A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘social networking

[LINK] The Vulture on Fan Fiction

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Vulture‘s Laura Miller describes for a mass audience in her article “You Belong to Me” the growing popularity of fan fiction. Is this the genre’s moment to enter into the mainstream?

Annie Proulx got ficced. In a recent interview in the Paris Review, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author confessed that she wishes she’d never written her most famous work, the short story “Brokeback Mountain,”about the star-crossed romance between two cowboys. Having fans is a good thing, especially for authors of ­quiet, spare realism — not exactly a cohort with a healthy surplus of readers. But in the last few years, writers, filmmakers, and other artists have seen fans seize control of their creations and re­imagine them as fan­fiction, or fic, as its aficionados like to call it. Proulx first got ficced when a whole new audience came to “Brokeback” after the Academy Award–winning film adaptation was released in 2005. Less reverent than her typical reader, these fans have busily set themselves to producing what Proulx has termed “pornish” fiction based on her story’s two main characters, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. “Unfortunately,” she said, “the audience that ‘Brokeback’ reached most strongly … can’t bear the way it ends — they just can’t stand it. So they rewrite the story, including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack is killed.” The resulting stories, Proulx grumbled, “just drive me wild.”

Proulx is far from the only mainstream artist being dragged unwillingly into a new, fan-dominated world. Once exiled to obscure corners of the internet, fanfiction — amateur fiction based on characters from preexisting works or real-life celebrities — has lately become a force driving popular culture. As Proulx realized, fans these days aren’t satisfied to just sit back and consume. They want to participate. They want to create. And they don’t want to wait for anyone else’s permission to do it. Millions of fanfiction stories have been uploaded onto vast online archives where other fans read, rate, and comment on them. Romances, often torrid, between ostensibly straight male characters like Harry Potter and his onetime nemesis Draco Malfoy are especially popular, and there’s an entire category of fanfiction, called mpreg, in which beloved male characters and celebrities (e.g., One Direction singer Harry Styles) are able, bizarrely, to get pregnant. Fandom’s untrammeled imagination is also colonizing the wider world. E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fic. And what are J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek and Star Wars reboots — which take the original source materials (called “canon” in fic circles) and shape them to new ends — if not examples of the fanfiction spirit when enabled by hundreds of millions of dollars?

Although human beings have been stealing and reworking each other’s stories for millennia, fanfiction as we now know it began back in the days of Star Trek fanzines, on whose mimeographed pages female Trekkers wrote of Mr. Spock swooning in the arms of an ardent Captain Kirk. For decades, fanfiction communities — soon to migrate en masse to the web — ­functioned as a subset of science-fiction and fantasy fandom, where they were treated, by the mostly male nerds who ran things, like a younger sister best banished to her room whenever company came by. The internet changed all that by ushering in the era of the networked fan, often a girl who sampled her first taste of fic in Harry Potter fandom. Like it or not, the once-Olympian creators of the canon — known among fic writers as TPTB, or “the powers that be” — now have little choice but to listen to them. Robust, established online networks of Harry Potter and Twilight fans played a significant role in making The Hunger Games books into best sellers and, after that, blockbuster films.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 18, 2015 at 10:27 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On the Toronto Maple Leafs, social media, and performance anxiety

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The Globe and Mail‘s James Mirtle writes about the latest social media controversy in Toronto, this one involving the Toronto Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are positioned by Mirtle as people undeserving of this criticism. This sort of thing, driven by frustration and anger, is probably inevitable given the way the team has been performing so badly this season.

Kessel and Phaneuf do not appear to have many allies in the media, after more than five years as Leafs. They are rarely defended and often take the blame when the team loses.

They’re lightning rods, more than most, and it helps that people want to read and hear about them.

Make no mistake, they’re fair game. In this mess of a season, everyone deserves criticism, and that obviously includes the highest paid and highest profile players.

But the reality here is that – as a frustrated Kessel blurted out on Tuesday in his rant defending his friend and captain – Dion Phaneuf didn’t build this team. He didn’t put himself – a good but flawed defenceman who had slid down Calgary’s depth chart when he was moved – into the No. 1 role, where he’s averaged an almost-NHL-leading 25 minutes a game in his time with the Leafs.

He has played as much as Zdeno Chara, and he’s not Zdeno Chara.

