We Are Ready to Barack and Roll

One thing I love about my new President is that he inspires his followers to create in ways that erase the boundaries between politics and fandom. Here’s to President Obama:

I’ve got this image on today:

my shirt

Now let’s fix the world.

Fan Labor: Exploitation or Empowerment?

Hi there. Remember me? Ok, so I’ve been an epic blogging fail lately. But there’s a good reason! I’ve been writing full length things. Like the 2 papers I’m about to share here.

This coming week I’ll be in Copenhagen presenting at the Association of Internet Researchers’ ninth annual conference (Internet Research 9.0). I’m giving two papers, one about Swedish indie fans online and one about friending on Last.fm.

Here is the paper about Swedish indie fans. My collaborator Robert Burnett and I interviewed a number of mp3 bloggers, archivists, indie label guys and musicians. In this, we demonstrate the importance of the (unpaid) work fans do in spreading this music beyond the border of Sweden, making it a globally accessible and appreciated commodity, and we pose the question of whether this is exploitation or empowerment.

There is a critique of Web 2.0 that argues it is based on free labor done by users from which others profit. We argue that this critique has some merit, but undervalues the rewards fans get from doing this kind of work. We identify the costs fan laborers pay and the rewards they receive. In the end, the tension between empowerment and exploitation is one that each fan laborer has to manage on his or her own. We identify three strategies through which they do this: distancing themselves from the scene as outsiders, viewing themselves as peers of those they ‘work’ for, and viewing their work as an investment in a future career.

You can download the paper here.

Come back next week for the Last.fm paper.

What to do when fans post live videos

Prince may be eagerly suing everyone who posts live videos of his shows on YouTube, but the Swedish label Songs I Wish I Had Written, headed by Martin Thörnkvist, one of the leaders of music-business think tank The Swedish Model, is taking the opposite strategy. They’re eagerly promoting Moto Boy these days, an interesting artist who sounds kind of like a delicate and emotive 50s crooner but looks kind of like a Bowie drag queen glam heavy metal wannabe. He’s all about contrast.

He plays out a lot, just him and his flying V guitar, and he’s got a devoted live following who are posting videos from all his shows on YouTube. Thörnkvist went through them all, picked the best version of each song, and put it together into a Moto Boy YouTube concert. He couldn’t post it to YouTube since it’s too long, but he posted it at Vimeo in a version that fans can not only watch, but embed wherever they want:

Moto boy – Youtube concert from Pickybe on Vimeo.

This is the perfect way to respond to YouTube fan videos. Find the best and highlight them. It can only do your artists good.

Appropriating Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins has been blogging of late about discovering he’s become a comic strip character. Today he shares this one. Made me laugh so I’m passing it on to the other fandom geek readers who may not have seen it:

My own life as a comic strip character is way less intellectually amusing, but I still love it. For those who haven’t seen them, Joel Orff does wonderful wonderful wonderful “rock and roll comics” and I’ve been lucky enough to be featured in three! You can see here how I used the internet to fall in love with a pop band and score a really good friend in the process, here how and why REM became my favorite band (for a long long time anyway), and here for how the Wrens resonated with my midlife crisis and made me very happy.

The Lost Librarians of National Defense?

Information Week has an interesting article up about Lost fandom. It talks about Second Life recreations of Lost spaces, ABC’s official sites, and Lostpedia, the wikipedia for Lost fans:

The Lostpedia statistics page shows that the site has grown to nearly 33,000 pages. The site has received 141 million page views. It has 26,000 registered users, of whom 10 have sysop rights, for increased authority to edit and manage the site.

I talk a bit about fan-authored wikipedia entries and archives in my work about Swedish indie music fandom, but generally this is a neglected area of fandom research. Although, as some apparently realize, it’s a phenomenon with implications that stretch far beyond entertainment:

[Lostpedia founder] Croy said the site has brought him professional benefit in that it’s connected him with many interesting people. The Palo Alto Research Center (formerly Xerox (NYSE: XRX) PARC) contacted him about two years ago to study Lostpedia. “Basically, they wanted to study the way that a group of users collects intelligence, brings it back to a central place, and processes that intelligence, categorizes it and analyzes it and decides what’s good and bad.” PARC looks at each new episode as a big new batch of intelligence dumped on the Lostpedia community. “They want to see how they can apply that to the national defense projects they’re working on,” Croy said.

Fans have at least as much history as anyone — and probably more history than most — at using the internet in innovative ways to collect, label, store and make accessible enormous repositories of information. I’ve spoken recently with music librarians interested in using fan-generated genre tags (like on Last.fm) to assist them in categorizing their library’s music catalogs. Fandoms offer fantastic case studies in the practice of information science. I’d love to see more about this.