Gender and Fan Studies (Round Two, Part One): Louisa Stein and Robert Jones

This discussion emerges out of a conversation about new media authorship that had begun to take place in publication and online. Robert wrote an essay on machinima (film authorship through video game engines) and Louisa wrote an essay which discussed the use of video game interfaces in media fan authorship; the two essays appeared side by side in the recent book Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Internet Age. We’ve both been continuing to think about these ideas; Robert has a piece on gender in machinima production which will appear in a collection on Machinma. For the sake of this discussion, an abstract of this in-progress article is available here. Louisa continued the discussion on her blog, discussing Robert’s first piece and questions of gender and fan investment.

MACHINIMA VS. MEDIA FAN AUTHORSHIP

RJ: I’ll be the first to admit that since “From Shooting Monsters to Shooting Movies” was the first piece I did on machinima, it definitely takes on a celebratory tone. I have since backtracked a little. In the Pink vs Blue piece I tried to tackle the gender divide head on. It’s been met with mixed responses, interestingly along gender lines. So I’m very interested in your take on it as a female scholar. My intentions were to show a historical trajectory in technology and rhetoric around that technology that has culturally relegated women.

I want the piece to be a caution to the rhetoric around machinima as emancipatory when the reality is that it merely replicates the marginalization of women through technology. Feel free to let me know that I failed miserably at that.

LS: I don’t think you failed miserably at all–it’s an important warning, and I really like the history you trace out and the links you make. I did feel that it sidestepped some histories and contemporary examples of women engaging with technology.

I think it’s important to look at not only what the interfaces offer but what people do with the interface. I hope we can explore that in this conversation.

RJ: As to your point about establishing a hierarchy in “From Shooting Monsters to Shooting Movies,” I believe I do. Which in retrospect may not have been an ideal move in that context. But I was arguing that strictly from a technological standpoint and not the cultural point of view I believe you made your point about. Because to break it down to mere technology, machinima is an evolutionary step forward in the use of technology. When we talk about tool sets with fan vids (I’m assuming we’re talking about the recutting of source materials and not things like Troops), we are talking about the basic tools sets of filmmaking, namely editing. Those same tool sets are part of machinima as well. So they both use that part of the production process: postproduction.

Machinima differentiates itself in its harnessing of game engines. So when we talk about the use of a source material in a fan vid (the television broadcast of a show) that is alterable only in the postproduction process. This is not the case for machinima. In fact, the control of these engines makes the transformation of the very source material possible, as we see in a derivative subculture of modding where the games become entirely new games.

This is why I adhere to the position that many video game scholars take on differentiating interactive media from more traditional media like film & TV. And I don’t mean to adopt a hypodermic needle model of those media. I believe that audiences can engage them on creative and active levels. But the fundamental relationship to the medium is one of spectator-ship which in my mind is a “more” passive relationship than that of gaming. I can watch a film and stop watching the film and the film goes on with out me. It doesn’t need me. When I play a game, the game only proceeds as long as I play. The moment I stop, so does the game. Therefore, I have to believe that when we talk about the active relationship between gamers and viewers they are not the same thing. And it is my conclusion that the interactive component that comprises the basis of the video game medium led to the development of machinima.

Again, I’m not saying that a fan vid has no larger impact of the source material; they certainly do. What I’m saying is that machinima is literally a transformation of the source material (not just playing with it). To do that with film or TV you’d have to be there on set, which is what makes the two so fundamentally different in my mind.

LS: I see the distinction you’re getting at: transforming the actual source text for others to experience differently vs. reworking the source text in the creation of a new text. But I wonder at what level this distinction is significant in terms of how people experience/engage with media and technology. Fans making vids or even just writing fan fiction may not be able to actually change the source text (on set, as you say). But they also don’t necessarily prioritize/centralize the source text above the fantext (that is, the shifting sets of texts that map out the fan understanding of the fictional universe with which they’re engaging). So if fan-authorship transforms the fantext, and the fantext is the primary world-building text, then is that really different from the transformative play of machinima? It feels to me like a matter of perspective. Yes, machinima artists may alter the technology or the code, but fanfic writers alter if not the source text then the shared world of game play. Editing tools used for vids etc. are only the tools of post-production if we’re centered in the official commercial production of the original text. If we’re centered on the shifting production of the fantext, then the editing tools fans use are authorship tools plain and simple, and the productions alter the fantext that constitutes the creative space within which fans interpret and engage both “official” and “unofficial” texts.

