Some Thoughts on Fandom, Privacy, Money, and Other Stuff - Mo's Journal
Some Thoughts on Fandom, Privacy, Money, and Other Stuff|
I've been following the current big controversy in fandom with lots of interest and some sadness. Here are some thoughts I've had about it:
- I think that it should be an individual's choice whether s/he wants her/his real life name to be associated with a fannish name. If s/he chooses to associate it, it's still her/his choice how and where s/he does so. Some people will use their real first names among lj friends or at meet ups and cons (particularly those with fairly unpronounceable usernames) and still not want their full names linked to their pseuds on line. I think it's important to respect that as an individual decision. I think it's sometimes possible to slip up (e.g. I knew some people on my flist before they acquired lj usernames and I sometimes forget who knows their real names and who doesn't and could make a mistake in email or personal conversation - I do follow the convention of using the lj username on lj) but in this case it's clear that Laura was not slipping up on Fan History but purposely revealing information she ought not to have (and even changing the entry on her wiki back when people corrected it). [Note: I'm using Laura's first name rather than her lj username because she's been through a few usernames in the past few years and because she uses her own name in connection with Fan History.]
- That it's possible to find out what someone's non-fannish identity is does not mean that it's ethical to publicize the connection. I think that is the big fallacy in the "privacy" post that Laura had posted to fanthropology. She posted the same privacy guidelines to her own journal some weeks or months ago and I made that point to her then. She has since locked me out of her posts and I didn't save the comment so I can't copy and paste from it, but it was something like "I think you're conflating two things here. Participation in fandom in the ways you describe does engender the risk that some unscrupulous person will misuse information gleaned from a variety of sources, as you suggest. Where you go wrong is in suggesting that that justifies the unscrupulous person's actions. The ethics of the matter are separate from the risk."
- I do think that a lot of people overestimate the damage to their careers and to their personal lives that exposure of their fannish activities could cause. I think that's worth discussing (in a general way - I don't think it's very polite to accuse specific people of paranoia). Regardless of whether I think that an individual's fear of exposure is justified it's still the individual's choice and it's my obligation to respect it. Although I share thelastgoodname
's concerns that the use of the word "outing" for these cases kind of trivializes the difference between real outing and revealing of a potentially embarrassing hobby, I think this is an area where the situations are somewhat analogous. I find that closeted people (real closeted people, I mean - not fans who hide their fannish activities) generally overestimate the risks of coming out and underestimate the costs of the closet. I think that formerly closeted people who come out often realize how poorly they judged the risks and the benefits of coming out. It's something I explore a lot in my fiction. I know many a formerly closeted person who says to himself after a long and hard coming out process (as did my version of Cyclops), "My life changed less than I thought it would." I think many fans would find that their lives would change very little if they were open about their fannishness. But it is my bedrock belief that it is their decision how, when and how much to open up. Yes, even for people on the board of OTW. Some have said that it undercuts OTW's effectiveness and is embarrassing to fandom that board members won't give their fannish identities, and I think that's a legitimate opinion to express (not one I share, but legitimate). It doesn't justify violating their privacy.
- I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to turn a hobby into one's career. I do think, for most people, doing so is doomed to failure. For every successful comic-fan-turned-comic-book-shop-owner or gourmand-turned-restaurateur there are hundreds, maybe thousands of wannabes. In fandom, there are a few people who make a living out of something related to their fannish pursuits: the aca fans, some people who sell merchandise to fans, etc. I don't fault anyone for wanting to turn something they do for fun into something that pays the bills. Still, there are ways to go about it and ways not to go about it. And trying to generate wank to drive people to your site (whether for ad dollars or to make it more attractive to sell) is clearly not the way to do it. I imagine Laura realizes that now.
- I also don't think there's anything wrong with an organization where some people are paid workers and others are volunteers. That's how most non-profits work. That's how a lot of community organizations work - both online and in person. For example, I belong to my local food coop
. We have thousands of members. We all work at the coop one shift a month and we all get good food at low prices. About 50 people work at the coop as their actual jobs, and they get paid and get benefits and so on. This is a perfectly legitimate model, to my mind. What justifies the difference between what I get for my work (an ownership interest in the coop and the right to shop) and what they get (a paycheque)? Two things:
1. They do a lot more work at the coop than I do. I work 2.75 hours every four weeks. They work full time.
2. Transparency. We know when we sign up for the coop what we have to do as members and what we get for it, and how that differs from what the "coordinators" (what the paid workers are called) do and get.
