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Anon culture in fandom

  • Jul. 18th, 2010 at 4:13 PM
crypto: Amy Pond (Default)
So I'm working on my next post for the Symposium blog and I'd like to write about anonymity in fandom. But I need your help!

I've been following the latest anon meme that sprung out of the ViVidCon debates (is there some kind of Fight Club thing where you're not supposed to link to it? or actually name it? I'm going to err on the side of caution here, but let me know if there are standard anon meme rules or norms I should be observing), and it's been pretty fascinating to see the different dynamics of how discussions play out there vs. on LJ/DW. I've checked out a few other anon memes in the past, but this is the longest I've ever followed one. Yet I haven't left any comments on the meme, so I can't claim to be a participant-observer -- there's something about posting anon that just weirds me out (personally, not when other people do it). I'm not sure what it is, but I definitely got weirded out the couple of times in the past that I posted on anon love memes where you tell people on the flist how awesome they are. Which, hey, people on my flist are awesome, and deserve to hear that! So I don't know what my mental block here is.

So I'd love to hear from any of you about the pleasures (and perils!) of posting anon, or participating in anon memes. I'm also thinking of saying something about kink memes, which are the other major place that I'm aware of that carve out a pro-anon space in fandom, and seem to be on the rise over the last couple of years. But I know even less about kink meme culture than anon memes! So any observations, insights, experiences you'd like to share about kink memes & anonymity would be welcome.

And I think I need a third thing, right? I figured I'd at least reference the WoW/Blizzard Real ID controversy, but it would be nice to have a third instance of anon culture in LJ/DW-based media fandom, if anyone has suggestions.

Anon posting for comments is on, naturally (ETA: and IP logging is off). Thanks in advance!

ETA 2: I've fallen way behind on responding to comments, but I'm reading them all & appreciate all the perspectives & experiences & context that everyone's offering.

ETA 3: The first part of my Symposium blog post on anon memes is now up.



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(Anonymous) wrote:
Jul. 22nd, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
Anon memes are like letting your internet persona hook up to a second order internet and escape into a different persona for a while. I've been who I am on the internet for about eight years and there's nearly always too much at stake to let loose with what I really think, so being anon is like being able to talk about fandom the way, in fandom, I can talk about RL.
princessofgeeks: (Default)
[personal profile] princessofgeeks wrote:
Jul. 22nd, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
wow! I have no idea how I missed this, but I did. This was fascinating. I haven't been following any of the anon memes; have never taken part in them. Thank you!
musicdiamond: (Default)
[personal profile] musicdiamond wrote:
Jul. 25th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
this is going to be a long one
I'm a little late to this party, but I did read your blog post and thought it raised some interesting points. I've also enjoyed reading the comments to this post, and enjoyed observing the anon fight that inevitably broke out--welcome to a little slice of the anon meme, right in your dreamwidth account!

1. Someone else mentioned this already, and I think it is a trend I've noticed recently as well: there's been a rise in the amount of anon commenting on meta posts. This is true for several reasons, I think--the first being that norms are shifting so that it is more socially acceptable to comment anon. Another reason is that certain meta posts are linked to anon memes, which of course directs the attention of the meme to the post (for example, your blog post was linked at an anon meme).

2. I have a strict reading and no commenting policy on anon memes because while I find them fascinating, I fear the repercussions of anon failing and, frankly, I don't have the time to get drawn into long discussions. So honestly, I can't really speak to the experience of posting anon (or the reasons why one would) because I haven't done much of it myself.

3. I read fail_fandomanon, which I like because it is panfandom, and brings together all different fans in one forum to discuss many of the issues du jour as well as lighter fare such as their feelings on cats. There's something very valuable in having these pan fandom discussions in locations outside of posts linked in pan fandom newsletters like metafandom, where the forum ends up being someone's personal blog more often than not, and the scope of the discussion is inherently limited.

4. I also read spnpermanon, which serves SPN fandom, which is renowned all of fandom wide for being huge, wanky, and very very splintered. There are the fans that do Wincest &/or J2, and then the fans that do rarepairs, and then the fans that do gen, and then the fans that do Dean/Castiel. Despite the existence of communities that cover all of the various pairings, in a fandom so large it is inevitable that pairing-specific spaces will spring up so people can participate in and find what they like more quickly. The spnpermanon creates a space where fans of all pairings in the fandom can come together and discuss events and trends that are affecting the fandom as a whole--the most notably successful discussion being the Big Bang threads.