For many fans, at least, their sense of the media text awaiting their participation is not that different from a videogame waiting to be played. Fans engage with the world of a media text as one would the world of a game. The comparison is easier to make with an Role Playing Game, but I think it extends to videogames as well. Media fans see that source text as elements available for their play, and as elements which set up rules to be followed or hacked or cheated or broken, depending on how they like to play. So while there may be more of a divide between gamers and an ephemeral sense of a generalized viewer, but I think that the relationship between media fans (especially those who participate within fan communities and author fan texts) and gamers is much closer.

RJ: What may be more interesting to us, per this conversation, would be the gender divide that happens. In “Pink vs. Blue” I make the case that this is an issue of accessibility. Women have historically been denied access to these more advance technologies based on cultural rhetorics that situate men as “masters” of technology while women merely use them once user friendly interfaces have been developed. That’s why I cite the proliferation of The Sims machinima among women being a corollary to the development of user friendly tool sets shipped with that game, the same way Westinghouse made radio more user friendly when it needed to capture the housewives as its primary demographic. Some have read this as me saying that women are fundamentally not smart enough to utilize these technologies, which is so far from the case. The point I try to make is that the cultural rhetoric prescribed to women has created this assumption in many women’s minds and thus stands as the barrier to them using them, NOT their own limitations.

LS: While I see this point and its validity, it overlooks a few things: first, the majority of women creating stories out of The Sims (either machinima or still images combined with text–the sort of narratives that circulate on Livejournal Sims storytelling communities) use the storytelling function offered by the game itself, yes, but must work around its limitations, as it is far from ideal for complex storytelling. These Sims-authors turn to additional interfaces as well for their authorship, from Photobucket to Livejournal to Premiere or Final Cut Pro. The same goes for vidding and all sorts of multimedia authorship happening in these female authorship communities. To a degree this experimentation is facilitated by the space of the community that encourages technological support. But this has been going on for decades, it’s not a new development. Its history has been (as you point out) overlooked, and I fear may continue to be.

That’s actually a concern I have underlying this fanboy/fan girl and videogame studies vs. fan studies gender divide that I’ve noticed at conferences over the years and that Kristina Busse blogged on (as did I ). Fan studies has been a place that looked at female authorship and innovation happening in female communities. Those communities used to be based on in person social networking through fan Conventions and such, yes, but they were always heavily technologically engaged, from the use of multiple VCRs to facilitate the complex process of pre-digitial vidding to the extremely belabored processes of putting out zines pre-internet, which were the lifeblood of female fan communities. Now that fandom has moved online, technological innovation and authorship within the context of female communities continues to expand, and yet its validity as a subject of study–not only cultural but also aesthetic, literary, and technological–still seems to be contested and unpopular, at least compared to the burgeoning field of videogame studies, which as you point out maps more easily onto traditionally masculine values of competition and innovation.


INTERFACES, AUTHORSHIP, AND PLAY

RJ: I’d be curious to hear what you mean about the uses of interfaces vs. what the interfaces offer. Seems really pertinent to the point I’m trying to make in Pink vs. Blue.

LS: Well–we can either look at the interface on its own terms: what options a given interface allows, what tools it provides, how it interpellates the player/viewer, etc. Or we can look at how social users come to an interface from a specific social/cultural context, and what work they do with that interface, and what texts they create out of that interface. I should not put it in terms of either/or, actually, as I think that both approaches are important and looking at only one without the other limits the conclusions we can draw.

So, for example, The Sims 2 (TS2) interface offers storytelling tools and thus encourages storytelling. It provides an easy route to take still shots or to take moving images. Media fans using The Sims 2 (or simply TS2 authors, not emerging from other media fandoms) make use of both of these functions. However, part of the storytelling tools on TS2 is the upload to the official storytelling board. If one uses this dimension of TS2 interface, one has the ability to accompany an image with text, to label a story with one of a set group of genres, and to then share with a specific community within the official rubric of TS2.

