue of Flow includes a range of different responses to the Flow conference, which I referenced here a few weeks ago. One of the articles would seem to be of particular interest to readers of this blog, because it refers to the panel on “Watching Television Off-Television” which I helped to organize, because it addresses the shifting nature of fan engagement with contemporary media, and because it was written by Kristina Busse (co-editor of the book, Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, which was previously discussed here).

Previously I have contrasted the context in which I wrote Textual Poachers (a world where fan culture was largely marginalized and hidden from view) and the context described in Convergence Culture (a world where fan participations are increasingly central to the production decisions shaping the current media landscape).

Busse’s question, though, is whether we are really talking about the same fan culture in the two instances. Here’s part of what she has to say:

Throughout the panel “Watching Television Off-Television,” the emphasis was on how such behavior has become mainstream: casual media users now can engage with a universe that exceeds the television show via cross-media, cross-platform texts, thus creating a synergistic “overflow” experience. Thus, Jason Mittell offered the examples of Alternate Reality Games and additional online-only available footage, Will Brooker presented various fully immersive web sites that invite viewers into the shows’ diegetic spaces, and Henry Jenkins commented on the current ease of streaming or downloading television shows. The mainstreaming of fannish behaviors is thus seen as advantageous even if (or maybe even because?) the industry clearly attempts to create such behavioral patterns in order to sell their products and/or supplementary materials….My central question is: How alike or different is such a commercially constructed position when compared to the space media fans have traditionally eked out for themselves?

At least some fans have gained power and influence in the context of convergence culture. As I suggested here the other week, there are more fan friendly shows on the schedule. Shows which attract strong fan interests have a somewhat stronger chance of surviving. Producers interested in engaging with fans are generating more additional material which expands the fictional universe. We are seeing a thawing of the relations between media producers and fans as the studios are reassessing their attitudes towards even some of the more controversial aspects of fan culture. (We saw some signs of this détente during the Fan Culture panel at the Future of Entertainment conference.) And fannish modes of engagement with popular texts are spreading at a dramatic rate across more and more segments of the population.

And that’s part of what concerns Busse:

What ultimately separates “fans” from casual TV viewers who engage fannishly? Or, more specifically, how can we define fans without invoking a category so expansive that it includes all media audiences or one so narrow that it excludes large numbers of individualist fans? How can we create a continuum that acknowledges the more intense emotional and actual engagements of many TV viewers today without erasing the strong community structures which have developed through media fandom?

What gets lost as some of these fannish values and reading practices spread across the entire viewing public? Is there still a value in understanding fandom as a distinct subculture with its own cultural hierarchies and aesthetic norms, its own forms of social engagement, its own traditions of interpretation, its own system of genres for cultural production, and perhaps its own gender politics? Is this just another case of a subculture fearing a loss of “authenticity” as it moves into the mainstream? Or read from another angle, what happens to fan studies when it moves from the study of subcultural practices to the study of dominant or at least widespread forms of media consumption?


To some degree, fandom has already started to lose some of its distinctiveness as a subcultural community. Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic expansion in the amount of fan fiction being produced, for example, with many of the newcomers entering the space not through social interactions with other fans but rather from reading fan fiction online. In some cases, old time fans would argue, some core norms of the fan community have been shredded and old taboos have been violated as these “unsocialized” fans have pulled fan fiction in their own directions. Communities which might have been separated geographically and culturally have been brought together online, resulting in a series of flame wars and feuds over disagreements about how texts should be interpreted or rewritten in a “fannish” way. As many of these reading practices spread further, reaching fans through commercial channels who have had no real direct contact with fandom as a subculture, further changes are likely to occur.

Busse links this shift in what it means to be a fan to what seems destined to become an important conceptual debate in the field of fan studies — between a focus on fan cultures (which runs through my own work) and the emphasis on the emotional experience of the individual fan (best embodied by Cornel Sandvoss’s Fans. Sandvoss seems to want us to return to the idea of the isolated, individual fan at the moment where most of the rest of the world is discovering the power of social networks, embracing an “architecture of participation,” and recognizing the importance of the kinds of knowledge communities that have always been central to the concept of a fan culture. Yet, Sandvoss is correct to argue that a great many people who call themselves “fans” have no direct engagement with the larger social community which fandom represents and our research paradigm privileges the most visible and distinctive fans over the more “causal” fans who can be difficult to locate or document. For these people, being a fan becomes a form of media consumption but not necessarily a kind of social affiliation.

