Monthly Archives: February 2010

When Fans Love Too Much

Jim Sterling has an intriguing post over at Destructoid called, expressively, “Videogame ‘Fans’ Need to Shut Up About Everything.” It’s written in reaction to Sonic 4 fans who are extremely distressed about what they see as their fandom being royally twisted up. There’s also some summaries of similar fan frustrations over new Fallout and Diablo games, alternately sad and hilarious.

My favorite lines from the article, with brief commentary:

Instead of fans, I declare that they should be known as people who need to shut the f*ck up about everything.

After the scare-quotes in the article title, this is the second place where these over-zealous critics have the label of fan taken away from them–even though they would probably call themselves the most fannish of them all. Interesting how labels operate differently for different groups, and how they function rhetorically.

One of the main problems with these so-called fans is the fact that they never want things to change.

I have to agree here; I remember when the fourth Smashing Pumpkins album (Adore) was released and it drove fans completely bonkers because it sounded different (!) than previous albums. I wanted everyone to chill out a little and trust the band to give us quality stuff, since they had followed through so superiorly in the past.

But the more I think about Sterling’s comment, the more it makes me wonder: to what extent do certain fandoms have a mean streak of conservatism in them? In other words, is there something inherent in a fan (or fandoms) that rewards leaning on the past and feels threatened by change? Certainly not always; I see lots of fan fiction as the complete opposite, with people seeing things they want to improve on in the original and stepping up to make those changes themselves. Somewhat on the same topic:

This situation, again, stems from the self-important assumption that fans are the be-all and end-all of videogame knowledge. . . .

Blizzard, for its part, mocked the sniveling of the self-professed fans, who had become so obsessed that they doctored images to make them darker in a bid to “help” Blizzard understand what its own game should look like. Once again, the sheer arrogance of that is astounding. . . .

We tend to hurt things we love more than things we hate.

Again, here’s the vision of the fans who hold on too tight, along with frustration at the “arrogance” that fans would know more than the content producer. That’s such a tricky tightrope to find an opinion on, at least for me. I find my gut reaction is with this article, with the Sonic 4 producers, with The Smashing Pumpkins: make an awesome product however you like, and I’ll try to judge it on its own merit, not on my perceptions of what it ought to have been.

But on the other hand, I want these frustrated fans to have space to make their own worlds too that fit their vision, you know? I love that people are so passionate about the stuff they love that they want it to be excellent and awesome, and I don’t want them to simply shut up when their hopes aren’t met. I want them to go out and do something creative on their own that tweaks the official product in awesome, folk-culture ways.

But obviously, that’s where fans of different types of media differ and where genre becomes important. A fan can be dissatisfied with the narrative of a show, movie, book, or even videogame, and rewrite that narrative in fan fiction. But it’s a lot harder for a fan to be dissatisfied with, say, Sonic 4, and then go out and make his own Sonic 4. (Though the startlingly amazing stuff over at Zelda Classic isn’t too far away from that….)

It’s the sheer selfishness of these so-called “fans” that really irritates me. They don’t care about other fans, or even the developers. They don’t give a shit that if a developer catered exactly to them, that they could risk making a game with limited appeal and lose money. You’d think a fan would be happy to see a game in their favorite series make some money, but apparently not.

Ah yes, money always comes into the picture. Sterling is quite right here, methinks. ‘Nuff said?

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Two Quick News Thoughts

Here’s how I use Google News Alerts: I add one that I think will be useful for a current project or interest, getting an email digest once a day with all the news with that search term. I skim them all for a while. Then I stop skimming them, and I let them junk up my inbox for about 9 months before I take the seven seconds it takes to turn them off. Current news alerts: intellectual property; information literacy; remix.

Here’s two things that came up in the remix one today:

1. I read a brief review of the music site We are Hunted on The Dispatch Online (article). They (rightly) praise the site’s strong but simple design (though I can’t get Lady GaGa to stream), but I admit I thought the article was a press release sent out by We are Hunted–it’s remarkably praiseworthy and uses phrases that scream “This came from the site being reviewed” like “We are hunted is simply a great way to explore what has a hold on listeners’ ears on the web.” (Is that a mean thing for me to write? I’m not trying to be mean. But really?)

I Googled a few lines of the article, expecting to find the same language elsewhere online (inspired by the press release assignments suggested here)–but nothing. Huh! My bad.