However, what many TS2 storytellers do (be they creating stories based within specific media fandoms or not) is use only part of the options of TS2 still image storytelling–if any at all. Many turn to more flexible image capture programs, and then use other operations and interfaces (turning to Photoshop and Livejournal, for example) to create the aesthetic that they desire (and that may have evolved within a specific fan community or the larger fan community). As you point out, many of these Sims storytellers (and I haven’t been discussing machinima here, but I just as well could have been) are female and are sharing their stories within predominantly female communities. But since they’re substantially bypassing the interface offered by TS2–can we really link this prolific authorship with gendered issues of access and technological comfort?

RJ: As to the transformation of the text, correct me if I’m wrong but there certainly seems to be a desire to continually up the ante in production value on fan vids. The meticulous rotoscoping that fans do just to get the light sabers right would be a testament to that. And this may not be the case for all (and perhaps there’s a gender divide along these lines as well), but trying to uphold those production values seems to have its own cultural commodity within certain fan communities.

LS: This is a very interesting point, and something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to–in terms of the divergent aesthetic values and narrative values in fan authorship and in fan authorship communities. Some vidding communities (including those who think of themselves as Vidding fandom) certainly aspire to high production values–although what they see as high production values shifts over time. For a long time it was a very close attention to sophisticated and seemingly effortless rhythmic editing and matching of motion and sound. However, recently other vids have come to the fore which draw on different interface options, layering image upon image and incorporating text and special effects in innovative ways.

Vids that circulate in different fan communities aspire to different sets of values–for example (to return us to machinima) the many Final Fantasy vids that one can find on youtube (slash and het alike.) These vids certainly draw from many of the same traditions and values as do the “vidding” vids I was just discussing, but they are often more invested in using Final Fantasy and whatever editing program they’re using (often Windows Movie Maker rather than Final Cult Pro or Premiere) to map out an emotional romantic connection between the two characters on whom the vid centers. Such vids would circulate in related but subtly different networks of fans/players.

While we might want to say that the former aesthetic is more rooted in “masculine” modes of aesthetic value, while the latter has evolved within cultural discourses linked to femininity, to make such a divide seems deeply problematic to me as both sets of communities have long histories of female authorship and involvement.

RJ: What positions machinima as uniquely different (and I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m over-privileging machinima here) is the capacity to replicate those production values in kind, calling into question whether or not I’m watching a fan production or the actual source (cut scenes designed by the developers). This is usually NOT the case, even in the accomplished series Red vs Blue, one gets a distinct sense that we are witnessing some “guys” playing around. However, the Roosterteeth’s Sims based series The Strangerhood can easily be seen as on par with anything that was developed in that game. As a result, Roosterteeth has since been commissioned for Xbox promotional videos and EA has used them to create a series of TV commercial for its monster franchise Madden football. So while I understand that so much of what fan communities are about is not trying to become the established media producer, I wonder how many of them would raise their hand if they were given the keys to the studio. If they could actually come in and shoot their own episode of Battlestar Galactica How many would see that as just a continuation as to what they strive for in their fan fiction and fan vids?

LS: Oh–interesting… I think that how much fans might desire to control the original source text and its inception would vary across fandom(s); but many authors are instead invested in disseminating their engagement with a film or TV or book text across different media, with creating a fantext that is not bound to a single medium but made manifest in a range of media. They see the TV or film source text as a starting ground for a multilayered authorship. Would they love to have the actors to order around? Maybe, maybe not. Certainly part of the thrill of fannish play with The Sims or vids is the fact that one can create audiovisual texts that represent ideas that previously have only existed in words or manipulated (still) images. But I don’t think that fans necessarily see such authorship as the equivalent of being able to create the television show itself, except in as much as they’re contributing to the larger fantext in a visceral way.

Louisa Ellen Stein is an assistant professor of Television, Film, and New Media at San

Diego State University. Her research explores viewer and participant engagement with

contemporary media culture, including film, television, the Internet and videogames. She

is co-editor of the forthcoming collection Watching Teen TV: Text and Subtext, and is also co-authoring a study of fan textual creativity in new media, with the working title

New Media and Fan Artifacts.

