CFP: FanLIS 2022: Fan futures – beyond the archive

FanLIS 2022

Image © Ludi Price CC-BY-NC-SA

Call for Presentations

FanLIS 2022 is a one day CityLIS symposium to explore the intersection between fandom, fan studies, and library and information science. May 19th 2022, online event (possibly hybrid, hosted at City, University of London).

Fan studies has long been interested in the archive as a site of preservation and resistance. Examples include the work of Versaphile (2011), Lothian (2012), Brett (2013) and Jansen (2020).

In this symposium we seek to broaden this horizon, and look at fan work production through the lens of the entire information communication chain, including creation, storage, management, dissemination, circulation, preservation, meaning-making and (re)use. Creation of fanworks goes beyond the textual, and includes a multitude of formats, from the analogue and physical – costumes, figurines, dolls – to the digital – game assets, fanfilms, memes. Fandom, and its culture of collecting, ensures that it is a site of continued physicality and materiality, yet the digital has revolutionised (and continues to revolutionise) how material objects move through their lifecycle. For example, how are collections of complex fanworks, such as custom figurines, stored? How do fans manage their gaming mods? What methods do cosplayers use to disseminate their works? In what ways do non-digital fanworks circulate throughout the fan community? How is technology changing the way that fanworks are published? What are the legal implications of fanfilms? We welcome presentations that seek to answer these and similar questions, as well as ones that consider what the future of the fan information communication chain might be.

Information Communication Chain

The information communication chain. @lynrobinson cc-by

In addition, we also seek to look beyond the archive solely as a site of the preservation of fan culture, and highlight the ways in which the archive – both online and offline – can be subverted by both their creators and users, be it through technology, usage. Fans themselves are instrumental in building and maintaining archives, and more than this – in developing best practice that can inform current practice within existing cultural memory institutions.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute presentations relating to the lifecycle of fanworks, from both LIS (Library & Information Science) and fan studies perspectives. We also encourage work that presents perspectives from non-Western and transcultural standpoints.

Suggested topics may include:

  • Fanfiction on social media platforms
  • Fan-binding
  • Fan archives and their role beyond that of preservation
  • Fan journalism
  • Virtual reality as a medium for fanworks
  • The circulation of fanworks
  • Fanfiction and fanzine small presses and publishers
  • Fans as archivists and curators

We are hoping to receive proposals from people from all stages in their academic career, including students and early career researchers; and also from people of colour and other cultural/non-Western backgrounds.

Please send your 500 word proposals to both Ludi Price at Ludovica.Price@city.ac.uk and Lyn Robinson at lyn@city.ac.uk by midnight on December 31st 2021.

Authors of successful proposals will be notified by January 31st 2022. The symposium will provisionally take place online on 19 May 2022 – we are looking into options for a hybrid online/in-person event.

We are also looking into open access publishing options for the proceedings of this event.

References

Brett, J. (2013). Preserving the Image of Fandom: The Sandy Hereld Digitized Media Fanzine Collection at Texas A&M University. In: Texas Conference on Digital Libraries, May 7 – 8, 2013, Austin, TX. https://tdl-ir.tdl.org/handle/2249.1/64291

Jansen, D. (2020). Thoughts on an ethical approach to archives in fan studies. Transformative Works and Cultures, 33. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2020.1709

Lothian, A. (2012). Archival anarchies: Online fandom, subcultural conservation, and the transformative work of digital ephemera. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 16(6), 541-556. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877912459132

Versaphile (2011). Silence in the library: Archives and the preservation of fannish history. Transformative Works and Cultures, 6. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.v6i0.277

This is a cross post originally published on the FanLIS blog.

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I don’t think we’re amphibians…

The Student Perspectives category collects posts written by current CityLIS students.

Liberty Alleston considers Floridi’s paper A Proxy Culture (2015), and discusses whether we are amphibians, or something altogether different: Tiktaaliks.

Artistic interpretation of Tiktaalik; a prehistoric marine creature emerging onto a shore

Artistic interpretation of Tiktaalik (https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=106807&org=NSF)

In Floridi’s A Proxy Culture (2015), he ends his paper with “we are the amphibian generation that is moving out of the analogue world to live in a digital environment.” But I propose that Floridi potentially got his animal analogy wrong because we are not amphibians. Amphibians require water or a moist environment to survive and reproduce. From what I gather in his paper, and this statement specifically, the analogue world is comparable to water and the digital environment is comparable to land. Therefore, his animal analogy does not fall in conjunction with what he is trying to communicate as amphibians need both. For us to be moving out of the analogue world (water) we must venture fully and immerse ourselves deeply into the digital environment (land), which is something that is already happening.