My impression is that Laura had the first one at her site but not the second. I think there is no doubt that she has put lots of time and effort into Fan History. I don't know if the other admins understood that she was trying to turn it into a profit center, but I do think she was less than transparent with general users, and that is part of what engendered bad feeling.
- Although I strongly believe that Laura made some serious errors in judgment, I'm distressed to see the vehemence of some of the posts about her. I mostly feel sad for her. I feel like she has both lost all chance to turn her genuine love of fannish history into a career and also lost the hobby itself. And, it would seem, any chance of being accepted within fannish community. And yes, she brought all that on herself. But I just cannot see her as some great evil fannish presence. I feel like she's being cast as the Osama bin Laden of fandom and she's really a kid (well, young adult) who screwed up.
I will add that I'm not removing Laura from my flist and if anyone wants to defriend me because of that, that's okay. I rarely post under flock and never post fannish stuff under flock. And - in case it wasn't clear from what I say above - I want to state uncategorically that I will not reveal something said under flock (well, unless it was said by me, as in saying the comment I made on Laura's journal when she first posted her privacy message, which was under flock).
Tags: fannish ethics, pseudonyms
|Date:||July 25th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)|| |
I chose to defriend her, just because enough odd things get said in the comments to my flocked posts that I prefer to be able to offer slightly more reassurance-of-privacy to those commenting, but I'm not going to sit around pretending to hate her.
I was thinking of you when I decided not to defriend her. I think you and I view the situation fairly similarly but we came to different conclusions on that decision. And, ultimately, I think that's because we use our journals differently.
Not that I want to read pages and pages of invective, but a link would be cool since I am completely out of the loop on this and find it interesting. Where do I find the thread?
|Date:||July 25th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)|| |
|(Link)|Where do I find the thread?
I suppose "everywhere" is not a useful answer? I would ordinarily link the the original post that started the contretemps, but it has been deleted. http://ithiliana.livejournal.com/922604.html?format=light
is probably as good an entree into the issue as anything.
|Date:||July 25th, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)|| |
I do think that a lot of people overestimate the damage to their careers and to their personal lives that exposure of their fannish activities could cause. I think that's worth discussing (in a general way - I don't think it's very polite to accuse specific people of paranoia).
Do you think there's any advantage to being non-secretive about ones fannish activities, either personally or to society (general and fannish)?
One of the biggest parts of coming out as LGBT is that one no longer has to lie, and a lot of stress and emotional trauma disappears from life. That is one benefit about being open about any part of your life: it's stressful to lie.
Another advantage (continuing with the comparison between being gay and being fannish) would be to prove to the world that there's nothing wrong with either activity: it's entirely normal, and your Aunt Edith does it, too.
It's not just that I think there are differences between outing an LGBT person and the outing of a hobby. It's that I also think there are legitimate cases where outing is the best course of action (Larry Craig, for instance), and the vehement response in fandom right now -- particularly the "never, ever, ever do this" part of things -- is, I think, blinding people to those circumstances.
Rachel Moss and Laura Hale both used their real names (as far as I know), and now if someone in the future Googles them, these recent events will surface because their names are all over all sorts of posts.
Was it justifiable to use their names? Yes (particularly since they'd already suggested them to the public). Does that mean that the "central rule of fandom" is occasionally broken (and everyone agrees that it's okay to break it)? Yes. Even though Rachel Moss' online identity wasn't the one she used at Wiscon, and that connection was made without her consent. The connections between Ecks, Hale, partly_bouncy and whatever other pseudonyms Hale used are likewise not necessarily public information -- or at least weren't before recent events.
And while I agree with you that it's best to let people come out on their own terms and at their own pace, I think you're much more comfortable with that idea than I am; I'm still at the stage where I get unreasonably upset with people who aren't ready to come out yet (as LGBT; not as fans. I don't really care if people come out as fans). I'm working on becoming more sanguine.
|Date:||July 25th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)|| |
I actually am *not* comfortable with people being in the closet (the real closet, again, not the fannish one). And I agree that there are times when outing is necessary. I really am going to write that meta post, sometime soon. But I think they're few and far between.
I think not outing people except in some really extreme situations (and Larry Craig represents one of them) is important, but it doesn't mean that it's okay to be closeted. It means that I feel there's a real downside to outing and we shouldn't ignore it. And that the way to get people to come out is often through example and sometimes through persuasion. But yes, I hate it when people are in the closet - for those people, for the people they love, and for society. I particularly hate it when it is sooooo clear from the outside that they have little or nothing to lose and so much to gain. But as someone who has always been out everywhere it's easier, I think, for me to see both the costs and the benefits. And I've experienced lots of costs - I lost my family of origin while still in my teens, for the big one, but I've had career consequences and acts of violence to deal with too - but I've never felt it wasn't worth it.
