Over the past few months, the OTW Board has been brainstorming about how to promote diversity and inclusiveness throughout the OTW and its projects. This has meant evaluating the status of many diversity-related projects already in process to see how we may help them along, as well as exploring new ideas intended to promote the growth of diversity as our mission and aims further develop.
Diversity is an important part of the OTW’s mission to “serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms.” With members in 23 countries and more than 7,500 fandoms represented on the AO3, we’re already serving fans from a wide variety of backgrounds; we want to make sure we are serving them well, and that we’re building an organization that is welcoming and responsive to them and to others who may use our services in the future. Diversity enriches the OTW as well. A large and diverse pool of volunteers, members, and supporters is crucial to the OTW’s long-term sustainability. Incorporating multiple points of view into decision-making processes helps us to more fully consider the potential impacts of our actions and create a better product, whether that product is a website or an outreach or advocacy effort.
One of the measures we have agreed upon is to work toward increased transparency, including in the early stages of projects. In that spirit, we’ve compiled this list of ideas — several of them inspired by earlier public feedback — that arose in our brainstorming sessions. Some of these ideas are already being implemented, while others will take planning and time to bear fruit. The list is far from an exhaustive answer to the question, “how can we make the OTW more diverse and inclusive?”, but it is a beginning, and we intend to keep working on it.
A quick note on outreach. We are trying to balance between our desire to reach out, make our projects available to more fans, and actively seek input so that we can understand what more fans want and need; and the realities that our time and energy are limited, and we don’t want to be intrusive. We would like for communities which aren’t currently using the OTW’s projects to learn about them and to enjoy them, but we’re aware that presenting our projects in communities where we’re not yet known might come across as presumptuous rather than inviting. We hope to recruit more ambassadors who are willing to represent OTW projects in their own fannish communities; if this might be you, please let us know.
We welcome your feedback on these ideas and any other suggestions you may have. We cannot promise to act on all suggestions. However, we will read and consider all the feedback we receive, and we’ll continue to share our progress with you as we work to make the OTW and its projects more inclusive of fans from a diverse range of backgrounds and fannish communities.
- Actively prioritize and consider the potential diversity-related impact of initiatives and decisions.
- Encourage initiatives such as the forthcoming OTW community survey (discussed in this recent Symposium post) to help us plan strategically by identifying areas of need and potential resources for addressing them.
- Increase transparency about the work of the OTW Board by posting first-hand accounts by Board members in the OTW blog. (This would supplement our existing series of Spotlight posts that highlight the work of various committees and volunteer teams.)
- Offer public “open house” chats to take questions and feedback, and open training sessions to increase awareness of volunteer opportunities within the OTW. (This has recently been implemented; see, for example, this transcript from a session on AO3 coding and challenges.)
- Invite a series of fans from various communities (fandoms, countries, online platforms, etc.) to host public brainstorming sessions about how the OTW can best serve those communities.
- Related to the previous point: Publicly solicit suggestions about how/where to do outreach to fandoms where we could be of help.
- Encourage wider-ranging communication within the OTW by creating an internal discussion forum where staff and volunteers can talk about broad issues that affect the organization but aren’t necessarily part of their daily work. This could also function as a social space to encourage community-building across committees. (This has been implemented.)
Archive of Our Own (AO3)
- Redesign the “Post New Work” interface to better accommodate diverse types of fanworks: images, video, audio, text, etc. (This is currently in progress.)
- Develop fan art hosting capabilities. (This is currently in progress; we recently solicited public feedback on our draft content policies for artwork.)
- Translate the AO3 interface into multiple languages. (One of our coders is currently working with the Translation committee to build this functionality.)
- Improve the AO3’s functionality for browsing works by language. (This is in progress. At present, you can find works in particular languages via the Languages page or by using the drop-down filter on works pages.)
- Redesign the display of meta information to clarify the relationship between a translated work and the work of which it is a translation. (This is in progress.)
- Improve the visual design of the AO3 to appeal to a broader range of fans, and encourage fans to submit public skins that reflect their fannish aesthetics. (This is in progress. The skins system is currently being redesigned; once that’s done it will be much easier for users to submit public skins. The possibility of a skin-designing challenge is under consideration.)
- Establish an official forum where AO3 users can brainstorm about desired features and interact as a community. (This is the most tentative item on the list. We don’t yet know whether it’s feasible, but we include it here because several users have suggested it and we want to let them know their suggestion has been heard.)
- Recruit staff and volunteers who can help us do outreach to fan communities which are currently underrepresented on Fanlore. (This is an ongoing effort; please see the recruitment post if you are interested in volunteering.)
- Implement a Fanlore wiki forum, where users can ask questions, find answers, introduce themselves and meet one another. (This was suggested in the comments to a post on the Fanlore dreamwidth community; it’s currently under discussion.)
Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC)
- Publish articles on subjects drawn from a diverse range of fannish communities and practices. (TWC is doing well on this front; you can view our back issues here, and we’re currently soliciting manuscripts for special issues on Transnational Boys’ Love Fan Studies and Appropriating, Interpreting, and Transforming Comic Books.)
Fan Video and Multimedia
- Explicitly encourage inclusivity of a broad range of fannish traditions, such as fan art, vids, anime music videos, political remixes, fan films, fan trailers, machinima, podfic and audiobooks, and others, in our fan video and multimedia projects. To this end, we’ve recently revised and expanded the fan video section of our website, and the Vidding committee is working with International Outreach to invite fan creators from diverse communities and traditions to embed their works at the AO3.
If you have questions or feedback about this list, or if you have other suggestions to offer, please leave a comment. If you’re interested in volunteering with the OTW, please contact Volunteers & Recruiting. Thank you!
This post is also available in Español.