Thus, I would like to suggest, that we are not amphibians but, in fact, Tiktaalik, a Late Devonian vertebrate. Tiktaalik, whilst still a fish, possessed tetrapod-like features that allowed it to venture onto land, such as wrist bones in the fins and limbs that allowed for it to hold itself up. The combination of these features is theorized* to be the reason why Tiktaalik was an early, and successful, evolutionary transition between water and land.

True to the ancestral Tiktaalik, we are in the midst of our own evolutionary transition between the two realms of analogue and digital. Whilst still present, it is uncertain for how much longer the analogue world will be prevalent and useful. Once the generational divide between those who grew up with a computer in their hands and those who didn’t shrinks, the use of the analogue world will shrink with it. The actions that we are taking in our new and persistent digital environment will determine the future of information systems. We are in the very centre of evolution.

To be mentally aware that we are in the middle of an evolutionary transition is incredibly daunting. Evolution takes millions of years for a miniscule change to occur; we are expected to acclimatize to our new environment overnight with the speed that changes are occurring. Everything that has happened before us has led to where we are right now, and now suddenly everything that is happening today is going to form the future. That is a lot of pressure, especially for someone who is an up-and-coming library and information scientist; how am I not supposed to feel like this is all suddenly my responsibility? I am filled with so many questions that I will never have the answers to because I am right in the middle of the transition. How do we know that the actions we are currently taking will create a wonderful and bright digital future and not a dystopian nightmare? Will the evolutionary transition be dominated by the media giants, or will we be able to have our own input for the future? I am so overwhelmed!

The actions that we must take to protect the future of the digital environment and ensure that it is a safe and functioning place have already begun. Whether or not they are the right ones is only something the future knows. For now, I am going to put my faith into Tiktaalik and just hope that we are on the right track.

*Of course, like with any evolutionary theory or hypothesis there is a lot of speculation around the exact timeline, but generally Tiktaalik is accepted as one of the first early transitionary vertebrates.

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This and other articles written by Liberty can be found through her LinkedIn profile.

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Data and Booth’s London Poverty Maps

The Student Perspectives category collects posts written by current CityLIS students.

Cat O’Carroll looks at processes of large data collecting, prior to the digital era, specifically to the work of Charles Booth and his descriptive maps of London Poverty in the late 1800s.

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Life and labour of the people in London / edited by Charles Booth (1892-1897). Public Domain

Life and labour of the people in London / edited by Charles Booth (1892-1897). Public Domain

#CityLIS classes for #INM348 #DITA Data Information Technologies and Applications module, form the basis of topic of this article.

Life and labour of the people in London / edited by Charles Booth.  (1892-1897). Public Domain

Life and labour of the people in London / edited by Charles Booth. (1892-1897). Public Domain

Today, the term data, now conjures up association to the digital age of computer systems and digital network technologies. A quick search on wikipedia will tell you from the 1940s it was used to mean transmissible and storable computer information, although through time there is still no agreeable single definition for what it actually is. ‘Data have many kinds of value, and that value may not be apparent until long after those data are collected, curated, or lost’. (Borgman 2015)

Examples of data however can be explored as far back as the Upper Paleolithic era, with tally markings found on sticks and bones or the census undertaken by the Babylonians in 3800 BCE. (Holmes 2017) As Kaplan stated in his article, Big Data of the Past (2017) ‘Big data is not a new phenomenon’. History, as he puts it ‘is punctuated by regimes of data acceleration, characterized by feelings of information overload accompanied by periods of social transformation and the invention of new technologies’.

It’s interesting to think about processes of large data collecting, prior to the digital era. A recent podcast of In Our Time – Booth’s Life and Labour Survey (2021) sprung to mind which explores this. Charles, Booth, born in 1840, was most noted for his Inquiry into Life and Labour in London, and his descriptive maps of London Poverty in the late 19th century. From the 1800s, societies became much more complex and difficult to understand, as the growth of economy, came the need to gather more data.

In his time analysing census returns in 1884, he realised the lack of valuable information that came through the compilation of the 1881 census. The opportunity to ask people about the circumstances on how they lived wasn’t captured and wondered why the census authorities were not doing this.

In 1885 Henry Hyndman, of the Social Democratic Federation published his inquiry into poverty, which claimed up to twenty-five percent of the population of London lived in extreme poverty. Booth’s claims that this figure was vastly overestimated, resulted in him undertaking his own inquiry into the condition of workers in London. It would turn out in his findings, that the number was higher, closer to a third.

