Talk about what you think the future holds for fandom.
I'll start with most of the flavor text, because it seems to be the inspiration for the post itself.
Some of us have been in fandom for a year, ten years, twenty years, but fandom itself has been around longer even than that. I [spikedluv] joined fandom when the internet was relatively new and Yahoo Groups were the thing. I made the move to LJ/DW and have a sparsely used Twitter and tried out Tumblr . . . The people who came before us used ‘zines and newsgroups.
What changes will the future bring? Given the great Tumblr Purge of 2018 and the influx of people to Dreamwidth and other platforms, such as Pillowfort and Discord, I thought this round was a good time to revisit this question.
[Challenge text goes here.]
What are your hopes and dreams for fandom? Do you have any predictions about what the next five years holds for fandom? Where do you think fandom will end up congregating? Feel free to answer this question with a sentence or a couple paragraphs, express your feelings with a good old fashioned meta or through words, music, graphics, dance, recipes, etc. Whatever works for you. *g*
I appreciate that the perspective on the past pointed out here is not one that presumed fandom sprang fully-formed from the forehead of the Internet. It is easy to believe that the universe started with you and that everything that came before is either unimportant or soon to be eclipsed by your own greatness.
There's an established definition in fandom that fanworks really took off as their own separate and distinct category with the advocacy of The Premise. (That's Kirk/Spock, for those of us who have never heard that phrase or its context which I didn't know of until I did a little digging into fannish history.) Before that, we're often willing to admit that Holmes pastiches are definitely in the right vein of fanworks as we understand them now, with multiple authors taking a turn with characters that had been previously established, but it seems like there's a line drawn there making the Holmes pastiches something different. Perhaps because it's all dudes taking their turns at it, and these are published works for which the author got paid, instead of fan works gifted and given freely?
The tradition of riffing on someone else's canon goes back much further than that, though. Allusions and plays and building on things goes back at least as far as the Aeneid, because Aeneas is supposed to also have been at the battle of Troy, where that other hero, Odysseus/Ulysses was before he pissed off a sea god and had to take the long way home. So there's a case to be made that fandom and fanworks are way older than even our commonly accepted definitions are.
Much of this goes in the service of saying the first thing that I want to point out about fandom and its future. Wherever there is canon and fans, there will be fandom.
I realize that sounds trite, but it's the bedrock on which everything else works and exists. It's also a little comforting, when you're going through upheavals and platforms are changing and people are fragmenting and disappearing and there are takedown notices and legal battles and holding your breath about whether there will be yet another copyright extension at Disney's insistence or whether some things will actually be allowed into the public domain (as they were this year). There's always the tension present between the creator as supreme authority over all things and the fans who want to make tweaks and changes or who interrogate works from whatever perspective they bring to the table. (Sometimes, a better one than the author themselves.) Fandom may or may not be a very visible part of the world and its history, but it is there. And as we go forward, it will likely be a better-documented part of that history, assuming that our digital preservation efforts are up to snuff and we can carry forward all the things that we've created into the future. I can hope, or dread, either one works nicely, that the archaeologists two thousand years hence are sifting through this entry looking for something to work on their doctorates with, but it's unlikely just because so much of our things degrade over time to the point where they're unusable. (And in digital, that degradation accelerates at the speed of computers.)
There's another thing that I suspect is becoming more true as we go along, although it was probably still true in the pasts of fandoms, given how the history suggests that the entire subterfuge of "The Premise" was needed in the letters pages and discussion spaces of pre-Internet fandom. Fandom and money will always get along uneasily
. We're seeing it more clearly now in the Tumblr purge, and in Facebook's newest guidelines, but it was present in Strikethrough, and the payment processor issues with Dreamwidth, and the Moral Guardians, and the way that letters pages are communication, and conventions, and even things like how the Superman radio serial decided to integrate secret information being fed to them from the KKK in order to make the racists a laughingstock of society. (Or, at least, to try.) Social platforms are often driven by advertising dollars. Canon is also often driven by advertising dollars. That fences in what's acceptable material to display to audiences. And when the advertisers get upset and take their money elsewhere, that's usually the end to any given platform, even if the idea of its founding was to be a place where more grown-up, more kinky, more fannish people could be without repercussions. A canon can be cancelled if there's an outrage campaign against it. The "innocence of children" are usually the most convenient shield for outrage campaigns to hide behind, despite our increased knowledge that children are really good at understanding the world around them, even at really young ages. Which is to say that fandom arrives in a place, builds a presence, becomes visible, has a good time, and then is often given the boot because the advertisers noticed the fans were being fans and talking about fannish things.
And that's before we get into the various flux states around copyrighted characters and how they can be expressed without infringing on that copyright, and whether a particular expression is protected under exemptions to copyright or is considered distinct enough to not infringe, and how vigorous and zealous authors, rights holders, and others get about trying to protect themselves from infringement and from other people potentially using their work. Nobody necessarily wants to be the test case to more certainly determine what is and isn't allowed in fanworks, because while there's a lot of good that can come out of a favorable ruling, there's a lot that could be erased by an unfavorable one, and there's not enough of a sense of the world to know which of those results is going to be the one that happens. And when money gets involved, rights holders get involved a lot, as well. Because when money gets involved, then there's potential harm, and that's when the lawyers start making money of their own.
Fans will continue to migrate among platforms until they can find one that understands them and is okay with their presence. In all their myriad ways of expression. I foresee a certain amount of cycle going on as fans head to a platform that looks like it will be big enough to attract a lot of fans and that will scale up nicely to all the images and videos and text they want to put on it, and they will stress-test that system to see if it stands up technologically. Assuming that it passes, then they'll add content to it and share content and be happy there while it grows in user base size and content. And then, at a certain point, if it was bought with venture capital or advertiser funds or anything else, really, than built from the ground with seed money and financed by donations and subscriptions, someone will complain about the content in the space, and the platform will turf out any of the fans it deems unacceptable. Having been told they aren't welcome, some amount of fans decamp for other spaces, and the cycle begins anew, although with a bit more fragmentation involved as some who were not deemed unacceptable stay behind, because it's the place they want to be or because they've invested so much in that space that moving to another location is too much work.
I'm also pretty sure that there's going to be something in the next few years that none of us really thought was going to be the big hit it's going to turn out to be. Whether because we think it's the best thing since Babylon 5, or because we can't understand why everyone else likes it so much when we feel distinctly cold about it. It's going to bring entire new groups of people to fandom that weren't there before, and we're going to have to be patient with them as we show them to ways and mores of our particular platform and community. But if we can always manage to be welcoming to the new fans and resilient enough to shrug off the groups that think of us as something other than normal or acceptable or people who should be allowed to show our faces in public, we'll keep the thing moving and keep spreading joy and enjoyment to each other and ourselves, by being our best selves.
We've already come a long way toward acceptance, inclusion, and demanding diverse perspectives and ideas to be present in our canons and our fanworks. There's a lot more open discussion of things that would have otherwise needed code names and allusions in the letters pages of our publications. The trend seems to be positive, even if we have hiccups and snarls and Strikethroughs and purges and changes to the TOS that benefit the advertisers not wanting themselves to be associated with fandom, rather than deciding the fans are worth keeping around and making the advertisers compromise.
In short, the future is going to be what the past has been and present is now -- constantly in motion, in change, in dialogue with itself toward the ultimate goal of making sure everyone has a space of their own to be a fan in, and to find people who are the same sorts of fans that they are. At least to the extent allowable by law, a good ethical and moral code, and an outlook that is fundamentally about not causing harm to others through your fandom actions.