Monday, October 8, 2007

Fan fiction author as knowledge laborer

The fandom author is a perfect example of Terranova's knowledge laborer. A fan writer does not produce stories for economic gain, but for the pleasure of writing. Yet, his or her contribution to the database of fan fiction is necessary for the continued survival of the genre. Despite the lack of monetary reward for the majority of fan writers, we witness an "investment of desire into production" (Terranova 107), as fans produce stories, video shorts and episode scripts simply because.

As Terranova notes, "labor is not equivalent to waged labor...often the unemployed are such only in name, in reality being the life-blood of the difficult economy of 'under-the-table,' badly paid work..." (110). I believe this definition is equally relevant to the creators of fan fiction as it is to the programmers of open source material. Terranova, too, points out the tendency to ignore "feminine" labor as an integral part of knowledge labor (113).

Interestingly, this particular kind of 'female' labor is in reality dominated by female writers (at least in the case of Star Trek). (Personally I don't see why writing an operating system is innately masculine, but anyway...)

Finally, the entire system of fan fiction (the networks of websites, blogs, video postings, readers, writers, etc.) are reminiscent of Ang's contemporary capitalist world-system: "So, the capitalist world-system today is not a single, undifferentiated, all-encompassing whole, but a fractured one, in which forces of order and incorporation...are always forces of chaos and fragmentation" (177). This becomes especially apparent in Coppa's discussion of the breaks between Stark Trek and sci-fi fans and a further split of Star Wars fans from Star Trek fans. Therefore, the world of fandom, as well as the internet as a whole, is an example of positive chaos, a space that is "rich in information," not "poor in order" (175).

No comments: