IASA was wonderful, especially once we finished our panel (I hope I didn’t talk too fast, I tend to do that when I get nervous). I came home with my head full of ideas and experiences, and I’ll definitely benefit as all of this knowledge leaks out over my desk in the next days and weeks. That’s how conferences work, right? Bombardment, and then a slow leak? That’s how conferences work for me.
There were a lot of good panels, and I’m sure the rest of the cohort will all be chiming in on their favorites. I did a few tutorials as well, and got to play around with lots of things that were new to me.
But what what really caught my attention (and especially got me tweeting), was the panel on remix culture. I don’t think it will have any bearing on my project at MPR, but it certainly interests me on other levels. It spoke to my own experiences in fan culture. Fetch your smelling salts for this stunning revelation, I write fanfiction. I have written about fanfiction. I am writing about fanfiction. I took it upon myself to create an online catalog of the Hogwarts Library, even before I knew I needed to submit a digital project to apply for the NDSR, combining fandom and metadata. And I have been deeply interested in fandom since the prehistoric days of dial-up internet.
I wish I could have talked to the panelists in depth after their presentation.
John Bondurant, Jeremy Brett, Francesca Coppa, Tre Berney spoke primarily about archiving fanfiction and fanvids, and a bit about archiving hip hop culture, which was fascinating even though I am not as well versed in that community. Francesca Coppa was especially exciting to hear from, as she is a founding member of the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), the organization behind Archive of Our Own (Ao3), a fanfiction “archive” (a term I use loosely here for many reasons). It was surreal to sit in the Library of Congress, watching a fanvid of the Godfather movies set to a Regina Spektor song. Coppa has written many beautiful words about fan culture as a particularly feminine coded activity, most of which I agree with. And yes, of course we should try our best to capture fan produced work, especially ones that are so strongly associated with women.
What catches me up is the idea of outside people archiving fandom. Not necessarily Coppa, who comes from the fan community. But others. When people who are not familiar with fanfiction write about fanfiction, it can come across as irreverent or condescending. Because these are often amateur writers and editors, the work they do is not always seen as valid. It is very much a subculture.
And how do you archive a subculture? How do you archive my fanfiction, for example, when I won’t tell you my pen name? How do you select what fanfiction gets archived? Do you try and archive all of it? If you can’t save it all, what do you save? What’s your collection policy? What if I don’t want my work archived? And how do you divorce fanfiction from the fandom itself? Many fandom communities rely heavily on context, sometimes they develop their own language, or even collective “headcanons” that radically change the text. Sometimes they deliberately obscure their own metadata to make it harder to find, eschewing Ao3 altogether.
My questions in DC have haunted me for awhile, and tweeting them caught some attention for folks back home. One such person is Tim Johnson, the curator of the Sherlock Holmes collection at the University of Minnesota. I took one of his classes in grad school at St. Catherine University, but fandom is never something that was brought up in “Preservation Management.”
I didn’t get the answers to the questions I was asking, but it’s such a worthy conversation. I look forward to further conversations about fanworks, in and out of archives.
To read more of my words on general definitions through the lens of Harry Potter fanfiction, check out: McManus, K. (2015). Loading the Canon. In Farr, C. K., et al (ed). A Wizard of their age: Critical essays from the Harry Potter generation. (pp. 35-47). New York: SUNY Press.