Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today’s post is with Kate Flanagan, who volunteers on the Fanlore Committee.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
Fanlore is a wiki about fanworks and fan communities that anyone can edit. As a project of the OTW, Fanlore helps to fulfill our mission to preserve fannish history –- while also ensuring that as fans, we play an active role in the documentation of our own communities and creative activities.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
Fanlore is a big project supported by a small (but growing!) team of dedicated editors and committee members. This means that our work really varies from week to week, and we all get to pitch in on a wide range of tasks. We respond to inquiries from Fanlore users, address issues and feedback on the wiki itself, review potential violations of our editing policies, manage our social media channels, work on our user-facing help pages, and plan promotional events and challenges to engage new editors on Fanlore. We have staff meetings weekly, and I’m usually lurking on the OTW’s internal chat platform throughout the week as things come up.
Fanlore is perpetually a work-in-progress –- that’s kind of the point of a wiki! — so there’s always something new to address. One constant in our work is the need to be responsive to the users, editors, and volunteers who engage with and support Fanlore.
Balancing my OTW work with my other commitments is an ongoing juggling act. I typically commute to work by ferry/train/hiking in the woods, so I often find myself catching up on things while I’m on the go. While my committee work is rarely the same from week to week, I do try to always make time to edit Fanlore, or to at least check in on other editors’ recent changes. It can be difficult to stay motivated when there’s so much to balance, and when so much of your work is self-directed. I’ve found that the best way to stay engaged with and excited about my committee work is to make sure that I’m actively contributing to Fanlore as an editor. So that’s a big part of my week, too!
What made you decide to volunteer?
As fans, I think we all have stories of moving from passively appreciating a text or project to actively participating in its continued life. That’s definitely the story of my own involvement with Fanlore.
I’d been casually using Fanlore as a resource for years, and I would often come across pages that I knew were missing something cool or important about our histories and our creative practices. But for some reason, I never felt equipped to contribute. I’ve talked to a lot of other fans who have also felt daunted about editing Fanlore; I think that we often discount the value of our own knowledge as fans, and it can also be overwhelming to start editing a wiki without any prior experience. Once I started editing, though, I found that I really loved it — and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be!
While I wasn’t an active editor when I joined the committee, I came to Fanlore with a deep interest in fandom history, and more specifically, in communal forms of preservation and archive-making within fan communities. As a fan and a researcher, I’m so glad to live in a world where Fanlore exists – and I was really excited at the opportunity to help sustain it as a member of the Fanlore Committee.
What’s the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
There’s a lot to love about volunteering for the OTW! It’s really exciting to work in community with other fans, and to hear about their fannish interests and the work they’re undertaking on their respective committees. The sense of community is something I wasn’t necessarily expecting when I first started volunteering, and that’s brought a lot of joy to my life over the last year.
Editing Fanlore is often a very fun (and funny) experience –- fans have wicked senses of humor, and you’ll stumble across some real gems on the wiki.
I’ve also really come to enjoy sharing the OTW’s mission and my own experiences as a volunteer with “non-fans” out in the world. The OTW is such a unique organization for so many reasons, and I’ve had great conversations with folks who aren’t at all familiar with fanworks and fan culture, but who are really interested to hear about what we do and how we do it. That’s definitely been another unexpectedly fun aspect of my experience as a volunteer.
What fannish things do you like to do?
Over the years, I’ve written meta and fic, organized fanworks challenges, recorded podfic, and beta read for other fans. But at this point, my main fannish activity is actually wiki editing! Ultimately, I’m a fan of fandom, and I really enjoy both the technical and creative aspects of wiki editing. In my experience, wiki editing is a type of fan labor that isn’t often considered in conjunction with other fannish practices, like writing fanfiction and meta, drawing fanart, making fanvids, beta reading, and so on. I definitely think about fannish wiki editing as a practice of transformative fanwork, and it’s become one of my favorite fannish things to do.
Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.