Robert Jones is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Culture & Communication,

NYU. His PhD work focuses on machinima and mods as instances of transformative play

within video game culture. He is also interested in digital cinema as participatory

culture, Hollywood’s convergence with the gaming industry, and the social and political

implications of video games.

MORE TOMORROW — SAME BAT TIME, SAME BAT CHANNEL

Comments

  1. Robin Reid says:

    Louisa and Robert: Amazing stuff here! You’ll have to forgive my ignorance

    of vidding, machanima, and gaming (all I know of gaming is what I’ve learned

    from my friends on LJ). But I decided that the fact that I’m mostly going to

    be asking questions might actually help develop some discussion, and I’ll

    learn more (as I’ve been trying to do for some time) about gaming and these

    areas of fanac for my media literacies class.

    First, a small note: the link to the abstact of Robert’s new essay does not

    seem to be active.

    Robert, I’m afraid many of my questions will be to you because I’ve been

    lucky enough to hear Louisa present and talk about her work in other

    locales, and I know something about vidding from my immersion in the LOTR LJ

    community, so her main points make the most sense to me although I get lost

    when she gets into the Sims and some of the aesthetics issues.

    First, this issue: I can watch a film and stop watching the film and

    the film goes on with out me. It doesn’t need me. When I play a game, the

    game only proceeds as long as I play. The moment I stop, so does the

    game.

    I gather that you are talking about the specific type of one person video

    games where a single player plays on a, what, console of computer? You are

    not talking about the multiple player games online, or the textually driven

    RolePlayingGames which are in effect interactive fiction created by the

    players (and which are found on both LiveJournal and Greatest Journal).

    And you are also only talking about media fandoms (film, television) and not

    including book fans (understandable because media fandom traditionally has

    excluded book fandoms–but since my fandom source is a book and a film, I

    like keeping both in mind).

    The definitions and limits are important to me because of the claim you make

    about the nature of a fan machanima “altering” the source text which seems

    to be presented as more “active” and presumably also masculine, which can

    happen with machanima but not with film or television.

    Therefore, I have to believe that when we talk about the active

    relationship between gamers and viewers they are not the same thing. And it

    is my conclusion that the interactive component that comprises the basis of

    the video game

    medium led to the development of machinima.

    Again, I’m not saying that a fan vid has no larger impact of the source

    material; they certainly do. What I’m saying is that machinima is literally

    a transformation of the source material (not just playing with it). To do

    that with film or TV you’d

    have to be there on set, which is what makes the two so fundamentally

    different in my mind.

    Here is where my ignorance becomes clear!

    You’re saying that machanima transforms the source material. Could you

    clarify what you mean by that?

    I am assuming that the source material in this case is a video game, of

    which multiple copies are sold? So a machanima alters a copy of single game

    the machanist owns? Is that correct, or does the machanima somehow affect

    all copies of the game? Or am I missing your point entirely?

    I understand your point about vids not being the same (I’d say that from

    what little I know they are creative re/interpretations of the source text,

    and I agree with Louisa how it’s possible for fans to value canon text and

    fan texts equally, in some cases even to value fan texts more highly!), but

    even if fans had access to the studios, etc., making one episode would

    hardly alter the text of all the other episodes: television series are such

    collaborative works. So I’m not quite seeing how the comparison works there

    (a video game seems a much more singular/limited text than a television

    series, but, again, I have never played a video game.)

    But would access to studios be required for a media fan to achieve the same

    transformation? (You mention BSG–I’d remind everyong that male fans are

    the ones who “redid” BSG–it can certainly be read, as some ofd us read

    Peter Jackson’s LOTR, as a derivative text, like fan fic, but done for

    money).

    I’m wondering (as Henry talks about in CC) about how much more technology is

    available to the general consumer these days, and how that technology can

    lead to episodes being made by fans? I’m thinking here, especially of >The

    Hidden Frontier.

