owlmoose: (marvel - jessica jones fractured)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2017-06-29 12:41 pm
Entry tags:

Fandom, capitalism, and owning the servers

On the occasion of Tumblr potentially being at risk because of Verizon's recent purchase of Yahoo, this article talks about the problem of Internet culture websites and their inability to turn a profit. Although the focus isn't on fandom, I feel like it's an encapsulation of everything I've been saying for years about the difficulties inherent in building fannish communities on sites owned by for-profit companies.

I recommend reading the article, even if it does lean a little too heavily on "Tumblr users are mostly excitable teenagers" when the site's own demographic data shows that this isn't true -- in 2015, over 40% of the site's users were 18-34, and only 15% were 13-17 (the same percentage as 55+). It brought me to a lot of thoughts about fandom, and how it operates today, and how it's splintered. Tumblr is still active, but it's not the hub it used to be. LiveJournal is all but dead (I assume coincidentally, today's episode of the Reply All podcast is about the Russian government's concerted, and essentially successful, attempt to kill LJ). Facebook thrives, but it's a terrible place to do fandom, and for once fandom seems to agree. Dreamwidth is seeing a bit of a resurgence, but I doubt it will ever become a thriving community the way that LJ used to be, and the same is true of AO3. The Imzy experiment has come to an end. A lot of the action has moved into walled gardens like Discord and Slack (I myself spend more time on a private Slack than anywhere else on the Internet by a large margin right now), which is understandable from the point of view of wanting to avoid random drama and trolls, but the isolation makes it so much harder to discover new communities and meet people. (Also, I kind of hate the Discord interface; Slack at least is much cleaner.)

I don't have any specific recommendations or conclusions to share right now. But this issue isn't going away any time soon, and if Tumblr closes, the issue may be forced sooner rather than later. Where do we go from here? Is there even anywhere left? Can fandom take the reigns and build a community platform for itself, along the lines of AO3? Or will we end up depending on the goodwill of fandom-friendly for-profits, like Dreamwidth and Pinboard? Time will tell.

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