This leads Busse to suggest we make some basic distinctions in our discussions of fans and fan culture:

I want to suggest that we distinguish between fan and fandom as well as acknowledge that there are different trajectories that combine into levels of fannishness. In other words, an intense emotional investment in a media text that is wholly singular may create a fan but does not make the individual part of a larger fandom, whereas a person enacting fannish behavior may not define him- or herself as a fan. It thus might be useful to consider the overlapping but not interdependent axes of investment and involvement as two factors that can define fannish engagement. Moreover, we need to consider models that can differentiate between people who are fans of a specific text, those that define themselves as fans per se, and those that are members of fandom.

This last bit seems particularly important to me. From the start, media studies has been most interested, it seems to me, in the study of fans of particular texts. My early work on fans keeps getting described as a study of Trekkers (if I am lucky) and Trekkies (if I am not), even though the idea of nomadic reading was absolutely central to Textual Poachers account of fandom. Whatever Poachers was about, it wasn’t about the fans of a single series (Star Trek or otherwise), though I do spend a chapter talking about the fans of Beauty and the Beast and tracing their shifting relationship to the series. Rather, I would have said that the book was much more about a kind of cultural logic which shapes how fans read across a range of different texts and even more importantly, about a specific social and cultural community — mostly composed of women — which actively translates the experience of watching television into various forms of cultural production.

My second book on fans, Science Fiction Audiences (written with John Tulloch), suggested that there may be multiple fan communities with their own interpretive and creative practices which grow up around the same series. There, I am focused on Star Trek but try to show a larger context for the differences in the way the series gets read in the technologically-focused community at MIT, in the female fanzine culture, and among the members of the Gaylaxians, a queer fan organization.

Yet, still, my emphasis was on fan communities — the shared social contexts within which fan reading and creative practices occur — and not on fans per se. Indeed, most of fan studies has ended up being a study of fandom — as in the practices and creations of a specific subculture of fans — rather than the study of fans — what we assume to be a somewhat larger, socially fragmented, group of people who feel a strong emotional investment in television content but who may never translate that attachment into the kinds of creative and social activities which we study. Sometimes, we get around this distinction by describing the most socially active group as fans and the more causal and isolated individuals as followers but this simply creates a misalignment between academic terms and popular usage.

Busse’s essay, then, is dealing in part with how academics conceptualize fandom but I also think she is expressing concern over the mainstreaming of fan culture and I understand her concern. There has been a pretty long history of media producers nuzzling up to fans in the early days of a franchise when they need help attracting an audience or staying on the air and then creating more distance when the show reaches a certain level of commercial success. Fandom as a subculture seems closely associated with the idea of niche success, where-as a mainstream success may depend on a more diffused notion of what it means to be a fan.

Busse writes:

Commercially encouraged modes of engagement that employ modes of fannish identity do not create instafans; moreover, the types of engagement often vary, not only with intensity but also with creativity. In the end, I feel it is important to realize that playing a computer game or looking around a website may not be wholly the same as participating in a fannish gift exchange or contributing to a shared fictional universe.

Yes and No. In some cases, these commercial materials represent a point of entry into other, more elaborate forms of fan activity — they represent one gateway among many into fandom and it is up to the individual participant whether they are satisfied with playing in the shallow end of the pool or whether they want a deeper immersion into fan culture. In some cases, such as the creation of immersive shared worlds around fictional programs or the deployment of alternative reality games, there may be more creativity and social engagement going on here that Busse is estimating from the vantage point of someone who comes at fan culture from a different point of entry.

There are also important gender distinctions here in terms of what activities count once fandom goes mainstream — with the commercial industry finding it easier to absorb some of the collector or geeky aspects of male fan culture more easily than it can deal with the issues of emotion and sexuality that run through female produced fan fiction. I am struck in my own work that gender was much more central to Textual Poachers, written at a moment when fans were marginal, than in Convergence Culture, written at a moment when fan culture is more central to the ways the media ecology operates. Does this reflect a lack of segregation of interests in these newer fan cultures or the continued marginalization of interests and tastes that have historically shaped women’s participation in fan culture?

We need to continually refine our categories of analysis and this essay makes a great contribution by bringing some of these questions out into the open.

