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RE: Research on fandom and status in The Imperial Library

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Joined: 07/08/2018

Hi all!

Oh dear, it's been way too long since I last posted about this research that I'm doing about The Imperial Library  and the Elder Scrolls community (see https://www.imperial-library.info/content/research-fandom-and-status-imperial-library for my original post about it). So sorry about that. I'd hereby like to briefly tell you, or at least those of you who are interested, about the progress I've made in the past year. First of all, the comments offered by some of the prominent members of the Library in the previous thread were incredibly helpful and made the research so much stronger, so thanks once again for those. The project has so far led to:

- a published conference paper about the 'texts versus games' issue in TIL (you can find it here: http://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/a-universe-divided-texts-vs-games-in-the-elder-scrolls/)
- a book chapter about the way the community and the archive deal with the mysteries surrounding the Battle of Red Mountain (published probably in early 2020)
- a journal article about how to approach fan-made archives like TIL in an ethically responsible and self-reflexive manner, which draws partially on the research I've done here (also published in early 2020)

The latter two of these are not yet available online, but I'll post an update when they are so that you can read them and tell me whether you agree or disagree with what I wrote! I've written most of it from a particularly 'critical' perspective which is really sensitive to the way hierarchies are constructed and maintained in archival structures like that of TIL or UESP, and I hope that none of it comes across as a condemnation of the way the website or the community works because that's not what I'm trying to do. It's more like a contribution to an ongoing conversation about how fan communities in general work, in which I try to show the influence of the 'materiality' of the (online) places where those fandoms express themselves. It's also a bit like recording a partial history of TIL and showing how that history is still relevant today, even beyond the Elder Scrolls community itself :)

Right, that's all for now. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions about the research or whatever else!

Lady N's picture
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Joined: 06/26/2010

Thanks for the update! Definitely looking forward to the journal article you mention. I've got a lot of thoughts on the matter myself (many of them conflicting), so I'm very interested in what a professional has to say :) 

 

One small quibble about the really awesome paper: 

Quote:
This begins with the manner in which the text itself is presented within the archive. First, not the full text but only an extensive summary is made readily available. The text is also archived under Vivec’s character page, instead of in more prominent places like the “Thread Archives” of the “Developers” section or the “Obscure Texts” section, making it more difficult to find—unless one is actively looking for it, like I was.

I think this may be a byproduct of when you accessed the site -- the Trial was best found on the Forum Archives section, which I separated and removed from the main navigation bar sometime ago in favor of the better organized and actually searchable Post and Thread archive pages. Said page featured both the threads themselves and the summary. The plan is to eventually have it in the Thread Archives alongside everything else, but it's far larger than any of the other texts in there, and getting it moved over is a large effort I've not undertaken. 

The character pages are something that we deprecated years and years ago, though they still show up in search due to the way Drupal is set up. I'm personally not a fan of the Trial of Vivec summary, as I don't think it captures the themes and feelings behind the roleplay even if it mostly records the events correctly. I'd go so far as to say some (many?) common complaints about the trial are due to reading a summary only, rather than the original. Furthermore, I imagine that the context of it being a drawn out forum roleplay has started to become inscrutable as we have moved away from forums into a social media age. 

Lady N's picture
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Joined: 06/26/2010

Also, I've gotta say thank you for turning me on to the fact that there's a whole field of study about this stuff. I've always thought that what was happening in fan communities like this was important, but I never knew there were so many articles, journals, and even books devoted to it. I'm definitely going to pick some of this up for further reading!

Luagar's picture
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Joined: 06/28/2010

Nice job with the paper! Was a very interesting read. And ditto Lady N's comment! I'll certainly be adding some of the texts from your footnotes into my reading list (somehow despite working professionally in the library/archival world and enjoying Derrida's thought I'd never run across the text referenced).

Will also be on the lookout for other parts of your project. The paper left me wanting more, partially because it's an area I've never considered and partially because the paper felt like it ended at least a few paragraphs too soon. There was a desire for a 'so what'* or 'what are some implications of this' that my own research background expects from essays and articles, but that might just be my own biases expecting the paper to fit a mold it doesn't intend to.

*not used in the pejorative sense

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Joined: 07/08/2018

Thanks for the responses, I'm happy that you like what I've done so far!

Lady N wrote:

I think this may be a byproduct of when you accessed the site -- the Trial was best found on the Forum Archives section, which I separated and removed from the main navigation bar sometime ago in favor of the better organized and actually searchable Post and Thread archive pages. Said page featured both the threads themselves and the summary. The plan is to eventually have it in the Thread Archives alongside everything else, but it's far larger than any of the other texts in there, and getting it moved over is a large effort I've not undertaken.

The character pages are something that we deprecated years and years ago, though they still show up in search due to the way Drupal is set up. I'm personally not a fan of the Trial of Vivec summary, as I don't think it captures the themes and feelings behind the roleplay even if it mostly records the events correctly. I'd go so far as to say some (many?) common complaints about the trial are due to reading a summary only, rather than the original. Furthermore, I imagine that the context of it being a drawn out forum roleplay has started to become inscrutable as we have moved away from forums into a social media age.

These are fantastic examples of how the materiality of the website/archive itself has a real impact on the way we, as fans, engage with its content! And you're also right that some of my observations are very contingent on when I accessed the site -- I actually quite regret not using a citing system that would've shown the exact dates to make this easier to trace. The forthcoming book chapter hopefully does a better job of this (because the editors explicitly told me to so that I didn't forget, haha).

Luagar wrote:

The paper left me wanting more, partially because it's an area I've never considered and partially because the paper felt like it ended at least a few paragraphs too soon. There was a desire for a 'so what'* or 'what are some implications of this' that my own research background expects from essays and articles, but that might just be my own biases expecting the paper to fit a mold it doesn't intend to.

*not used in the pejorative sense

Yes, word count limitations forced me to cut some parts that would have helped alleviate this feeling, and a more explicit discussion of relevance is definitely missing. What mostly drove me was an interest in materiality, which is not so often discussed at this length in either game studies or fan studies. But there is also a quite prominent strand in fan studies that has a bit of a 'celebratory' view on how online fan communities organise themselves, as if there isn't any kind of hierarchy formation (however marginal or relaxed) or as if fans are somehow entirely separate from societal influences. I suppose my writing is a modest reaction to that idealistic viewpoint. As with the citation issues I mentioned earlier, the upcoming publications do a way better job of explaining this that the conference paper.