2. I also came across this piece, “Am I a Gadget?” on PopMatters’ blog, Marginal Unity: Dealing with Contemporary Consumerism, Capitalism, and the Life it Permits. (That’s certainly the most provocative-yet-unclear blog subtitle I’ve ever seen. What side are they on, we wonder?) In the article, Rob Horning says he doesn’t really like Jaron Lanier’s You are Not a Gadget for the same reasons I’m inclined not to like it (even though I haven’t read it): “basically because I don’t buy into the argument that creators are motivated solely by property rights, nor do I see remix culture as derivative garbage.” Right on.

But it really struck me because Horning appreciatively links to the same video I praised and embedded in my last post by a guy I just called “normative,” since that’s the only name I found on his YouTube channel, but who apparently has a name and website: Julian Sanchez. I was surprised, though: I thought his shirt-and-tie set-up was inherently ironic in some way, like a picture of a Mario pillow strategically positioned next to a glass of wine (or Lady GaGa singing about fame in such an over-the-top way that it becomes multi-layered), but after looking at his actual site, I think I was wrong. He seems quite serious about his seriousness. Huh!

Now I’m off to wonder why I’m suddenly writing sarcastically critical stuff, when I usually try so hard to not be that guy. I’ll be better next time. (Probably because I found another site where I could stream some Lady GaGa.)

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The Evolution of Remix Culture?

I just watched an intriguing YouTube video by normative called “The Evolution of Remix Culture” (below). (I couldn’t find any bio info on this normative dude; I find myself both loving his vest-and-tie style and thinking it’s kind of silly. But whatever; I like his ideas.) (Found it via Jason Mittell’s Twitter feed.) (And while we’re being parenthetical, Mittell’s piece of Lostpedia is highly worth reading.)

normative suggests that we’re moving from Stage 1 of Remix Culture into Stage 2. Stage 1 is represented by people in their rooms, making new things out of the media culture we’re surrounded by, while in Stage 2 we see people stepping out into physical community, filming mash-ups on rooftops together in parties.

It’s an interesting framework that I’d like to see fleshed out some more. (And admittedly, I only watched the full video once, and I don’t have a transcript, so he may have fleshed some of this out in ways I didn’t quite catch.) It seems to me like there are some remixes that would probably count as Stage 1, but which are intensely collaborative in face-to-face ways from the beginning. (I’m thinking especially of some of Pomplamoose’s videos–which many would simply call “covers,” I know–and the many collaborative tracks on OverClocked ReMix.)

And wouldn’t a lot of people who collaborate in rich ways online (say, at ccMixter) see their experience as being just as rich as the f2f stuff going on in these Stage 2 “Lisztomania” dance party mash-ups? Not sure.

In any case, I’m quibbling; the video is strong and well worth pondering. If you watch the video, be sure to stick around to the end, where normative moves into the intellectual property and copyright issues that are brought up by this kind of cultural expression. He’s right to be afraid of increasingly restrictive rule-enforcing in this arena, and I’m both encouraged by his (simplistic?) description of this control as something we can “permit others to hold over our social realities,” and challenged to think deeper about what this kind of resistance actually can look like.

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DJ Spooky on Remix Literacy

After some nudges from a professor, I’ve finally picked up two of DJ Spooky’s books: Rhythm Science and his edited collection Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. Both are fun, beautiful books with accompanying CDs that I haven’t listened to yet.

Rhythm Science is especially interesting to look at: it’s published almost like a book of avant-garde poetry, with words and images sprinkled around the pages, framing the “main text” in a visual collage. (It’s all in two obnoxious colors of green and brown that start becoming unobnoxious once mashed together with each other.) Even better, the whole book has a circular hole through the middle, cutting back to where the CD rests in the back on a flimsy sticky pad that has already come undone–perhaps adding glue and scratches to the CD, leading to new, unintended sonic directions. Fun!

It smells funny, too.

Here’s a quote:

Saying that people are literate means that they have read widely enough to reference texts, to put them in a conceptual framework. They are capable of creating an overview. This kind of literacy exists in the musical arena, too. The more you have heard, the easier it is to find links and to recognize quotations. To specialize in either music or literature you need months, years of reading or listening to music. But the difference is that people have a more emotional approach toward music. If you don’t like a book, you put it aside after the first few pages. As for the philosophical or theoretical component in my music, I do know that average kids from the street are probably not aware of the connections between Derrida’s deconstructions and turntablism’s mixes, but it’s there if they ever come looking, and my own writings are a place to start.

That settles it: I’ll one day have to name an article / write a song / make a t-shirt with the phrase “It’s there if they ever come looking.”

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