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You can call me Hal.

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Fannish Spaces

With poorly drawn diagrams.

Abstract things often have a spatial element for me. For example, the months of the year go around in a circle, clockwise. But I never see the whole circle at once, only the month I'm thinking about and the ones on either side.

Or this: when I first got onto LJ, it was unfamiliar and so in my mental monitor, it occupied the bottom right corner. Now that it's a comfortable place for me, it's moved to the upper left.

I was talking with laurashapiro about LJ and mailing lists and how fandom is different depending where you are and I started to think about how each of them feels to me, spatially, and how it's a metaphor for their function. (This seemed a lot more brilliant then -- I think it was the rum. But I press on regardless!)

I should probably be dealing with Usenet too, but I only ever hung out on alt.tv.x-files.creative. So I will simply say that being on a newsgroup feels to me like being outdoors and move on.

Mailing Lists

A mailing list, to me, is a sphere. A bubble. A discrete entity. Content flows into it, but doesn't flow out -- it's all in there and it doesn't mix with all the other mailing list bubbles. I go from bubble to bubble, depending on what fandoms and subjects I feel interested in. Even if I don't read my email, it still flows into the bubble and waits there for me to sift through it.

A mailing list is, essentially, topic driven. I want to read Legolas/Gimli fanfic and chat, I go to Axe and Bow. I want to discuss making vids, I go to Vidder. I don't post in those groups about the TV shows I watched on Monday night or what I did while I was waiting to read OotP. I stick with the mandate of the list.

I choose the topics, not the other people on the list. So you find quite a range of opinion, despite the fact that we're all interested in the same thing. Discussion can be quite lively, even flamy at times.

Mailing lists are about what you're interested in.


On LiveJournal, I am at the centre and everything revolves around me. My friends list is like a ring that encircles me. Every person I add makes the ring a little larger. Communities are another ring. The content falls from above and passes through me and my rings. It's transient, it's ephemeral.

LJ is people driven. It's true that I add people because of what they usually write about, but very few people stick to only one topic. So I read about what interests the people on my list, not about what only interests me. Sure, I skip right over those posts about the OC and Smallville. But I read about the movies they're watching and the other shows and sometimes I get whole new fandoms that way. I get opinions and thoughts that I wouldn't see on mailing lists.

But I also don't get all the posts on the subjects I'm interested in. I don't get all the HP fic or all the Stargate discussion. I don't think I'm really connected to LotR fandom on LJ at all. When the RotK trailer dropped, nobody was posting on my flist about it, so I went out to friendsfriends to see if I could find any commentary there. It's not very efficient. Fandom is, to me, what I'm reading.

It's also narcissistic. I post about whatever interests me, me, me! The Fandom of Hal's Brain. But everybody else gets to do the same. It's like when people first started putting up personal homepages. We all can shine like little stars in our own LJ solar systems, surrounded by a cloud of other people, connecting out to the edges of the known universe.

Discussion on LJ has a different tenor than on lists. Because I choose the people that you read, rather than the topics, I'm more likely to be of the same opinion as they are, and, when I'm not, I feel more of a desire to be conciliatory, out of a sense of personal connection. That's not to say that there's not dissension, but even that tends to have more of a personal tone.

LJ is about who you know.

Which Is Better

Eh. I think they're both great. Not like that sucky Usenet. *g*

I like your diagrams. You look like Saturn in the LJ one, only smaller and not so full of ice and stuff. Maybe that makes the red lines, um, interstellar radiation, mysteriously all in the same direction? *ponders*

I think, since at this point I'm so multifannish and so -- connected to my audience, I guess -- that's why I prefer LJ. I enjoy writing things for people, and I enjoy developing enough personal connection to have dorky injokes (and in a few cases, to have actual friendships, offline or via realmail and phone). I also like the freedom to go offtopic -- if someone goes somewhere totally random in a comments string, that's okay.

Lists are great, too, of course, but they're not where I am in my fanbrain right now (granted, this may largely have to do with most of the lists I'm on being 99% dead, probably due to LJ, and the other lists having psycho off-topic policies which tend to damp any discussions I find interesting -- I don't need posts about what people did last Sunday, but if a discussion on a Good Omens list goes from GO to the Bible, well, that might help me write fic, so I'm a little irritated when it's smacked down as OT).

