Digital Genres Three

Holly Swyers takes up the topic of slash fanfic in the context of Putnam’s investigation of a distinction between the “real” and “virtual” communities in Bowling Alone. She’s drawing on the Batslash list in particular.

She fell into exploring Batslash in the course of research on the popularity of Batman in the political atmosphere of the 90’s. She’s spending much of her time explaining the premises and structure of fanfic, and the testimonies of its practitioners. She unfolds the implications of the practitioners’ convention of labelling slash fanfic (for example), as a sign of acknowledging participants’ particular interests — and their interests’ differences from the likely interests of a casual browser.

Evelyn Browne is following through the discussion on fanfic, especially as fanfic traffic has relocated from mailing lists to LiveJournal. LiveJournal has catalyzed participation in fanfic by interconnecting “Friends Lists” with fan communication. (She’s talking fairly rapidly and quietly, and I’m sitting at the back of the room, near the electrical outlet, so I’m not catching all that she says. Please excuse the thinness of my blogging here.) She has quantified the posts on a number of lists over the past couple of years, and she thinks that the number of postings have remained pretty constant over that period. She thinks it’s easier to carve out an idiot-free space by using Liveournal than by using a mailing list. Marginal fandom emerges more prominently in LiveJournal.

Now it’s Steve Himmer, talking about the nature of blogging and whether there is such a thing. He cites the Meg Hourihan defnition and describes the flap that ensued. He’s questioning the technically-oriented definition, and seeks a more literary definition.

He approaches this by asking how we read weblogs. The blog lies in a blurred zone of story and reportage, factuality and interpretation, truth and fiction. A weblog focuses attention on trustworthiness rather than factuality. He here cites Jonathon Delacour’s posting on Ikuko’s name, a posting that generated a flurry of responses [finishing sentence] that reflected shock, disbelief, appreciation, strictly linguistic interest, strictly human interest, and ruminations on the relation of fact and fiction.

He’s discussing “ergotic literature” as a genre for blogs. Unlike print publications or even highly-complex computer games, blogs remain fundamentally open — the author can be expected to continue adding to the blog, to add links to a blog, and possibly to permit readers themselves to comment within the blog. All these differentiate the work of a blog from journalism or novel-writing. He doesn’t suppose that blogs are better or worse, a replacement or an alternative to other modes. His point is that the issue of whether any particular author is “really” blogging misses the value of actually reading blogs (rather than discussing the relative merits of technical tools).

3 thoughts on “Digital Genres Three

  1. “a flurry of responses that”…??

    I’m very interested in the conclusion of this paragraph!

  2. Interesting to compare yours and JOHO’s (boy, is that guy a junketeer!) notes on this interesting subject. Ergotic! Gosh, I miss the flamboyance of the academic neologism sometimes. The point that I keep hammering at is that blogging is about writing in the margins of what you read; it’s a bit of both. But I like this caveat that the question of genre is kind of beside the point, from the point of view of why you do it. It does matter, though, in a context like Blogshares. Why is Blogshares itself listed as a blog? Not that I begrudge the guy, but it’s linked to by every player, distorting the statistics and making the joy of spotting the diamond in the rough a lot harder to achieve. It’s like what happens when I look myself up in Blog Matcher: I see 50 pages of results for everyone else with a Creative Commons license. It just makes noise in the system.

  3. By “ergotic,” I assume that Steve is referring to ergot, the hallucinogenic fungus that some historians once speculated might have been the cause of the Salem witch trial hysteria.

    Yeah, I feel that way about blogging sometimes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *