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In very short, the research describes the basics of how dojinshi (fan-made manga) are exchanged in Japan, and tries to think about what that system of exchange means for fans/companies/other stakeholders in the Japanese cultural economy. Although I went in with the aim of getting a degree in Japanese Studies, the research was conducted and written up with an audience of English-speaking fans and fan studies scholars in mind. I look at dojinshi exchange through two closely related lenses that others have also used to frame creation and exchange of "amateur" works - "hybrid economies" and "open source cultural goods". This led to a lot of food for thought, especially in relation to how fanworks are exchanged and sometimes monetized elsewhere, like on the English-speaking internet. More about the actual results in later posts.
Here's a more structured summary of the research in presentation format. Made for the defense, so it's still very condensed, but it has more details and pretty pictures.
(First and last time that I've ever used my uni's official boring template for a presentation. I wanted to do it just once.)
Secondly, you can get the full text of the thesis on http://www.nelenoppe.net/dojinshi/thesis, divided into the following chapters:
- 1: Introduction
- 2: About the research
- 3: Introduction to the system of dōjinshi exchange
- 4: Reading dōjinshi exchange as a hybrid economy
- 5: Dōjinshi as open source cultural goods
- 6: Conclusions
- Bibliography and works cited
The thesis text linked to here is what I defended last month, but it isn't meant to be final. It's more of a snapshot of ongoing work. The text is on a wiki, so it can and will change as facts or interpretations evolve. (For instance, in a discussion about the accessibility of various dojinshi distribution channels for non-Japanese fans, I talk at some length about how Japanese dojinshi retailer Toranoana doesn't ship outside the country. But Toranoana has actually started shipping outside Japan now, so I'll have to change that bit soon.)
Because the text is likely to be modified and corrected a lot, I decided not to put a fixed PDF on the site. If you want a PDF, epub or odt version, you can have one generated on the fly from the latest up-to-date version of the wiki text. Everything is licensed CC-BY-SA, so please use it! More wiki talk soon, there will be much more on there as the giant thesis text is ummm reprocessed into more practical formats, for instance in Fanlore and Wikipedia articles.
Comments/corrections/critique/requests for info are extremely welcome. There's a comments section under every chapter, and the homepage of the wiki contains info about where else I can be reached. There's a lot of rough spots and holes in the research still, but at least I have over 100K actual finished written words to build on now. *beams*
I hope this will be a fun and useful read, especially for all the many fannish and academic friends who helped me out and cheered me on over the years. THANK YOU.
Given how many people start and stop with Wikipedia when they're trying to find out what something is, having bad info on there is a real problem. Must fix! I'll tackle the main article later, but for now, here are a couple of short articles on some basic dojinshi exchange concepts:
They're very incomplete still, please edit further. I'll put the texts up on Fanlore too later.
I built them mostly out of thesis draft bits, and rewriting them to Wikipedia standards was a surprising amount of work. Particularly the "no original research" rule was hard. It says you can only state facts that you can source, no editorializing, which is very sensible in and of itself. But clearing writing of all editorializing, ummm cough academic analysis, was so much work that I'm not sure I can motivate myself to do this often. Maybe should figure out how to mark up text in the thesis draft so I can strip out the editorializing automatically for Wikipedia purposes.
I’ve been adding a lot more words to the glossary of fandom terminology in Japanese and English over the past weeks, but none of those ever actually showed up on the page. Up to now, I was adding the words in a separate google spreadsheet and importing them into the wiki as they got finished. Turns out that I often didn’t bother updating the glossary because I was tired from other things and the importing step just seemed like one hurdle too many. Now I just embedded the google spreadsheet straight into the page. It looks messier, but I’ll take that in exchange for a more hassle-free workflow.
I’d been trying out a lot of options for displaying my bibliography in the wiki as well, mostly focused on several promising MediaWiki extensions. None of them worked exactly like they had to, though, and all of them would have necessitated regularly importing new stuff from Zotero. That program is my one true love for collecting and manipulating bibliographic data, but its online display interface is confusing and irritating enough that I hate sending people directly there (example). But importing stuff from Zotero into a simpler display in the wiki would create the same problem as with the glossary - an extra step in the getting-stuff-done process that I’d get sick of in very short order. I’m not going to update some other place every time I add or change something in Zotero; this has to happen automagically.
The only way to sync a Zotero bibliography with something outside of it like that is by pulling in content via Zotero’s RSS feed. Zotero has all the RSS feeds you could ever dream of - for whole libraries, collections, subcollections, individual tags, what have you. (Not author, natch.) That’s great, because you can theoretically call up an automatically updated list of pretty much whatever you need wherever you want it: a short list of recommended reading on a particular topic, a full giant bibliography, and so on. The problem is that actual order of items as they’re pulled into the wiki via the Zotero RSS feed is pretty useless. They’re displayed in chronological order, by date added, and that makes no sense for a display for a bibliography of resources on a thing. Nobody will ever be able to find anything in my giant bibliography if it’s sorted by date added.
This flummoxed me for a while until I found out about changing an RSS feed’s display using parameters in the URL. In an RSS feed URL like the ones you get from Zotero out of the box, like https://api.zotero.org/users/14360/colle
Again, the resulting display doesn’t look nearly as nice as the ones generated by dedicated bibliography-related MediaWiki plugins. For one, there’s no way to display author as well as title, because of a stupid thing in Zotero’s RSS feeds that I can’t change. But it’s good enough for the purpose it has to serve, and it’ll keep working even if I don’t give it any thought again from now until Christmas.
Wiki pages worked on today:
Here's my presentation for SGMS (Schoolgirls and Mobile Suits), which is going on right now in Minneapolis. On the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement's possible legal threat to dojinshi exchange, and one of the solutions that are being tried in Japan - the dojin mark, a kind of license for fanworks. Which I will blog about as soon as I have a brain again.
My brief mention of fans' resistance to commercialization is a massive and slightly inaccurate generalization, of course. There are many valid and complex reasons for any resistance, and much variation among fans and fandoms in how people approach possible monetization of fic and other fanworks. I didn't have space for all that nuance on this poster, but hopefully I can talk about it more when people come to see it.
- Worked on various parts of the dissertation. I moved all methodology and lit review parts to the Introduction in order to simplify the whole thing’s structure - now I have chapter 1 on how dojinshi exchange works, chapter 2 on how it’s a hybrid economy, and chapter 3 on how we can interpret them as open source goods. Bam. Enough.
- Did a lot of reading for methodology section on modular design of research (both process and output) and making the data reusable. It’s reaffirmed my determination to keep the main text of the dissertation short, but do everything possible to make the text and underlying data easy to share and reuse. That’ll help both me and others a lot more than if I just locked myself up for the next four months and wrote six hundred pages.
- Did a fuckton of administration and application-writing because I have to prepare documents for a job application with deadline at the end of this month. It’s honestly exhausting and I’m a bit alarmed by how much dissertation writing time it’s been eating up, but on the other hand, it’s forcing me to think very hard about what kind of researcher and teacher I want to become. That’s good.
- Preparations for the job application include yet more updating of my publications in the university’s research repository. This is the administration thing that never ends, which is very annoying, but it’s also kind of fun that I keep discovering things I did that I can add in there. For instance, it turns out that I’m allowed to add not just my translations of academic articles, but also translations of fiction, meaning that I can add in manga translations. Of which I did about sixty, meaning that my publications list is going to triple over the course of this weekend. *mad cackle*
- In all seriousness, though, I have no idea why it never occurred to me before that I should add this stuff to the list of things I’ve accomplished in life that would make me qualified for a uni job. It’s like these translations are not serious things that matter in my head. But they are - I worked hard on every single one of them, they are all 200-page books with ISBN numbers and everything, they prove my Japanese ability, etc etc and so on. Of course they’re relevant when I’m applying for a job that involves Japanese and knowing about Japanese popular culture. Perhaps it’s that I made them as a freelancer, not in my capacity as an academic? A bit surprised at how alive that distinction is in my head, given the amount of time I spend going on about how connected academic activity is/should be with the world outside of it.
- Attended a three-day digital humanities workshop where I heard a lot of interesting stuff and learned how to work with TEI. I’m not convinced that I can use TEI myself since close document analysis is not immediately my thing, but it’s important to know this stuff so I can pass it on to students (and hopefully colleagues lolsob).
- Learned how to make posters because I’m doing my first poster presentation next week. Still not done. Aaaaaaaagh.
- More stuff that I forgot. Will do more regular posts again.
In hindsight, she was totally right. Now I'm in a much better place mentally and knowledge-wise to not just critique that proposal, but to also recognize the ways in which it could be a big step towards a real solution, and to offer not just a (justified) harsh critique, but constructive criticism with suggestions for improvements.
This doesn't mean that I'll never again rip apart someone's ideas on the internet while angry at them. Some "ideas" deserve to be shot with a very big cannon and without warning. But this sort of thing makes me glad that I'm often too lazy to blog about things when they're still hot news.
- Worked on several parts of the introduction, mostly 'Fans and rights holders are grappling with how to combine fanworks with money' and 'Multiple converging problems hinder an effective integration of fanworks in cultural economies'. Struck again by how much easier it is to write about this stuff in academese, even when I'm actively trying to keep the style accessible and jargon-free. This is going to need a lot of rewriting. (And all academics who sneer upon "vulgarized" books about academic research have probably never tried to write anything but academese themselves. Writing in clear and readable language is hard.)
- Joined Wikipedia's Anime and Manga WikiProject, hoping to find some others who are interested in beefing up the dojinshi-related articles there. Started listing those parts of the dissertation that can become Wikipedia articles.
- Answered another CFP.
- Made giant list of everybody I need to contact for proofreading help with various sections.
- Made enquiries about getting editing help with the final version of the text next March.
- Did some scattered reading on law. Feeling like I'm pretty far gone already if Japanese copyright law analysis is what I read for fun when I'm procrastinating on writing.
I keep forgetting to post daily updates because I'm working hard! I think. Pomodoro technique has been quite helpful so far, I'm definitely getting more concentrated work done during the day and don't feel so guilty about faffing off on the internet in the evening.
- Spent an afternoon in the library with previous Japanese Studies dissertations to check how they handled everything from layout to number of pages to appendices to dissertation structure. They all do everything completely differently! Okay.
- Made a rough schedule for finishing chapters.
- Wrote bits and pieces of various sections that are by now too buried in the recent changes list to dig up again.
- Rewrote my entire table of contents to make the dissertation more into a coherent story than a succession of vaguely related sections, and subdivided each chapter into finer parts. It'll get even finer in the next few days, especially the introduction and chapter 1, which I'm working on right now. All those subdivisions won't actually remain in the final text, they're just there to keep me on message and tell me what to do (since I jump around during writing instead of starting at the beginning).
- The table of contents is now ready to send to various people and ask if they'd be interested in reading chapters. I have no more excuses to put it off, no matter how much I dislike contacting people out of the blue, especially in Japanese. Will start mailing tomorrow.
- Answered another CFP.
- Proposed talk at SGMS: Mechademia on dojinshi was accepted! See you all in Minneapolis next month.
- Poster presentation at our uni's digital humanities summer school also accepted! Now I must obtain poster-making skills in a hurry.
- Discussed dissertation schedule and book project with profs.