I am too young to know Usenet firsthand. *snf*

(I am feeling slightly bizarre tonight, and overdosed on physics. Sorry about that.)

You look like Saturn in the LJ one, only smaller and not so full of ice and stuff.

Ah, but I may be icy at the core. *g*

I think, since at this point I'm so multifannish and so -- connected to my audience, I guess -- that's why I prefer LJ.

I think that LJ has really encouraged people to be more multi-fannish, which I love. Certainly, I approach a lot more things now -- movies, books, TV -- with a fannish mindset.

Ooh, you do the spatial thing too? I don't think mine is *quite* as advanced as yours, but days of the week are in my head as little boxes. They're not labeled, but I can just tell by the boxes and their positions which ones they are. I can count ahead by weeks in my head this way, which is how I used to figure out that, say, the 17th was a Tuesday when I was a kid, before I realized you could just add 7's to things. *g*


I love your little boxes! That's so cool.

I love it when people meta LJ.

Complete with diagrams!

I love LJ for the fact that when you deal with people, you can go back and check out who they are. Who their friends are, what goes on in their day to day lives. Because while it's easy to lie over email, it takes quite a perverted person to keep lying on their journals.

I love that things aren't isolated.

That's a great point. I was saying in another comment below that LJ helps us to put people's comments in context and also allows us to assign credibility to them because we can follow up on their own posts, on who they read, who reads them, other info -- it's not just words in an email message -- it's attached to this whole identity.

omg me too! I thought I was the only one who saw the calendar as a circle. Only I can see the current month and about two months on either side.

Weird. Also, cool diagrams and analysis. :-)

Of course it's a circle! We keep going around and around it.

Girls, girls, you're both beautiful. I too love them both for very different reasons and for those reasons, they both have their drawbacks. Unlike USENET which was awesome you heathen. No wonder your SG DVDs get delayed with statements like that. Someday I'll document how I went from being subscribed to 46 newsgroups to 0 in three short years.

I think in my heydey, I was subbed to about 10 newsgroups, but I was only ever really active in the one. They were wild and woolly, compared to mailing lists, that's for sure.

My SG DVDs are constantly delayed because people are Out To Get Me, not because of any off-hand comments I may have made about Usenet. I have a tinfoil hat now.

I like your diagrams.

Spatial? It's not just me, seeing time as (simultaneously) a stack of boxes, or a road through an open field that has stuff in it?

Nifty images! I like the boxes -- are they all the same size?

Ooh, pretty pictures!

I think the big difference for me is the extent to which livejournal is a set of interacting soliloquies and one-on-one interactions, rather than a multiple-person conversation. I mean, as of this comment there are six other comments to this post. If someone replies to one of the other ones and they get into a Really Interesting Conversation, I'll never know, you know?

Oooh, good point.

Given that I've always prefered one-on-one interactions to group situations, that's probably another reason I'm more comfortable with LJ....

I've thought about this too, and in my mental diagram of lj instead of the orbital pattern you have, I have a sort of Venn diagram of overlapping circles. This is because although I have a certain friendslist, each person on that list has a different one, with some common and some different friends. Sometimes I'll follow a comment or a reference and get out of my circle (like now), but it's still sort of related by hops and jumps.

And I miss USENET.

I like the hops and jumps. I've been playing with this lately:

LiveJournal Connect!
Enter your username in the left box, someone else's username (or a * for a random one) in the right box, and press the button!
Quiet Mutual 2 chains No 1-hop
Coded by sachmet

I think they're perfectly clear diagrams. Elegant and simple. No, seriously.

And the explanation is terrific. I had never thought of it that way, but it's quite logical when you put it in those terms. I had thought of mailing lists as two-dimensional and journaling as three-dimensional. The bubble vs. circle idea makes a lot of sense. In a way, though, wouldn't journaling be overlapping circles, not concentric?

Some of the LJ and JF circles overlap, and you do get a lot of references to outside links... but, yes, as something that circles around what you're interested in.

I remember Usenet. It drove me crazy. It was worse than spam.

Overlapping circles would probably make more sense, but that's not how I picture it. Possibly this is related to the narcissistic nature of LJ. *g*

Usenet seemed to bring out the crazies more than any other online "place" I've been.

::snuggling your brain to my chest:: You think such nifty things.