A Few Links of Interest to Aca/Fan Readers

For those of you interested in science fiction…check out the webcast version of my conversation with Joe Haldeman on the Craft of Science Fiction which I publicized here a few weeks ago. I felt like it turned out very well with lots of insights from Haldeman about science fiction’s place in contemporary culture and some interesting discussion of the representation of war in his own writing. One of my favorite moments came when he discussed the influence of Ernest Hemmingway on his work — not exactly a common topic of the SF convention circuit. And he also reads from his forthcoming novel — a time travel story set at MIT.

For those of you interested in Harry Potter… check out Episode 10 of Spellcast, a podcast created by the fine folks at Fictionalley.org. Gwen does an interview with yours truly about Convergence Culture with a particular focus on fandom and Harry Potter.

A Bit of Metablogging…

I have noted that there has been a decrease of late in the number of comments being posted to this blog despite a continuing increase in the number of people reading it. I have struggled for some time to think about the best way to address this when I spoke to a friend in Live Journal community who said there was some perception that there was no point posting comments here because they were being filtered.

Let me explain what’s going on: This blog receives more than a hundred spam messages a day, most of them things that I really don’t want going up on my site — promises to expand the size of the various private bits of our variously gendered anatomies, footage of young women taking full advantage of their local menagerie, or promises of imagines of certain prominent media personalities engaged with what they would call in the world of wrestling, foreign objects. So far, even spam filter I have tried either lets significant numbers of these messages slide through or cuts out many of the most substantive posts and in most cases, both occur. I have moved away from a policy where things go up instantly on the site and then I have to take down all of the porn spam to one where everything goes into hold until I can filter through it manually.

I actually try to do this several times a day though when I travel or am running a conference or… there are days when I may only get to this task once every 24 hours. The only messages in the end, other than the unspeakable spam, that actually get filtered are those which are asking me to fix some bug on the site — like a bad link (and there I just fix the problem) or those which clearly want to speak with me personally (and I just respond to the person directly).

Otherwise, it is my belief that every message I get is going up on the site within 24 hours of when it is posted. I know that is slower than most Live Journal entries which offer instant gratification but don’t seem to face the same volume of spam. (I am told that the amount of spam is connected to the number of links to your site so the spam problem is a product of how successful we’ve been at generating more productive kinds of conversations. Ironic, isn’t it?)

If for some reason your message doesn’t go up within 24 hours, please ping me at henry3@mit.edu since I very much want to get your messages out there. We have created a really astonishing community of readers around this blog and I’d like to have you guys talking with each other more often.

I plan to continue to run periodic posts like the Pimp My Show one last week which are intended to generate a lot of traffic from readers but honestly, I’d love to get your reactions — positive or negative — to all of the posts here. Almost every given post seems to be generating discussion on other blogs targeted at some subset of the readership and I am grateful for all the shout outs. But it would be great, given the mix of industry folks and fans, for example, who read this blog to have more exchanges among you here. I see these posts as conversation starters, not the last word on the subject. I am not always able to respond personally to every comment but I am trying to use them to guide the content I put up here on the blog and they are extremely helpful to me.

Comments

  1. Hope says:

    I found this post really interesting in terms of the way it kind of throws into question the definition of the term ‘fan’ without really outright acknowledging that. In what you’ve quoted, Busse seems to creating a number of sub-categorisaties of fans without changing (or addressing?) the terminology used. You discuss ‘female’ and ‘male’ fan groups, HJ; the new climate of ‘convergence’ seems to have proliferated a whole range of further categories. Not just creative fandom vs. knowledge/technology-based fandom, but the mainstream fandom in its variety of forms. At the same time, categorisation is constantly problematised by the fact that fans tend not to belong solely to one category, and they don’t keep their activities confined to particular spaces (eg. Creative or non-creative, to broadly generalise).

    On the same ‘definition’ token, I think this ‘convergence culture’ of fans in mainstream media invites a re-assessment of the definition of ‘fandom’. I recently wrote a paper suggesting that fandom occupied a carnivalesque space in relation to the ‘officialdom’ of industry-sanctioned texts. I looked at Convergence Culture‘s chapter on The Matrix, and ultimately argued that although the text of The Matrix allowed ‘gateways’ of access and extended beyond more traditional diegetic boundaries, ultimately, even though the audience was interacting with the text in a manner that is usually found in fandom spaces, these extensions and gateways are still sanctioned as part of the original text, within its official boundaries.