*cough* May I interrupt your browsing with some petition-waving? Like most everywhere else, researchers and universities here in Flanders (Belgium) are rewarded with jobs and money based on how many publications they manage to squeeze out. Quality of those publications, teaching efforts by academics, or service to society are barely taken into account, if at all. Evaluating researchers' work in a more nuanced way would lead to universities spending taxpayers' money on more useful work, and help alleviate the intense pressure to publish that bedevils young academics in particular.
This is an open letter from various Flemish academics demanding that universities and the government (which allocates most of the money) sit down together and establish such a better system. It's in Dutch, but here is a gtranslated version that's mostly understandable.
The petition has 2700 signatures right now from all over the Flemish academic community, which is a lot given how small that community is. This issue is getting a lot of attention in Flemish media right at this moment. At the risk of being an overly starry-eyed young grad student, I can't help but hope that this is a moment when we can make some actual change happen.
If you're concerned about the publish-or-perish mess that academics in pretty much every country are stuck in, please take a moment to support us!* Thank you <3
*To be clear, I'm not affiliated with the people who wrote the petition.
And while there are Reasons for that change and I'm not complaining, exactly, having about five months less for writing is quite a blow. I'll have to forego spending another few months in Japan to interview people, and I'm still considering whether or not I'll have time to do an analysis of the metric ton of dojinshi convention flyers that I picked up during my earlier Japan stay. It would be some great extra data, but it's not 100% essential and I'm going to need all my time for writing with the new deadline... Woe.
Anyway, writing now! Big deadlines for finishing chapter drafts are as follows. I'll send each of them off to the appropriate readers as they get finished. Will also post everything online as chapters get written, somewhere that's easy to comment upon (maybe even AO3 depending on whether that's allowed, should poke support there).
- September 25: Introduction and Chapter 1: How dojinshi exchange works
- October 31: Chapter 2: Reading dojinshi exchange as a hybrid economy
- November 30: Chapter 3: Dojinshi as open source goods in a hybrid economy
- December 15: Conclusions and questions
Until halfway through January, nothing but grunt work on the bibliography and glossary (which is threatening to turn into a full-blown encyclopedia). This is kind of boring and repetitive, but I really enjoy making large collections of things and it will be a good way to get back into the grind and discover some fresh ideas in the bargain.
Then I have the last two weeks of January plus all of February and March to whip the monster into shape. Again, not nearly as much as I ideally would have, but this is how it will have to happen. I'm going to have to get some help with the final editing. By March I'll be doing great if I can still spell my own name, so I'll be totally useless for spotting missing commas.
I'm going to be contacting a lot of people in the next few days to ask if they'll have both time and desire during the coming months to read some draft chapters and/or the draft of the full thesis. *fingers crossed*
- Added in more bits and pieces from my old Fanwork as a test case for open source cultural goods article. All done with that now, quite pleased/surprised at how much of it is still useful. I keep assuming that everything I think now is 80% different from what I thought two years ago, because that's how it used to be, but apparently I'm starting to stick firm to ideas. Probably what I'm supposed to do when less than a year a way from defending my PhD, so good.
- Wrote bits and pieces of several sections, including the introduction, dojinshi as open source cultural goods, and the impact of viewing fanworks as open source cultural goods on fanwork-related issues.
- Made some additions to the terminology list.
- Spent ages fighting with the display of the terminology list and associated individual pages. I want to display links to Fanlore pages where I used the content on my own wiki, but the URLs won't show for some reason I honestly can't fathom. There's an underlying problem with my Semantic Mediawiki installation somewhere, because I made a mess of my properties and the wiki isn't even registering that there is such a property as a link to Fanlore. So it figures that it's not showing, I just don't know where the problem is. *cries*
Trying very hard to stick to a fixed amount of time for dissertation work every day, because right now I'm tiring myself out and constantly feel guilty for doing not-work things at pretty much any point in the day. (Not without reason, because I do spend a lot of time every day letting myself be distracted by not-work things.) I'm going to see if the Pomodoro method will help me stay on track. It worked very well for me for a while last year, but I slipped up and lost the rhythm at some point.