But in the context of how bad this team has been, Phaneuf has performed reasonably well. With Phaneuf on the ice, the Leafs have been outscored by only 13 goals at 5-on-5 in his entire tenure with the team (354 games).

Written by Randy McDonald

March 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Big Picture looks at the uses of oil barrels around the world.
  • blogTO wonders if the Annex is ready for a condo boom.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage noting how odd spectra on Mars were misidentified as proof of life.
  • Crooked Timber notes a student occupation of the University of Amsterdam’s headquarters.
  • Discover‘s The Crux makes a poor argument that space probe visits to Pluto and Ceres will lead to the redefinition of these worlds as planets.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at an odd pulsating hot subdwarf B star with a brown dwarf.
  • The Dragon’s Tales suggests chemical mechanisms for life on Titan, and explains the differences in water plumes between Europa and Enceladus.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes political conflict in Germany.
  • Discover‘s Inkfist notes that birds from harsher climates are smarters.
  • Joe. My. God. shares Madonna’s critique of ageism.
  • Languages of the World examines the genesis of the English language.
  • Marginal Revolution notes Japanese funerals for robots, suggests Facebook usage makes people less happy, and notes family formation in Europe.
  • John Moyer examines punctuation.
  • Steve Munro maps out routes for a Scarborough subway.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at science on Pluto.
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of ethnically mixed households in Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at how Panama successfully made use of price controls, and why.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell wonders what is the rush for three-parent IVF therapy.
  • Transit Toronto explains how old TTC tickets can be exchanged.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the importance of Belarus for the Baltic States, notes the newly-debatable borders of the former Soviet Union, suggests Tatarstan is unhappy with Russian federalism, and looks at the small grounds for Russian-Ukrainian hostilities.

[LINK] “Is Weibo on the way out?”

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BBC’s Celia Hatton notes concerns that China’s Weibo social networking platform might be on the way out thanks to state policies on anonymity.

China’s internet watchdogs have threatened to enforce real-name registration before. But this time, they’re adamant all Chinese citizens must provide their real names and identification numbers before using social media sites starting on 1 March.

Nicknames can be used on the sites, but only after users hand over their personal details to the government.

The new rule will stifle one of the few venues for free speech in China, many fear. Specifically, real-name registration could hasten the slow death of Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

Once the only place to find vibrant sources of debate on the Chinese internet, Weibo is quickly losing momentum.

Fifty-six million people in China stopped using Weibo accounts last year, according to China’s state internet regulator, registering a drop from 331 million accounts to 275 million accounts. Several internet companies operate Weibo services in China, though all function in a similar manner.

Those with Weibo accounts don’t seem to be using them very much. Ninety-four per cent of the messages on Weibo are generated by just 5% of its users, or 10 million people, according to one study published last April by the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre. The same study found that almost 60% of accounts had never posted a message.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 2, 2015 at 10:16 pm

[LINK] “Facebook flags aboriginal names as not ‘authentic'”

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CBC’s John Bowman notes how Facebook’s policies requiring the use of actual names is, after getting transgendered people, harming First Nations people.

Facebook requires its users to use a profile name that’s the same as the name they use in real life, but some indigenous people say the social network is rejecting their real names because they don’t conform to its standards.

Earlier this month, Dana Lone Hill, a member of the Lakota people living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, tried to log in to her Facebook account. She was met with an error message asking her to change her name.

The message read: “It looks like the name on your Facebook account may not be your authentic name.”

Lone Hill’s name is one she shares with her mother. Facebook required her to send in three pieces of identification to prove that her real name is real. Eventually, the social network reactivated her account.

Lone Hill wrote about her experience on the Last Real Indians blog, and she found she wasn’t the only aboriginal person to who had run afoul of Facebook’s “real name” policy.

In October, a number of people — with names like Lance Browneyes and Shane Creepingbear — had had their accounts suspended because of their names.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 12:10 am

[LINK] “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life”

In an article taken from his new book and published in The New York Times Magazine, Jon Ronson does an interesting job of humanizing Justine Sacco, the woman whose famous tweet about not getting AIDS in Africa because she was white made her a trending topic on Twitter. To what extent was her tweet misinterpreted? To what extent was the reaction justified? He suggests that mercy would be humane.