Clockwise months? That's just wrong! Months are all in a horizontal row, with January at the left and December at the right and all the others lined up between.

I like your listbubbles. It's interesting how LJ fosters the "it's all about me" way of perceiving fandom. That had occurred to me with respect to what we post, but less so with the way we read and comment. I would argue that a person's experience of LJ is all defined by both human connection and self-interest: it's what you know, but also what you care about, because (as you said) you gloss over or filter out the stuff that's less appealing.


Months is a row? But what do you do when you have to get from December to January?

I would argue that a person's experience of LJ is all defined by both human connection and self-interest

I think I would agree with that. Certainly, my interests dictate which other discussions I become involved in. But I gain new interests that way too.

I loved your post (to which I came via katallison whom I haven't even friended but I happened to read my fflist and came across her discussion of your post) and turned around and pimped it in my own lj with some more thoughts of my own. And I'd never have even commented here and how much I appreciated the various ideas but especially the diagrams if darkkitten1 had not left a most interesting comment in my lj describing her dilemma on how to respond and to whom. (Is anyone still with me here? :-)

So, since she does not seem to want to do any self-pimpage, I'll do it for her. Read her comment in my lj that responds equally (if not more so) to your initial post (esp. the nifty pictures :-) here.

I hope to respond in more depth later, when I'm home, but I read your post and I read darkkitten1's responses in the comments and I think my head is still spinning! This is a perfect example of something which does not, AFAIK, have a good name, but which I think of as "a thing that is the thing that it describes" -- metaphorical and literal at the same time.

I think this perfectly encapsulates what I love *and* hate about LJ. I dislike the way conversation can become so distributed, so that you have to link and interlink and hope that people will find their way around. But then, in following those links up, I don't just read your opinions, I find out a bit more about you and about who your friends are and which friends we have in common. It's friendlier and it also gives context and credibility to your opinions and, hopefully, works the same for my opinions.

Hmm, maybe that was slightly depth-like after all. *g* And now to go over to your journal and post there too. It's a posting frenzy!

And now that cathexys mentioned my post, that brought me back here. Aieee. It's three posts no matter what you do! *grins*

Your not-at-all badly drawn diagrams illustrate rally well, and I loved your pithy summary of both ML's and LJ's pros and cons. And I have a really really long response to your post where cathexys points, right above.

And I miss Usenet too. *sniffle*

(Deleted comment)
Oh, nifty! Also, "synesthesia" is a v. beautiful word. It would make a good name, I think. Synesthesia Willoughby-Jones.

the months of the year go around in a circle, clockwise.

For me it's a counter-clockwise circle, with Dec 31/Jan 1 at the bottom, or 6 o'clock. I can't make myself visualize the year passing in the other direction.

I can't figure out where this best fits in to the discussion, but until/unless LJ develops ways of tracking topics across journals, I wonder if the "memories" function could be used in this way. It would help if it were more prominet, with lists of memory categories on user LJs, for example. I use memories off and on to save links to interesting posts and fics, but I've noticed that very few people seem to do this. And of course the name "memories" isn't an accurate term of "threads I've been interested in recently."

What I've just done, to try it out, is put an "LJ Threads" folder on my toolbar to drag bookmarks into, for things I want to remember to go back and check later.

Now I just need the time to do the reading...

There is a strong overlap in my RL friends, tastes and discussion topics and my online ones, so all this feels a little different to me. I view most fannish fora as layers of one of those three dimensional chess sets from original Trek (and elsewhere, I'm sure). Each layer is a medium of discussion, each participant a piece, and each conversation a move.

The tiers of my personal chess board are:
mailing lists
realtime chats associated with those mailing lists
private e-mail
Y!M and AIM
conversations with RL friends
FAP and similarly well known sites that have discussion boards

I see usenet as separate since I haven't been on there much in years, but when I was a 'regular' on alt.teens (oh, the shame!), I saw all of usenet in much the same way, only each group was a layer of the chess board.

I like this representation because I feel it captures the lateral movement of discussions (from friend to friend on lj, for example), but also the strange teleporting abilities my friends seem to have. I am forever running into people I used to know from some anime fandom list in realtime Harry Potter H/D discussions. I am also forever running into RL friends in odd fannish places.

I like your chessboard illustration, not only because it made me think of Mr Spock. *g* Really, all the media *are* linked through the people who participate.