    The way I approached it was to suggest that within a carnivalesque reading, media texts could be considered ‘bodies’ with distinct boundaries, and that fan activities make these bodies grotesque by traversing their gateways & plot holes (orifices!), by emphasising and extending textual protuberances, and by celebrating these things. However, fandom in this context could be considered carnivalesque due to its positioning in relation to the media industry, which still occupies the space of ‘officialdom’. Carnival ceases to be carnivalesque if it develops into revolution (as Eco notes), because it then establishes its own form of officialdom. The carnivalesque lies in the rejection of the official nature of officialdom. Therefore you could say it is, in essence, a (delightful) subversion.

    What I’m trying to say, in a round about way, is in this reading, the defining characteristic of fandom is its subversion of the official nature of these media texts. Arguably, fan production (and I’m thinking more specifically here of ‘female’ fandom, or the creative fandom) provides a ‘resistant’ reading of texts regardless of the ideologies the fantext challenges or perpetuates – by traversing or extending the bodily boundaries of media texts it is subverting the texts’ very construction as texts with defined boundaries.

    And, to get more to the point – can fan/audience participation in texts such as The Matrix, or Busse’s computer games, or Lucasfilm’s ‘family friendly’ fan hosting space, be considered a part of fandom? You mention the concept of this ‘subculture’ coming into the mainstream, and to a degree I think that’s the case – but I don’t think that it’s necessarily fandom becoming mainstream as characteristics of fannish behaviour being adopted into mainstream texts. (Could this be read as a revolution of sorts? The carnival of fandom has become revolutionary, and is establishing its own officialdom?) That isn’t to say that fandom is mainstream, though. As much fanservice as Eric Kripke puts into Supernatural, and as much as he encourages and praises fans publicly, I doubt that that multi-generational incest genderswap mpreg story I saw floating around last week is ever going to be released as an official novelisation.

    What excites me most about all of this is not the idea that fandom is some subcultural utopia. Anything goes in fandom because largely it’s chaotic; yes there are splits and cliques and wank and wars, mainly because of the fact that it *is* an unsanctioned place and there can’t really be enforcement of rules or guidelines or even establishing definitions and terminology. The utter subjectiveness and free-for-all that nonetheless organises itself in a way that still allows the fandom machine to produce so much material and generate so much enjoyment is what can be used to define fandom from the mainstream, I think; regardless of the forms of audience/text interaction.

  2. Aeryn says:

    but honestly, I’d love to get your reactions — positive or negative — to all of the posts here.

    I think that, for many of us more casual readers, it’s easier to gab on about our favourite shows than it is to remark on the more complex topic of fandom going mainstream. I’ve bookmarked this entry for a second (or more) reading because the issues you bring up are too big for me to wrap my mind around at first go. Which makes me feel a little stupid to admit, but there it is. Fangirling I do all the time, meta-thinky posts, not so much.

  3. Unsurprisingly, I find gender to be central to this discussion.

    You say:

    I am struck in my own work that gender was much more central to Textual Poachers, written at a moment when fans were marginal, than in Convergence Culture, written at a moment when fan culture is more central to the ways the media ecology operates.

    But in fact, I think that gender is central to both books. Convergence Culture is very much about men in exactly the same way that Textual Poachers is about women — but because men are the default, you don’t notice that the book deals with gender at all.

    It is, I believe, male fannish behaviors which are becoming mainstreamed. As you note yourself, these types of behaviors (collecting, gaming, contests, fan films) are far more likely to be accepted by Big Media producers, and by society in general. I think part of this is due to the growing sensibility of geek power: a man who is competent with computers is much more respectable than he used to be. But mostly, it is because the type of fannish engagement most men have is much more socially acceptable, even venerable, than what women do.

    Men who make fan films are being hired as professional filmmakers now. How likely do you think it is that a woman who is a vidder will be hired as a professional editor on the basis of her work?

    Vidding has surfaced in the mainstream thanks to YouTube, but most people think a vid is a faintly homophobic Brokeback Mountain parody made by a college student, and have no idea of the 30 years of vidding history created by women to dig deeper into characters and relationships. When straight men see Closer, they laugh uncomfortably.

    We make things through a particular lens, privileging the emotional and sexual lives of characters in a way that remains fringey and even unsettling to the average (male) viewer. Meanwhile, the young male audience seems to be the only one most media producers are interested in attracting. They have gone on the record quite recently to state that shows have been cancelled because “only women” are watching them. We are not the desired demographic. If they don’t take an interest in our viewership, why should they take an interest in what we create?