One key resource that Booth tapped into to compile his data, was the school board visitors. It was through these interviews he understood the types of occupation among London families in their households and the types of data and information they gathered through their yearly visits.

Although his inquiry investigated poverty, industry, and religious influences; his mapping of London poverty, were the most striking. Each street in London streets were given specific colours on the map, that indicated the levels of poverty and wealth within the area. He organised these into eight specific groups, from A, which denoted the occasional labourers and the ‘semi-criminal’ as he put it, through to H-which represented the upper-class and the wealthiest.

Understanding of the household, became very important, as this gave a representation on what was going on throughout society. Through his surveys and published reports, he identified the causes of circumstances such as low wage income, family sizes and illness. The number one reason he concluded was old age and the decline in physical capacity to work. In Victorian London, there was no means of support for the aged, only the workhouse, where they seemed to end their days.

For many years, he then began writing and speaking about the need for state pensions to assist with issue of poverty amongst the elderly and saw in 1908 the passing of the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908.

References:

Data 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data [2021, Oct 13]

Christine L. Borgman. (2015). Big Data, Little Data, No Data : Scholarship in the Networked World. The MIT Press.

Holmes, D.E. 2017, Big data: a very short introduction, First edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Kaplan, F. & di Lenardo, I. 2017, “Big Data of the Past”, Frontiers in Digital Humanities, vol. 0.

In Our Time – Booth’s Life and Labour Survey – BBC Sounds. Available: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000wsxf [2021, Oct 14,].

LSE , Charles Booth’s London poverty maps and poverty notebooks. Available: https://booth.lse.ac.uk/ [2021, 15/10/].

Images: Life and labour of the people in London / edited by Charles Booth (1892-1897). Public Domain

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This and other articles written by Cat can be found via her LinkedIn profile.

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The Romantic Computer

The Student Perspectives category collects posts written by current CityLIS students.

Simon Gardner discusses Romanticism, Ada Lovelace, and her influence in the birth of computer programming.

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Having focused on Romanticism in my previous Masters dissertation in English Literature, I was most surprised to find myself faced with Romanticism again, in the form of Ada Lovelace. I had no idea of Ada’s influence on computer programming; albeit given her name, I perhaps should have. Prior to this, I just knew of her as Lord Byron’s only ‘legitimate’ daughter, from his short-lived marriage to Anne Milbanke, and her referencing in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Ada was just another facet of Byron’s life of scandal, with Milbank using such scandal to gain sole custody of their daughter, which caused Byron to then depart England forever. Almost naturally, I wanted to find out whether there were any of the tokens of Romanticism in Ada’s life, and I was not disappointed; and I do not just mean that she was Romantic because she died prematurely at the age of 36, like her father, to add on to John Keats dying aged 25, and Percy Bysshe Shelley at 29.

There is some debate as to whether Milbanke tried to keep her daughter away from the “evil” of her father and poetry, to focus on the “facts” (Toole, 1987). However, Hollings, Martin and Rice (2017) suggest that there is “no evidence” of this. Regardless, the very existence of this debate gives me the impression that there was some truth about this in Ada’s education. Her mother’s supposed efforts were clearly fruitless, however, as Ada coined what she did as ‘poetical science’. Toole (1987) details the conflict between poetry and science, from Plato viewing poetry “with suspicion”, to Byron seeing technology as “dehumanising”. Yet Ada managed to find an equilibrium between the two in how she conducted her work, and in how she viewed the imagination as “not only useful to poets but to scientists as well” (Toole, 1987). That is not to say that there is an absence of imagination in science, but more a case of how it is, or was, perceived.

Toole’s depiction of Milbanke wanting Ada to focus on “the facts” characterises science and maths as concentrating on what can be directly seen, and yet Ada’s methods seemed to orient around making the quantitative qualitative. Ada recognised the need for an algorithm rather than a calculation in the building of the Analytical Engine, whilst the use of cards for this algorithm was founded in the need for symbolism in how the parts were utilised. Aiello (2016) details how her idea of software in programmes applied “operations to symbols, let them be numbers to be used in calculations, words to generate poems, or musical notes to generate music”. This relating of poetry and music to the functions of the engine portrays an image of a computer that is seeking to drawn on metaphor for how it represents data and calculations, like the very machine is a poet itself. Rather than just wanting to focus on “the facts”, the machine creates layers of meaning through coded language, which perfectly exemplifies Ada’s ‘poetical science’ and what I feel obliged to coin the ‘Romantic Computer’.

Despite never being able to fully implement it in her own life, I can’t help but agree with Aiello (2016) that Ada’s combining of poetic metaphor with technology did more than just set up the literary genre of steampunk, but also acted the precursor for Turing’s ideas on Artificial Intelligence and a “thinking machine”. I can only conclude that something cannot truly think, without the imaginative capacity for symbolism.