    I’m not necessarily saying that viewers would “mistake” this show for the

    “original” Star Trek (whatever that is! arguably HF may have better

    production values than TOS!)–but it seems to me that fan episodes may

    operate in an equivalent way to machanima, if I am understanding what you

    say correctly.

    I am also unsure how a “change” that apparently seems motivated by the wish

    to be seen/viewed as “just like the original source text” (in production

    value) can be read as transformation? Where does the transformation come in

    (through plot, character changes? Are there any gay machanima?)

    Here I’m thinking of how some book fandoms (Jane Austin) value “mimicry” not

    originality (i.e. the highest value is given works that do what Austin did).

    If you’re talking about replicating production values, how is that different

    from replicating written style?

    The fan values and goals seem to be the same even though the media of

    communication is different.

    The Hidden Frontier I linked to above focuses on developing gay male

    characters in the Trek universe, but doing so believably within the Trek

    universe. I gather most of the work is done by men, but by gay men.

    How would this sort of fan creativity fit into your scale of

    active/transformative fan activity? Careful attention is paid to

    replicating a great deal of the Trek universe, but the central focus on a

    gay male relationship can, arguably, be said to be completely

    transformative.

    Still by males though!

    In terms of book fans: I’m also thinking of fan attempts (controversial and

    hastily removed) to “rewrite” the book. One notorious Harry Potter case

    which I read about on fandom_wank had a fan “revising” one of Rowling’s

    books to better reflect her shipping preference (I suspect it was

    Harry/Hermione, but don’t remember the details). The revised work was

    posted online but soon withdrawn: apparently with the aid of technology, it

    was “edited” and thus changed (only one copy, but still–is that at all

    equivalent to the machanima’s “altering” of a video game?)

    Now if when you say machanima transforms the source material, you mean

    something more along the lines of open-code software changes, then my

    comparisons are off.

    I’d also like to note that when you talk about the cultural rhetoric

    prescribed to women has created this assumption in many women’s minds and

    thus stands as the barrier to them using them, NOT their own

    limitations. that there is also a cultural rhetoric that makes men

    unable to see women’s creation of and use of technologies–the barriers do

    not exist solely in women’s minds. Could you talk about some of the

    scholarship you’re using on women and technology or media technology? What

    I know of feminist scholarship on gender and technology is very much in line

    with what Louisa is saying: women’s use of technology is often ignored

    because they’re not supposed to be using it and what they use doesn’t count,

    somehow.

    Thank you for an an engaging and involving read!

  2. Kristina Busse says:

    Great discussion! I feel like you’re really delving into these issues and

    your differing points of views and approaches are illuminating.

    Robert, I wanted to comment a bit more on the active/passive distinction you

    draw between games and film/TV (written text?). You clearly value the active

    when you say But the fundamental relationship to the medium is one of

    spectator-ship which in my mind is a “more” passive relationship than that

    of gaming.

    Now, my problems with your dichotomy and the valuation with both sides are

    twofold: First of all, I’d very much disagree with the distinction you draw,

    esp. with your non-active account of viewing film/TV. Fan studies and

    audiece studies are suffused with scholars foregrounding and emphasizing the

    active engagement with visual media texts. There may be a text there, but

    I’d argue that meaning gets produced between viewer and text, so that the

    very act of watching, intellectually interpreting, and emotionally engaging

    is most certainly an active act.

    However, even if this active/passive dichotomy between game and film/TV were

    true, wouldn’t that actually make machinima creation itself (i.e., the

    fannish creative response rather than the “intended” use/engagement) more

    passive? After all, if games are *meant* to create these user-driven visual

    encounters, then I’d argue exactly the opposite of what you’re saying here:

    What I’m saying is that machinima is literally a transformation of the

    source material (not just playing with it). How can machinima literally

    transform the source material, when it is a form of transcript of the game

    itself? Because isn’t the machinima creator pretty much already doing what

    the game encouraged him to do? Hacking and modding may actively alter the

    code and change the game itself; machinima, however, *uses* the game as it

    is given.