    So in many ways I think Kristina’s fears are unfounded. It’s true that fandom as a whole is no longer below the radar, and that more and more fans are joining communities every day. But I don’t think “our” sort of fandom is remotely close to becoming mainstreamed. The mainstream would have to get very comfortable with female desires for that to happen, and I don’t hold out any hope for that anytime soon.

  4. Kristina Busse says:

    Well, after my last response a couple of weeks ago disappeared into the ether, I’ll give it another try…

    First of all, thank you for your comprehensive and insightful response. I was on some level, of course, continuing our conversation, trying to articulate the various strands that have popped up on the panel, in discussions, in the literature. I agree that part of the desire to delineate fannish identity is indeed connected to a fear of loss. This is a loss I myself feel as a response to widening of a subculture and the inherent consequences of such an expansion. (This response, of course, is not only generally problematic but also personally paradoxical, since I would have never found fandom had it not been for the widening with the Internet.)

    I do maintain, however, that it is important to look at the various trajectories of gender, community,commercialization, etc. that don’t overlay neatly but, at times, coincide. And yes, as you so rightly point out toward the end of your post, the gender divide is an important one, one that remains nearly unspoken at the level of academia at least (i.e., what shows and what fan communities get studied and, I think you are correct to suggest that there has been a shift not only toward the individual and converging/corporate engagements but also toward more “male” interests…and all of these are in degree connected).

    As fannish modes of engagement and self-definitions are changing, any attempts to construct binaries of inside/outside are quickly becoming utterly impossible. And yet I think as scholar it behooves us to try to articulate (and, yes, possibly delineate) our field of study. At the moment, I’m having passionate debates in my LJ about generic defining markers of fanfiction and/or slash. Of course, if it’s complicated to define “fans,” it’s even more impossible to define a body of work as diverse as fanfic.

    And yet we tend to turn to such categorizations and they can be useful (I mean, for all the many books on postmodern literature, I still return again and again to McHale and Hutcheon who, for all their faults, at least are trying to attempt comprehensive categories). It strikes me as crucial to think about the psychology of a fan and his/her connection to the source text and a possible community and its products as well as his/her fannish investment in all three. I agree with Jonathan that we need to study non- and anti-fans; I agree with all of you that we need to look at convergence and the way viewers/readers get interpellated as fans. I think we need to retain an ability, however, to situate fannish identity and fannish behavior on these various spectrums.

    And, as a female fan studying female fannish forms of engagement, I want to make sure that our illegitimate, less commercial, more problematic forms of fannishness do not get erased in the celebration of male convergence–even it is is truly creative and collectively and socially fannish as you correct me.

    Does this reflect a lack of segregation of interests in these newer fan cultures or the continued marginalization of interests and tastes that have historically shaped women’s participation in fan culture? Hmmm…good question. I’d tend to answer, the latter, since I’ve already commented to you on my discomfort with the wholesome view of fan fiction culture as you portray in the Heather chapter. Part of that is self-created: there’s a reason why Machinima is visible and vidding isn’t; part of it is institutional and structural: we still have more of a tendency to be “overeducated and underemployed” with fewer access to an academic arena; and part of it may be the fascinating but, to me still, in part, unholy alliance of industry and fan culture, an alliance that seems more appealing on many levels and for multiple reasons to the “male” modes of engagement.

  5. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can comment on my own tendency not to comment. Simply put, they’re not syndicated.

    I’ve quickly reached a point in my blog-reading life where I simply can’t remember to go from blog to blog looking to see which posts have new comments to peruse and reply to. WordPress has a terribly convenient comment feed, and so any WP-based blog allows me to simply subscribe to that and keep up with the conversation.

    As it stands I read so many blogs that I can’t remember how many comments there were in a given post last time I checked. And since I tend to want to engage in dialogs when I comment, I feel bad when I realize that I asked a question a week ago and never checked the answer.

    Thomas

  6. Henry Jenkins says:

    Thanks, Thomas. I didn’t know this was a problem. I had my tech guy, Rik Eberhardt, look at it. He wrote me just now:

    “Now the readers can subscribe to the comments for any post. There’s a link embedded in each entry that should make the process automatic (if their browser or feed reader is equipped for this) as well as a clickable link titled ‘Subscribe to the Comments for this entry.’ at the end of the comments block on each post.

  7. cofax says:

    I don’t think “our” sort of fandom is remotely close to becoming mainstreamed.

