OTW Guest Post

OTW Guest Post: Jackson Bird

From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

Jackson Bird is the Director of Wizard-Muggle Relations for the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a nonprofit that activates fan communities towards social action. When not defending the rights of wizards and muggles alike, Jackson produces videos about identity, social action, and what happens when you put tacos on a waffle iron.

How did you first get into fandom and fanworks?

I got into fandom and fanworks long before I had a name for what I was doing. I joined the Royal Club of Oz in fourth grade after devouring all of the original L. Frank Baum books and spent a good part of my time doodling Bailey School Kid monsters. A few years later, I discovered Harry Potter fansites and it just grew from there. I read fanfiction, listened to podcasts and wizard rock, and eventually — many years later — discovered the Harry Potter Alliance.

(more…)

OTW Guest Post

OTW Guest Post: Smitha Milli

From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

Smitha Milli is a 4th-year undergraduate at UC Berkeley whose research interests lie in artificial intelligence and cognitive science. Today, Smitha talks about her research using natural language processing to reveal patterns in fanfiction texts, the results of which is available online.

How did you come to work with fanfiction in your research?

At the time I started this project my main research focus was in natural language processing (NLP). Natural language processing is a subfield of artificial intelligence that is concerned with creating algorithms to process and understand language. If you’ve ever used Google Translate or Siri, you’ve used products that depend on NLP research!

In addition to having many commercial applications, NLP can also be used as a tool to explore literature. People have automatically tracked dynamic relationships between characters, created computational models of literary character, and analyzed the change in emotional content over the course of a story. However, a bottleneck to improving algorithms in the literary domain was the lack of a large-scale dataset of modern literature. I originally started looking into fanfiction as a source for this kind of data. As I looked further, I found that the structure of fanfiction also made it possible to define interesting, new problems for NLP and I became interested in computationally analyzing social science questions about fanfiction.

(more…)

OTW Guest Post

OTW Guest Post: Antonia

From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

Although juggling her PhD research and full-time work at two different institutions, Antonia nevertheless finds time to both attend and volunteer at fanzine events around Tokyo. Her current research interests include time travel themes in contemporary manga and “miritarii” dōjinshi fandom. Today, Antonia talks about what it’s like to volunteer for Comiket, a major dōjinshi convention held in Japan.

How did you first get into fandom and fanworks?

Gosh, it depends on what you mean by fandom and fan works, but I guess it all starts with being drawn to (and gradually infatuated with) one or several original texts. For me those “texts” were Tezuka’s Astro Boy, TV Tokyo’s little known series Samurai Pizza Cats and ThunderCats. I guess I had a thing for androids and “animaloids.”

Like most kids, I enjoyed watching these shows, but you know, sometimes you reach a point when you feel like something in the original text is missing — that’s when you start searching for alternative interpretations or wind up creating them yourself. In my case, I was exposed to a bunch of cartoons and anime series and was fortunate enough to live pretty close to the only comic shop in my town so I got my hands on a lot of Marvel stuff too. So with all these different stories running through my head, I started doodling my own derivative works for fun from the age of nine or so. I hadn’t really thought about why I did it until now. I guess that this kind of fannish activity stems from not being 100% satisfied with a particular source text and wanting something “your way.”

(more…)