Lets talk about fan fiction, a continuation

Mili Popova has a brilliant post about an orgcon unconference session I helped to organiseI wrote on a post it note. Nothing more.. This is something inspired by this, and other sessions and speakers at orgcon. It takes a second to get to fanfic, so bear with me.

Much crowing and back slapping was done at orgcon about the sopa/pipa victory earlier in the year. Much talk about how we can build on it, and lessons to be learnt. Many Blog posts about that too. I don’t need to cover most of that.

But there was one thing that was overlooked- The Tumblr effect. wendy seltzer had a screenshot with a post about how important Tumblr was in the fight on it. She didn’t mention it. I can’t find her slides. If anyone has them, let me know Tumblr generated a huge number of calls and action. Far more than Reddit did (as far as I can tell). Reddit got lots of shout outs, as did several large blogs. But no Tumblr.

And this is indicative of all the comments and speeches made at orgcon. ORG has a dispora seed, but no Tumblr blog. This is a case of misplaced priorities, because as much as I think that dispora is important, and it’s important to have groups like ORG adopting such technologies early so they get momentum, Tumblr has a huge base of people who care about these issues. And it’s ignored.

Why? Because it doesn’t feature on the digital rights radar. The digital rights movement has its roots in the tech world, and in the legal world. There are reasons for this- the majority of early internet adopters were from the tech world, and these issues began early and it takes time to get to the top of a cause. The law profession is involved because the tool of big content is the law, and specifically attacks on free speech.

This has lead to a couple of problems:

Content creators are uninvolved

Neither of the above group are famous for their content. Tech Professionals tend to write nonfiction, and occasionally produce some good techno/nerdcore. Law professors tend to write opinions. There’s a reason corycory is an exception, as he so often is. says in content:

I lead a double life: I’m also a science fiction writer. That means I’ve got a dog in this fight, because I’ve been dreaming of making my living from writing since I was 12 years old.

It’s because he’s a rarity- we don’t have as many creators in the movement as we should. And he considers it a “double life”, not a natural part of being a creator. There’s clearly some separation between of the people we’re fighting for and the soldiers, generals and lawyers on the front lines.

But the content creators do care- the evidence of Tumblrs’ sopa/pipa action has shown us that anyone who wants to claim that Tumblr isn’t creative obviously doesn’t spend time there. And when you ask them about the open rights group, or about the ACLU, you’ll only get a slightly above average recognition rate. These are people who spend silly amounts of time online, and unlike the rest of us, and actually produce the content that has the “don’t sue me” disclaimers at the top that we want to get rid of. And they don’t know how about the groups supposedly fighting for them.

Women are uninvolved

This isn’t that the women in the movement are uninvolved,(As far as I can tell Nishma pretty much single handedly organised org con, and I met some really smart, committed and well spoken women there.). But we held a session asking why there were so few women involved in the fight, and the answers where the same- it’s dominated by the technology community. Which is dominated by men. There’s no good reason for this except wider societal education. And that’s a bad reason, but it is a fact.

The solutions to this where the standard bourgeois-feminist solutions- we need more role models in high places, look at how small wendys’ name is, etc. Yes, these are problems, but to suggest that if wendy seltze was the keynote instead of cory, then we’d have 40-60% women in the conference is as absurd as it is to suggest that getting 20% of senior board members to be women is going to solve patriarchy.

There are problems with representation- But I’ve no doubt that nishma and the rest of org has got these in hand. But this is a wider problem, imho

To have a greater proportion women at the convention would be unrepresentative unless we change the culture and groups we’re drawing from. I’d love for there to be more women in technology and law, but there aren’t(we should be working to fix that too). If we’re going to draw from the same groups and same culture, we’re going to need massive positive discrimination in our organisation and similar programmes to make sure that speakers are chosen so we have an equal mix.

The problem isn’t involvement of the women who are in the movement, it’s the fact that we don’t have enough women in the movement.

Thankfully, I think I’ve got a solution.

Lets talk about fan fiction

I’m serious. Let’s. Don’t let it be a dirty secret for the internet. Lets champion fanfiction, amvs, fanart and fandom in a way the OTW doesn’t have the resources toI love the otw. Don’t get me wrong, but they’re not lobbying because their focus is on preserving what we have. Let’s reach out to the content creators and speak about their issues.

Instead of having a gpg keysigning session, let’s have a session where we swap fan names. Instead of a session on the tools of hacktivism, lets have a session on what to do when your amv gets a takedown notice. In fact, let’s do these as well. We can have people swap the gpg keys associated with their fan names. When your amv gets taken down, lets teach people to upload it to censorship resistant servers.

I’m not suggesting turning orgcon into a fanfiction con filled with “Tumblr girls” as some normals will suggest. I want to make these two groups meet in the middle. Because we’re natural allies.

When we speak to their issues (which are also our issues), we’ll get the content creators flooding in. And when we tap into this huge body of people, which is much more balanced in favor of women Tumblr is in fact far more female balanced., we get our demographic swamped by the new balanced one.

In Addition to this, we tap into the huge resource that is the users of the tools we try to protect. We’ve already got half way, with the sopa/pipa battle, now we need to just let them know we’re here.

And in doing so, we need to learn to respect artists. There’s a bias among tech people to dismiss the arts as not worthwhile, and to dismiss anything that isn’t xkcd or SyFy as shallow and pretentious because xkcd is never pretentious. We need to overcome this and shift our culture towards accepting that artists and fan{girls,boys} have a lot to add to our movement. If we don’t respect them, and treat them like a uneducated mass who we can dispense dire warnings about “the next sopa/pipa” to to get a huge number of phone calls whenever we don’t like a bill, like some “just add water” recipe. We need fans speaking at org con about copyright law and their work, or about the right to parody and how we can implement one in the uk.