5. Anon memes offer many positives such as frank, stimulating conversations that can involve many different viewpoints without the baggage of whose viewpoint it is and why you're espousing it (for example, are you a no name fan trying to win brownie points with a BNF by adopting their stance? And should a BNF's stance be worth more than the stance of a no name fan's?). It can also bring issues to light more quickly (the Haiti fic, for instance). It can be funny, interesting, and there can be, on some memes, a very strong sense of norms and acceptable behavior even amongst the anons--for example on spnpernanon, nearly all of the threads have subject lines in order to make tracking through gmail easier.

6. However, for all the positives, there are the negatives. And they can be very, very negative. There are certain people whose names are brought up (and they can vary from BNF's to no names) repeatedly on the meme in hateful ways. This might stem from a single anon with a grudgewank or, who knows, multiple anons. It can get to the point where the person who is brought up and hated on (for their fic/art/fannish output or for their fannish persona) can become an in-joke within the meme. Obviously, this kind of malicious gossip can severely taint a person's reputation across the entire fandom and be very hurtful. Sometimes, in unusual and extreme cases, this can lead to anons leaving the confines of the meme altogether to troll a person's lj.

7. I'd also like to add a caveat about the fic discussions. While are and have been some really interesting discussions and insightful things said, god help you if you are a mediocre or badfic writer who signed up for the Big Bang. While the BB is a major event for all of SPN fandom in general, I'm pretty sure no author who signed up for BB ever thought that they'd be signing up to be subjected to this kind of intense scrutiny at the same time. And while on some level, I'm sure most people are aware of the fact that people could be mocking their work/critiquing it behind flock and other closed doors, it's quite another thing to have that kind of discussion held out in a public arena for all to behold. I'm not trying to be the Morality Police here in saying that people shouldn't mock or rip apart badfic (because lord knows it's been a favorite fandom past time since time immemorial and that's not going to ever change), but I will say that everyone starts somewhere, and that seeing that kind of critique of your work could be very discouraging to a fledgling writer's ego and desire to continue writing (and hopefully improve). The solution to that, I suppose, is for the badfic writers with a modicum of self awareness to stay away from their threads and not read--but, you know. *shrug*

Anyway, sorry for the TL;DR, but I love this topic!
(Anonymous) wrote:
Jul. 25th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
Re: this is going to be a long one
7) I know a few authors who are not going to sign up for BB next year because of the anonmeme and a few have decided to just not post because they are that bothered by it.

On one hand I can see that readers want to discuss fic and when people have tried before in communities it caused a lot of wank, but on the other hand you're right for authors who aren't so great the only place having discussion is offering nothing but negativity.

Normally when there is critique on a story the person does their best to let the author know what worked and then what didn't work so the criticism offers some glimmer of hope and normally it would happen privately through emails. Now it's very public and the person can't tell if the person hated the story because they have a grudge against the author or the person had a legit criticism on the story. Knowing who is offering the criticism helps establish trust and if you find that the person helped you can ask that person's help on the next story. It's a great way to find beta readers.

I also noticed this year there is much less discussion happening outside the spn anon than in previous years. Not sure if it's because of the anonmeme or if people are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of fic but it's kind of sad for those that don't want to participate in the spnanonmeme.
musicdiamond: (Default)
[personal profile] musicdiamond wrote:
Jul. 25th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
Re: this is going to be a long one
7) I know a few authors who are not going to sign up for BB next year because of the anonmeme and a few have decided to just not post because they are that bothered by it.

I definitely can see that happening. A lot of authors are into writing and challenges like the BB for the fun and sense of community in doing it; the prospect of being ripped into for something you do for fun is not necessarily an appetizing one. This is compounded by the other point you made which is that it can be difficult to separate out legitimate criticism that is helpful and an author can use to learn from criticism that is underhanded grudgewank at work. Trolling is usually obvious, but let's not pretend that there's only one way to grind an axe.