Late one afternoon last year, I met Justine Sacco in New York, at a restaurant in Chelsea called Cookshop. Dressed in rather chic business attire, Sacco ordered a glass of white wine. Just three weeks had passed since her trip to Africa, and she was still a person of interest to the media. Websites had already ransacked her Twitter feed for more horrors. (For example, “I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night,” from 2012, was unearthed by BuzzFeed in the article “16 Tweets Justine Sacco Regrets.”) A New York Post photographer had been following her to the gym.

“Only an insane person would think that white people don’t get AIDS,” she told me. It was about the first thing she said to me when we sat down.

Sacco had been three hours or so into her flight when retweets of her joke began to overwhelm my Twitter feed. I could understand why some people found it offensive. Read literally, she said that white people don’t get AIDS, but it seems doubtful many interpreted it that way. More likely it was her apparently gleeful flaunting of her privilege that angered people. But after thinking about her tweet for a few seconds more, I began to suspect that it wasn’t racist but a reflexive critique of white privilege — on our tendency to naïvely imagine ourselves immune from life’s horrors. Sacco, like Stone, had been yanked violently out of the context of her small social circle. Right?

“To me it was so insane of a comment for anyone to make,” she said. “I thought there was no way that anyone could possibly think it was literal.” (She would later write me an email to elaborate on this point. “Unfortunately, I am not a character on ‘South Park’ or a comedian, so I had no business commenting on the epidemic in such a politically incorrect manner on a public platform,” she wrote. “To put it simply, I wasn’t trying to raise awareness of AIDS or piss off the world or ruin my life. Living in America puts us in a bit of a bubble when it comes to what is going on in the third world. I was making fun of that bubble.”)

I would be the only person she spoke to on the record about what happened to her, she said. It was just too harrowing — and “as a publicist,” inadvisable — but she felt it was necessary, to show how “crazy” her situation was, how her punishment simply didn’t fit the crime.

“I cried out my body weight in the first 24 hours,” she told me. “It was incredibly traumatic. You don’t sleep. You wake up in the middle of the night forgetting where you are.” She released an apology statement and cut short her vacation. Workers were threatening to strike at the hotels she had booked if she showed up. She was told no one could guarantee her safety.

Her extended family in South Africa were African National Congress supporters — the party of Nelson Mandela. They were longtime activists for racial equality. When Justine arrived at the family home from the airport, one of the first things her aunt said to her was: “This is not what our family stands for. And now, by association, you’ve almost tarnished the family.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2015 at 11:08 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • The Big Picture has photos of the winter snowtowns in New England.
  • blogTO has old photos of various Toronto intersections.
  • Centauri Dreams notes how atmospheres can break the tidal locks of close-orbiting planets.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze suggests Fomalhaut b is a false positive, speculates on the evaporation time of hot Jupiters, and wonders if planetoids impacting on white dwarfs can trigger Type Ia supernovas.
  • The Dragon’s Tales considers the status of the Brazilian navy, notes the Egyptian purchase of 24 Rafale fighters from France, and observes that Russia no longer has early-warning satellites.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the sociology of the red carpet.
  • Far Outliers assesses the achievements and problems of Chiang Kai-shek.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes intra-European negotiations over Greece.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the progress of a same-sex marriage bill in Slovenia.
  • Languages of the World argues that of all of the minority languages of Russia, Tuvan is the least endangered.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the Confederate diaspora in Brazil.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the larger the American state the more likely it is to be unequal, notes that South Korean wages have exceeded Japanese wages for the first time, and looks at anti-Valentine’s Day men in Japan.
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  • Out of Ambit’s Diane Duane notes how a German translator of her Star Trek novels put subtle advertisements for soup in.
  • The Planetary Society Blog shares photos from Rosetta of its target comet.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer is skeptical about the Nicaragua Canal, wonders about Greece in the Eurozone, looks at instability in Venezuela, and suggests an inverse relationship between social networking platforms–mass media, even–and social capital.
  • Spacing Toronto wonders if the Scarborough subway will survive.
  • Towleroad notes popular American-born Russian actor Odin Biron’s coming out and observes that Antonin Scalia doesn’t want people to call him anti-gay.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little looks at the forces which lead to the split of communtiies.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the non-Russian republics of Russia will survive, argues that Putin’s Russia is already fascist, and notes that Russians overwhelmingly support non-traditional families.
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