    I think Laura’s hit the nail on the head, frankly. There is (in the most general terms) a perceived gender divide in fannish engagement, between gee-whiz-cool enthusiasm (exemplified by, say, the New Voyages filmmakers) and more emotional character-based responses. Which is not to say that women fans don’t go for the technical stuff, and men for the character stuff, but that does appear to be how it breaks out.

    And for whatever reason, the question of whether Battlestar Galactica could defeat the Death Star is considered less inherently bizarre than how Buffy Summers and Dean Winchester would interact if they came face-to-face over a demon’s corpse. Given the fact that 99% of such crossovers would end up with Buffy and Dean having very acrobatic and explicit sex, well. If you’re a producer, you can’t point to that and say it’s a great example of fan creativity. Well, you could, but you wouldn’t (unless you’re a Farscape producer, but that’s a whole other issue), for fear of terrifying the network or the mainstream audience.

    Anyway, my other point is that it’s clear that some fannish behaviors are mainstreaming: getting your hands on tv or movies illicitly is no longer the province of the diehard geeks (just 3 years ago I needed IRC and a lot of technical know-how to queue up for encoded episodes from the UK; now I just need uTorrent and a couple of hours)–but that’s because the fans helped to develop the tools. Fanfic is easy to find on the net, to read or mock, as it suits your fancy. But just because some fannish behaviors are more common, doesn’t mean that fandom itself is more acceptable than it was. I’m still not telling my employer I wrote a 70,000-word Stargate story that ends in an explicit threesome. My work friends who are downloading Spooks episodes from the UK are still not going to be interested in the gen AU SPN story I read yesterday (that blew my socks off).

    So you have fannish tools, and fannish behaviors, and fannish creativity, and fans, and fandom–and the definitions of each of those terms is going to be a little different, depending on context and community.

    Case in point: I am a fan of Firefly; loved the show, own the dvds, saw the movie three times, have read and written some fic for it. Despite all that, I do not consider myself a member of the Firefly fandom. It’s not part of my fannish community experience in any direct way.

    And fans themselves can be into a variety of shows, but not fannish about them. I just went from being mildly into SPN to flat-out obsessive in the space of two weeks.

    What all this says is, well, good luck on defining all this and getting it to stick. Because whatever the academics say isn’t necessarily what fans themselves will adopt, anyway. Hell, we still can’t come to broad agreement on what “slash” means. *grin*

  8. Faith says:

    I realise this post was a while ago now – I came to it via Kristina Busse more recent post on the gender issues in fan/media studies.

    I agree with the points that the previous posters have made about what is often viewed as ‘male’ fannish pursuits being legitimatised while those that are often viewed as ‘female’ remain to a greater or lessor extent in the shadows (depending on the show). However I really wanted to comment on cofax’s example about downloading.

    It used to be that shows would be videoed and the tapes shared and copied between fans – a very fannish persuit which often lead to fans of shows in countries where the show had never been on TV. Then we got the internet and torrents and everyone waas doing it. However something I have noticed recently is that there has been a move within some fannish areas away from this individual downloading back to a community based system. This may be a result of the legal threats, represent the community helping those who are less technically able or some combination of the above with a dash of other reasons. The system tends to be that a few people torrent/rip or otherwise get the source material in digital from and then distribute within a fan community with other members of that community mirroring the information to help make it more available. While occasionally this occurs within discussion communities it is more often in a seperate community (if it gets taken down it won’t impinge on the discussion) but is often fairly closely related to one or more dicussion communities. Moreso if the downloads only relate to one specific show and related information. These communities are pretty much always locked and unadvertised. Mentioning specifics in an unlocked post is an immediate banning offense. The assumption is that if you are involved in fannish circles then the information will come to you or you will know how to find it. Often joining the community requires at least minimum proof that you are a “real”, and sometimes an active, person(a).

    I mention this since there seems within a deliberate moving away from the mainstream and back to the underground by these fans. The fans within the community share with other fans for the normal reason fans do things. Part of this is an effort for avoidence of legal problems – files are being passed within the community in the same way that tapes, zines or fics when those things were still an open secret. While often auxillary to other community sites there are often hints at the underlieing community especially when someone breaks the rules about keeping things hidden – the community alomst immediately moves to protect what it sees as a service by fans and through the semi-secracy for fans. Posts percieved as by people just wanting to get stuff for free are often met with hostility, the downloads are there not for people to avoid paying for things but for those who need the service to get items not otherwise available at the time/place. Within the supposedly mainstream downloading domain, a sub-community of fan (community) behaviour is immerging/has emmerged.