    Vids, otoh, clearly move beyond the expected audience role by not only

    actively reading and interpreting the text but by also creating artifacts

    that illustrate and present such readings. They do so, of course, with

    material that has mostly been created by someone else, but I’m not sure we

    can talk about active/passive when they’re really two entirely different

    forms of art: is a collage passive because it uses “found” materials? Is it

    more transformative? I’m not sure these categories ultimately remain useful

    here.

  3. Mary Ellen Curtin says:

    First I shall make some critical comments about How To Use the Internet.

    1. There is no link to Robert’s “Pink vs. Blue” article that I can find.

    Also, there is a mysterious asterisk next to his name in the bios at the

    bottom. Not his real name? Funded by?

    2. Henry, these conversations would be *much* more accessible and

    conversational if they were on livejournal.com, greatestjournal.com, or used

    software that allowed threading and less-than-glacial voyages through

    moderationland. Not to mention getting tossed into the Black Bit Bucket as a

    suspected spammer.

    3. I cannot follow either RJ or LS’s arguments very well for lack of links

    to examples. In particular, the absence of any link to a fanvid raises in my

    mind the serious question of whether RJ has ever *seen* any.

    Bluntly, for lack of links I barely know what either of you is talking

    about, and I have no confidence that you each know what the other is talking

    about. Links are what the Internet is *for*, people.

    I shall help you out by giving you two links gratis:

    Episode One of The

    Strangerhood, which RJ cited but with a link that was unloadably slow.

    Wallpaper, a

    Stargate:Atlantis vid. Or, if that’s too inscrutably artistic for you, Hello.

    More on next rock.

  4. Eugenia says:

    For things like the creation of fanfic, reasons for engagement may include the

    following (I’ll not cite them, but all these ideas have seen print): Fanfic is

    written as a way to fill in the gaps of the text. Fandom and fanfic are ways to

    appropriate media texts and provide power to the consumers, not the producers of

    the media, so fanfic is written as a form of empowerment. Slash fanfic permits

    an equal-power relationship because the two principals are of the same sex,

    thus reinscribing certain gendered cultural concerns about sex and power.

    Fanfic is a feminine appropriation of masculine power.

    The latest bit of fanfic I created was motivated by my need to reinstate the

    characters, storylines, and sense of humour of a series that Ron Moore utterly

    destroyed with his “re-imagining”. The latest installments have sections that

    illustrate how utterly pretentious and vapid his “re-imagining” is.

    Why fanfiction instead of academic theorizing? I’m an outsider in the

    cultural/media studies academic realm and this group of people are going to

    dismiss my arguments. I read some of the papers involved in cultural studies

    and most of them are so obtuse it’s mind-boggling to expect anyone to

    understand them other than cultural studies academics. It’s a way to

    demonstrate that a “re-imagining” could be done without destroying the

    characteristics of the original series. It’s also funnier to let the original

    characters comment on their “re-imagined” versions.

    Does this “empower” me? I don’t think so because it’s not going to make much

    difference in the world of fandom other than join my opinion to a tiny minority

    that is considered on the fringe. It’s certainly not going to affect whether or

    not media producers are going to listen to me or even provide me with income.

    It’s more just to give me a laugh and deal with a situation in which a media

    producer totally trashed an old series and its small fandom in some bizarre

    decision to try to twist a SF show that was fairly unassuming entertainment

    into some vehicle for preaching about gender roles, political issues, cultural

    expectations, religious aspects, etc.

  5. Robin says: What I’m saying is that machinima is literally a transformation of the source material (not just playing with it). To do that with film or TV you’d have to be there on set, which is what makes the two so fundamentally different in my mind.

    I am concerned with your choice of words here, particularly “just playing with it”. Fans (men and women both) have struggled for a long time with the derision of outsiders who mock us for “just playing”. Here, you seem to be setting up a hierarchy where machinima is “literally transformative” whereas vidders are “just playing”. This bothers me a whole lot.

    All fans are playing! And there’s nothing at all wrong with play, dammit. Some fans are making the leap from purely fannish creation to professional work in game-building or film-making, but I think most of us would say that when that happens, we’re getting paid to play.

    As for transforming the source text, if you don’t think vids can do that, you’ve obviously never seen Whatever.

