deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
deborah ([personal profile] deborah) wrote2008-02-12 12:47 pm

Fannish courtesies and real-life transparencies

There's a debate in fan studies about whether the authors of unlocked, freely-available online posts (fic, meta, or other) should be asked for permission before citing. Acafen tend to say yes, while fan scholars from outside of the community are less prone to ask. I'm an acafan, but I fall firmly in the "don't ask" camp, unless I'm citing a personal friend or colleague.

Within fandom (or at least within that segment of media fandom which is heavily hosted on the LiveJournal-code-based blogging sites) , the default courtesy is actually not "ask" -- meta posts refer to one another all the time -- but the newsletters do usually accept opt-out requests. Many acafen have taken that courtesy into their scholarship, and default to asking fans before citing publically posted fic or blog posts in their published scholarship. They point out their are community standards which allow much of fandom to be, as it were, closeted in plain sight. While fanworks may be publically posted, handing an NC-17 Lex Luthor story to Michael Rosenbaum or a Merry/Pippin manip to Dominic Monaghan is just Not Done. There is a belief that outsiders, while they can see fanworks, don't. Therefore, the theory goes, we should as scholars respect that community standard of advertising only to the expected community.

I believe this encourages dangerously false feelings of safety. They non-fannish world is by no means ignorant of the Net. The American Bar Association reports on defendants and prosecutors introducing evidence from their opponents' MySpace pages. The cochair of the Section of Litigation’s Technology for the Litigator Committee, says she regularly checks these sites when conducting due diligence: "I’m primarily looking for information that may affect credibility" One insurance company is using Facebook and Myspace pages to avoid paying claims for eating disorders. And in a series of cases which are far more parallel to the fannish, college students get increasingly agitated at campus police using Facebook to crack down on illegal activity, claiming that Facebook is for students only and non-students don't have a right to look at unlocked posts. In fact, 32% of students polled in 2006 by the Christian science Monitor actually claimed that it is illegal for prospective employers to look at unlocked Facebook posts. (This has quieted down as Facebook has become less student-centric in the last year.)

It's important to me that people understand just because the public square in which they are talking is in the geeky, fannish end of town doesn't mean it's not the public square. Anyone can be there: journalists, academics, hecklers, your mother, the CIA, your prospective employer, your ex-girlfriend. And to me, asking permission to make scholarly use of text which has been published, which has been spoken in the public square, which has been made available to the world is just reinforcing the myth that fandom's corner of the Internet is somehow hidden from the rest of the world.

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