I've participated in fannish writer's groups that encouraged concrit for improvement that also stressed highlighting what an author did right. These were incredibly helpful to me as a beginning writer because it reassured me that continuing to write wasn't a giant waste of time and energy for all involved. Perhaps a few of the BB threads are offering similar positive notes for the writers of some less than stellar quality fics, but so far most of what I've seen has been geared towards warning readers away from reading rather than tips on how an author can improve. Not to say that this is wrong; the meme was made for everyone and therefore no one. The threads are designed by their nature to not privilege the author in any way, and so they don't. Still... my heart goes out to the authors who are still learning and have not accumulated as thick a skin as I have yet.

I also noticed this year there is much less discussion happening outside the spn anon than in previous years. Not sure if it's because of the anonmeme or if people are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of fic but it's kind of sad for those that don't want to participate in the spnanonmeme.

I haven't been in SPN long enough to say, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if that were happening. Now that there seems to be a designated place to discuss BB's, it seems redundant to set up other places as well even though there might be other equally fruitful and interesting conversations elsewhere.
yourlibrarian: Angel and Lindsey (SPN-LetsGetDangerousOutlines-xdnangel)
[personal profile] yourlibrarian wrote:
Jul. 25th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
Here from metafandom
I think anonymemes can be interesting in terms of seeing what has cowed people in a particular fandom (or fandoms in general), although it may often be individual to the person rather than a guide to what's considered controversial in a particular fandom. The bigger problem with that is it's impossible to tell how many people are actually expressing their opinions. It could be hundreds or it could be fewer than 50 regular users. I would also guess that it's more likely to be used by people who have small speaking forums as anyone who had a large one could easily engage in discussion under flock because they would have a large reader base to draw from.

I thought what someone pointed out upthread about how this is something of a return to the way fandoms once operated online pretty intriguing. I think the move to LJ could itself be seen as a pendulum reaction to tight moderation on boards and lists. Perhaps this trend is a swing away from the tight focus on individuals back to more collective discussions.

I've also been wondering if the relative lack of participation in communities on DW is indicative of a larger fandom trend of moving away from group spaces and if people are starting to use delicious and tags as a way of finding material that bypasses public interaction.
[personal profile] queer wrote:
Jul. 26th, 2010 05:28 am (UTC)
Here via metafandom!

I hadn't paid much attention to anon memes until recently when some of my friends were the subjects of a lot of grudge wank. I don't like them at all as a result, but reading the comments in this post has given me different perspectives to consider.
(Anonymous) wrote:
Jul. 31st, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
I recently got involved in a small RPF fandom which mainly centres around its kink meme, an ontd-spinoff comm, and a lol_meme-spinoff anon meme. It's interesting to compare the anon cultures on the kink meme and the anon meme - if a negative opinion of a story is voiced on the kink meme, a lot of the time it's shouted down by "You can just scroll past!" type comments (although there's been interesting discussions on e.g. gender identity and race issues within stories). On the other hand, on the anon meme it's greeted with "Yes the story's awful, X is so hideously out of character". Fandom convention dicatates that you praise work or you ignore it, and it's really refreshing to have a place that's been freed of that to a certain extent.

That being said, the anon meme can turn incredibly nasty very quickly (not about third parties, but to people posting who don't know the culture). At least in kink meme culture if you don't quite have a grip on it or are obviously new you don't get told to go kill yourself.
ender24: (Default)
[personal profile] ender24 wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
I am not sure, if its been mentioned before, as you got so many replies, but one of the answers that stick into my mind, after in the recent years, this qeustion came up, or a similiar one , I remember one of my friends said, she thinks its also tightly connected to the BNF thing in fandom.

like some average fen, or newbies, who might have opinions that goes against some current trend that is proposed by BNFs , would not say so openly, out of fear, that said BNFs followers would descend on them. But in some anon meme, they could speak openly.

or just if you have opinions that shows you just don't give a fuck about certain topics, like sexism, racism, any ism. Or say "all I want on TV is to see white actors".
if you say something like that in your LJ?? hahah good luck, if you get linked...

I don't know these anon memes you talk about (though I do read the kink memes in Merlin fandom), but if they are a place where one could speak out what I described above, I can see where there attraction lies.

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