Edited at 2008-07-25 11:55 pm (UTC)
Maybe people should remember that the net isn't the privacy of their own home and that anything you do here might lead back to you someday. If you use that as a guideline then you should be safe.
Privacy online exists only as far as how much what you want to keep private is worth someone else's time to find out.
I haven't had any real interaction with this person, so all I know about this is what's been posted here and there. I appreciated reading your post though. It's nice to get an idea of all of the issues involved in this kerfuffle.
Edited at 2008-07-25 10:56 pm (UTC)
|Date:||July 26th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)|| |
Well, I wouldn't pretend to know what all the issues are! But this post talks about some that matter to me.
I do think that a lot of people overestimate the damage to their careers and to their personal lives that exposure of their fannish activities could cause.
I read a similar comment, and replied to it. If I may, I would like to post my reply in your journal as well. Obviously it is your journal and you are free to delete this.
I'd like to share with you the story of what happened to a media fan at my workplace. This fan happened to be an very competent and experienced professional in the field.
At lunch, she would read SF&F novels or comic books in plain view of everyone. When people were standing around the water cooler talking about 24 or Grey's Anatomy, she'd talk about Battlestar Galactica and Stargate. When people talked about their family vacations, she would talk about attending a convention. She'd talk about the HP book.
When this person's name was mentioned in meetings, there would be a moment of silence, raised eyebrows, knowing grins, and sometimes, outright laughter. She was passed over for heading up several important projects. She was passed over for an appointment to a supervisory position. People openly wondered about her fitness to be a parent. Junior staffers openly mocked her.
All this, and she never wrote a word of fanfic.
Now imagine if she had been a slash writer.
I particularly hate it when it is sooooo clear from the outside that they have little or nothing to lose and so much to gain.
A person knows his/her own situation better than any outsider looking in.
|Date:||July 26th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)|| |
A person knows his/her own situation better than any outsider looking in.
I don't think that's always true. But we can certainly agree to disagree.
I'm not saying there are never negative consequences of exposure of fannish involvement. I'm just saying that a lot of people overestimate them, and that a lot - over time - come to realize that they've done so, when it was obvious to outsiders before. I'm not commenting on anyone's specific situation. Well, except to say that if Barack Obama writes slash, I'd rather he wait until after the election to reveal that fact.
Personally, I see a big difference between a food co-op and fanfic - for example, I do not participate in fic-for-charity auctions because that's using other people's copyrighted work for profit. I think this and organisations like FanLib are the quickest way to have the actual copyright owners take writers to court - it's not the exposure per se, it's the fact that cash is involved. This is not the same thing as aca fans, though it may be the same thing as people who sell unlicensed merchandise. While I would love for fanfic and other fan creations to be legal, it's currently in a great big grey area, and I'd much rather that it stayed there than was actively hunted down.
I would compare the fandom history project to aca fans, not to fic writers, and I don't, in fact, have a problem with her trying to make money from it - it's a non-fiction project. The problem I have is the way she tried to do it, as you list above. I don't think she's evil, but I think she is deeply stupid to do everything she possibly can, over a long period of time, to antagonise and hurt her potential audience!
|Date:||July 26th, 2008 01:11 pm (UTC)|| |
Personally, I see a big difference between a food co-op and fanfic - for example, I do not participate in fic-for-charity auctions because that's using other people's copyrighted work for profit.
That's an interesting stand. Anyway, I didn't mean to suggest that a coop was analogous to all aspects of fanfic. I was just responding to the argument I've seen a lot that Laura's attempts at marketing her site were wrong specifically because she would make money on it but others who worked on it would not. I'm saying that the idea of a model where some get paid and some are volunteers is not inherently wrong or even inherently unusual.
I don't think she's evil, but I think she is deeply stupid to do everything she possibly can, over a long period of time, to antagonise and hurt her potential audience!
That is the puzzle to me. I have no idea if there is a market for something like Fan History or not. But I know that if there is, it can only make money if it's well-respected. And any potential buyer would look around and see all the anger against her and run the other way.
I feel like she has both lost all chance to turn her genuine love of fannish history into a career and also lost the hobby itself.
You know, I'd be more inclined to feel sorry for Laura if I'd ever read a piece of writing from her that struck me as either an accurate representation of history or remotely well written. Incoherent spewing of bias and rampant grudgewanking don't really make me feel sympathetic even if people may be getting a little overly dramatic with their condemnations.