This blog has been a long time in coming. I’ve hesitated for a year–planning to debut a blog on media and fandom in addition to my participation in acafan livejournal spaces–but not followed through until now. A range of issues have kept me from taking this plunge. I am very aware of the stakes (professional and personal) involved in posting on a blog rather than in (or as well as in) the locked, community spaces of livejournal. At the same time, perhaps I’ve artificially inflated the divide between an interface/network such as wordpress, with access to the blogosphere, and and journal-based social networking community like livejournal, journalfen, greatestjournal, or even vox. I haven’t hesitated to participate in creative spheres such as flickr, but I’ve held off from the world of blogging.
A large part of my hesitation may indeed have been my perception of a gender divide. I have viewed blogs as spaces of professionalized, controlled sharing–one to many communication–rather than the organic community discourse that made livejournal so compelling when I initially discovered it as a pre-dissertation writing grad student. Comments seem more self-censored here in the blogosphere, and the lack of threaded comments has seemed to me to devalue decentralized conversations and the relations between individuals within a shifting whole. Yet, by not participating in these spaces, I realize that I (and we–and here I’m referring to the generation of acafan media scholars with whom I at least partially identify) are cutting ourselves off from valuable discussions, from the possibility of dialogues that need to happen. Yes, we want (or at least, I want) change to happen, but we can’t just sit back and wait for it to occur.
And of course the differences between blog networks and livejournal etc. is not only hinged on issues of gender–professionalization, emotive language, aesthetic choices—all of these come into play; all are colored by gender but not necessarily defined by it.
Over the past years, I’ve increasingly come to perceive conferences as similarly bifurcated, and not only along gender lines, although we can always read gender as a contributing factor. SCMS’s struggle to integrate TV and new media with film is as clear an example as MiT’s struggle to bring together the video game = scholars, fanboys, and fangirls (and, as an aside, I wonder what we’re gaining and losing by throwing around the term fangirls and fanboys as we have been lately…)
It’s almost funny that the latest manifestation of this divide occurred at a conference I couldn’t be at–MiT5–and I precisely couldn’t be there because I’m pregnant and the pregnancy hasn’t been smooth (not to mention juggling this new experience of pregnancy alongside my first year as a professor). This has been a year where issues of gender—which have always been central to the way I experience and understand my work as an academic and my interplay in the academic (not to mention fannish) world—have become so much more tangible, central, and unavoidable.
And yet, out of this conference a discussion about these very issues which have been bubbling underneath. While I would like to see change happen in person, at conferences themselves, perhaps it’s more than fitting that we use online interfaces as a place to lay the groundwork for change. If we begin conversations online, and if we venture into web spaces that may not be our initial comfort zone (be it livejournal, blogger, mediacommons, Flow, or others) in order to begin conversations that we can continue in person, then perhaps we won’t find the same divides seemingly repeated unavoidably at conference after conference.
As for the discussion at hand itself–how much issues of gender have shaped and continue to shape the directions of media studies, tv studies, new media studies, and audience/fan studies–I’m somewhat torn because partially I don’t want to simplify along gender lines. I consider myself very enriched by the dialogues and relationships developed in some cases across disciplinary divides and did not seem impeded by issues of gender- dialogues that started at SCMS, Console-ing Passions, Flow, and Media in Transition. Indeed my experiences at these conferences have significantly shifted my academic focus and goals within the field.
But as Kristina Busse points out in her provocative post about gender in media and fan studies, the gender divide ramifications have been impossible to ignore at so many of these conferences, enough to spur heated conversations after and tactical decisions about how to handle future conferences etc., on multiple occasions.
However, I feel that this is the first time we’re opening up the dialogue publicly–where we’re really putting it on the table, and this, (and perhaps I could be accused of a utopian moment here—I do tend to have those), gives me some hope. I don’t believe we can magically fix these larger structures in one foul swoop, but dialogue among diverse participants in a range of spaces, and the new intellectual connections that come out of those dialogues, could begin tectonic shifts, so that over time all of our perspectives may change, thus changing the patterns that seem so frustratingly repeated at conference after conference despite everyone’s good intentions.