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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.

[identity profile] 2008-02-12 06:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Fascinating links!

Although I'm not sure how much applicability they have to the aca-fan debates (and at least some fans have told me heck yeah anything publicly posted is fair to quote in academic article no need to ask etc.)

Since almost all of the fics I have written about are by friends, I do ask, because of that relationship (I didn't ask when I was doing some analysis of archive language because it was a totally different situation).

I don't ask to reinforce the myth: I ask because of that relationship.

I think many of us who think asking is important are doing it because we know we are likely to be working with stuff from friends or friends or friends (I've just added new friends because of my current project on the racist imbroglios--I followed links, was reading, and did not just wish to yank a quote and then leave--I wanted to learn more from the anti-racist fans, wanted to read their journals on a regular basis, start to establish that relationship).

OTOH recently it took me months to get an answer (the writer had RL problems and wasn't checking fan stuff, which is totally fair, I do it myself)--at that point, I was asking: is it totally unfair to go ahead without permission? (I got lambasted in one discussion where I was trying to talk about this as an evil oppressive academizing type--and really, that irked me mostly because I had not done anything, not even written the paper, was trying to talk about the complexity of issues). As it turned out, we're fine.

But....while I totally agree in many ways with your main point....but I'll probably still be asking.

[identity profile] 2008-02-12 07:19 pm (UTC)(link)
There was an explosion at work this week about a Facebook page that some of my students put up. Apparently they were really upset that their teachers were "sneaking around" and looking at their page. They felt it was dishonest and unfair. Which is hilarious first of all because *they*, unlike their teachers, lied about their age to get on Facebook (you have to be at least 13, and in high school if you are under 18, and they are mostly neither). But it also shows a worrisome lack of understanding about what "unlocked" means, or "internet."