  6. Hi Robin– Thanks for commenting! (And I’m sorry for the technological frustrations–did you also try to post something at my blog that didn’t go through?)

    Since most of your questions are directed at Robert, I won’t answer for him, but there were a few places I wanted to chime in.

    On the subject of fan episodes operating in an equivalent way to machinima–yes, that might be a good parallel, if we’re talking about creating a text that is in the same form as the source text. But I find myself asking why we’d be priveliging the same form as opposed to adapting to a new form? Where does that valuation of similarity come from? I don’t think it’s an overarching, defining value of media fan communities, at leasst, and I find it somewhat problematic for us to focus on it through this heralding of “professionals,”

    You also really usefully bring up the necessity of complicating what we mean by “transformation” here:

    I am also unsure how a “change” that apparently seems motivated by the wish to be seen/viewed as “just like the original source text” (in production value) can be read as transformation? Where does the transformation come in(through plot, character changes? Are there any gay machanima?)

    Part of the question we must ask of “transformative play” is what is being transformed and to what effect? Again, not that we want to necessarily value slash over het as, for example, necessarily more progressive or transformative because it seems to better fit academic agendas… But I definitely agree, we do want to consider the different types of transformation that takes place.

    Also, on the subject of machinima specifically–and how it compares to vidding/fan authorship, you write:

    Now if when you say machanima transforms the source material, you mean something more along the lines of open-code software changes, then my comparisons are off.

    I don’t want to answer for Robert here, but yes there is a significant element of altering the game engine to facilitate the machinima–and that’s the distinction he was getting at, partially. However, I’m still not convinced that such transformation is significantly different from a fan author/artist’s perception of their own work as altering the larger fantext (if we decenter the official source text as our primary site of interest.)

    Very good points! Let’s continue this conversation, if not over here, than at the new LJ community.

    Kristina: Kristina, again I won’t speak for Robert, but I wanted to say I love the collage/found objects as active authorship comparison. I agree with you

    that we need to move beyond the active/passive dichotomies.

    Mary Ellen: Most of the tech issues (other than the overactive spam filter) have been sorted out by now, at least, and thank you for getting the ballrolling suggesting that we set up an LJ comm. I’m hoping conversation will thrive over there.

    As you know now, I had linked to one vid in part two of this discussion, but only one, and it was on youtube, as I was quite concerned about pointing a big red arrow to other fan vid spaces in such a public forum as this. I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting fan spaces and participants; however, being cautious does

    have its cost for both scholarship and public attention. I’ve been very interested to see the fruitful conversations that have now taken place about the value and complication of drawing such public attention to specific fan works.

    Eugenia: Thank you for the thought provoking comment! I want to respond to this question of empowerment, and how we can understand/talk about the type of engagement you’re describing. You write:

    Does this “empower” me? I don’t think so because it’s not going to make much difference in the world of fandom other than join my opinion to a tiny minority that is considered on the fringe. It’s certainly not going to affect whether or not media producers are going to listen to me or even provide me withincome.

    It’s more just to give me a laugh and deal with a situation in which a media producer totally trashed an old series and its small fandom in some bizarre decision to try to twist a SF show that was fairly unassuming entertainment into some vehicle for preaching about gender roles, political issues, cultural expectations, religious aspects, etc.

    Does empowerment have to mean that you change fandom as a whole, or the source text, or the producers’ future work? I’m not sure of the answer to that. Writing fic as commentary in the way you’re describing here seems like active engagement, critique, and production. Perhaps whether we term that empowerment or not depends on what power relations we’re foregrounding.

  7. I’d like to agree, very belatedly, with the commenters above who have debunked Robert’s hierarchization of machinima as more “transformative,” “active,” and/or “original” than vidding (and suchlike). It strikes me as interesting and troubling, however, that most of us make our argument by reclaiming these terms for fan producion, thus leaving unquestioned the underlying valuation of “original” over “derivative” (and so on). In Kristina Busse’s very insightful riposte, for example, she points out that vids are “actively reading and interpreting the text.” Whereas I’d urge us to interrogate the whole (highly gendered) notion of originality and activity that’s in play here, and ask why so-called derivative and passive fan work isn’t just as legitimate.