References:

Aiello, L.C. (2016) ‘The multifaceted impact of Ada Lovelace in the digital age’, Artificial Intelligence235, pp.58-62.

Hollings, C., Martin, U. and Rice, A. (2017) ‘The early mathematical education of Ada Lovelace’, BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics32(3), pp.221-234.

Toole, B.A. (1987) ‘Poetical Science’, The Byron Journal15, pp. 55-65.

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These and other articles published by Simon can be found on his LinkedIn profile.

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DITA: Considering Innovative Methods within Archival Science

The Student Perspectives category collects posts written by current CityLIS students.

Emma Ramsey considers innovative methods within Archival Science: A Brief Review of “Unlocking history through automated virtual unfolding of sealed documents imaged by X-ray microtomography”

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Considering Innovative Methods within Archival Science: A Brief Review of “Unlocking history through automated virtual unfolding of sealed documents imaged by X-ray microtomography”

Unfolding of Sealed Documents Imaged by X-Ray Microtomography

From: Fig. 1 in “Unlocking History through Automated Virtual Unfolding of Sealed Documents Imaged by X-Ray Microtomography.” https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21326-w

During our first sessions of DITA, I was reminded of an article which I found a few weeks ago, which describes using X-ray microtomography scans to virtually open and inspect letters which are folded in specific, methodical ways (Dambrogio et al. 2021). This latter concept is referred to as letterlocking, a process of “folding and securing” a writing material – paper, parchment, or papyrus, for example – in such a way that it functions as its own envelope and security measure (“Letterlocking : Dictionary” n.d.). In consideration of length and focus, I will not go into too much detail on the study itself; rather, I will briefly give context and then consider the implications of the technology itself on future archival efforts.

The article was published in Nature Communications, volume 12, in March of this year. The study uses volumetric scans, which are produced by high-contrast time-delay integration X-ray microtomography, followed by a process of segmentation, flattening, hybrid mesh propagation, and texturing to produce their data sets (Dambrogio et al. 2021). Using case studies from the Brienne Collection, a collection of (largely) unopened letters held at the Hague (“The Brienne Collection – EMLO” n.d.), a categorization scheme is formed according to the letters’ manipulations – folds/rolls, tucks, slits/holes, adhesive, and locks, the latter itself split into three separate subdivisions– and level of security (Dambrogio et al. 2021; 2021). The authors claim that the study is the first to propose both a complete systemization of evidence and to tie it consistently to security (Dambrogio et al. 2021). They also note a few limitations of the study, including low-contrast inks and the presence of scanning artifacts such as lead or other metals compromising segmentation scans (Dambrogio et al. 2021).

The article concludes with an emphasis on the “emerging conceptual shift in the digital humanities by adding to the body of methods that cross the digital-material divide” and a call for cultural historians to “reconceptualize hidden, secret, and inaccessible materials as sites of critical inquiry” (Dambrogio et al. 2021).

Now, while I don’t claim that all archives should, or even could, feasibly reproduce this study with their own materials, I do believe that this article highlights the increasing need of archivists and other information scientists to embrace technological innovations as they come. This is not only for the sake of patrons using the resources provided in the archive, but also to better conserve the materials themselves. For example, if the X-ray imaging above was not utilized, should these letters be physically compromised to reveal their contents, there is the risk of potentially losing the actual processes of letterlocking.

Of course, saying is easier than doing. Actively seeking out technological advances and implementing them in an archive or other organization is a unique challenge itself. However, I argue that it is a necessary part of a contemporary information scientist’s profession, though I may be preaching to the choir, as all of us in DITA likely feel the same. In short, archives are based in history, but the methods and technologies used are not necessarily themselves historical – and, in fact, should not be. In order to maintain relevance and to better provide for patrons and users, archives must actively and intentional utilize new advances in technology.

Bibliography

Dambrogio, Jana, Amanda Ghassaei, Daniel Starza Smith, Holly Jackson, Martin L. Demaine, Graham Davis, David Mills, et al. 2021. “Unlocking History through Automated Virtual Unfolding of Sealed Documents Imaged by X-Ray Microtomography.” Nature Communications 12 (1): 1184. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21326-w.

“Letterlocking : Dictionary.” n.d. Letterlocking. Accessed October 17, 2021. http://letterlocking.org/dictionary.

“The Brienne Collection – EMLO.” n.d. Accessed October 17, 2021. http://emlo-portal.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/collections/?catalogue=brienne-collection.

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