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My fannish posts, including fic and art, are all locked (for this reason, which is also locked for added transparency). If you're here for those things, please comment so I can add you.
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The Ada Initiative, an organization working to support women in tech and open culture including fanstuff, is looking for a new executive director. The Ada Initiative is really fandom-friendly, and a great place to work in a variety of ways - read the job description to get an idea. Please spread around elsewhere, and feel free to ping me in private for more info about the organization (I’m on the advisory board).

Message from the person in charge of the search:

The Ada Initiative works to increase the participation and status of women in open technology and culture through an explicitly intersectional feminist approach. It’s a growing and financially healthy nonprofit. And it’s looking for a new chief executive — maybe you?

The position is full-time salaried, in the San Francisco Bay Area, $120K - $160K/year (plus relocation if necessary). The current Executive Director, cofounder Valerie Aurora, is looking forward to immediately transitioning to a new role as the Director of Training Programs, reporting to the new ED. More details on benefits, desired qualifications, and what TAI does: http://ift.tt/1va2c4f

If this appeals to you, please consider applying, and please feel free to forward, or send your suggestion to jobs@adainitiative.org! We’re open to candidates of all genders and of a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, from highly experienced career executives to people with limited formal management experience but a great deal of experience with open tech/culture communities and/or feminist activism.


Sumana Harihareswara

Chair of the Ada Initiative Executive Director search committee on behalf of the Ada Initiative board of directors
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Late announcement because I spent the last three weeks at a conference and then recovering my brain, but I successfully defended my PhD in Japanese Studies on October 27. YESSS DONE. I have a lot to say about what I found, where the research is going now, and where I'm going professionally, but for now I just want to point out where the stuff is.

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:

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.
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And copyright was everyone's favorite bit, as usual. My own favorite part of teaching any class on copyright is where I ask "Who can explain copyright to me" and the whole group pulls the blankest blank faces that ever blanked. If they haven't learned about it on the internet or seen it in another class before, my students just can't manage to even guess how this copyright business works and what it's supposed to be accomplishing. These are intelligent young people, and they're perfectly capable of logically inferring how a system they don't know might work. The fact that they get nowhere when asked to figure out copyright shows better than anything how profoundly illogical and counter-intuitive current copyright laws are. It actually makes me hopeful for the future of copyright reform. If your law doesn't make an ounce sense to the vast majority of people who are supposed to be obeying it, it'll have to crumble or become irrelevant someday.
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The info on fan culture that's on English-language Wikipedia right now is lacking to say the least, and what's there on dojinshi is not very great either. My Japanese advisor is visiting for a couple of months, and she actually printed out the English-language Wikipedia article on dojinshi and brought it so she could rail at me about everything that's wrong with it.

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.

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Many apologies to anyone who got spammed by me on Dreamwidth or Tumblr. There was a big crossposting snafu related to a WordPress plugin I was trying out, resulting in me importing a big chunk of my Tumblr into DW, then again into that same Tumblr. The double posts should be gone now. It was a learning experience, I'll try very hard not to do it again.
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I’m totally useless at regularly reporting on dissertation progress, why is this so hard? On the upside, writing going well, if in a wildly different order than planned (of course).
unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Presented this yesterday at a workshop on Japanese pop culture for grad students. It’s a quick intro to dojinshi exchange as a “hybrid economy” of market and gift economies, and an argument that dojinshi exchange is a very promising business model to allow fans and professional creators to cooperate - a business model that the Japanese government would do well to promote, rather than jumping on Hollywood’s rah-rah-copyright bandwagon like it’s doing at the moment. (Bigger version here)

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
In place of a list of stuff I did, here’s some musings on a few simple changes I made to the tech setup of the wiki that are saving me a lot of time and frustration. Looks worse, works better!

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/collections/FH46FU3G/items/top?start=0&limit=25, the “limit=25” bit is a parameter: it says how many items to display, max. The first thing I did was put a very big number in there, because the thing needs to display all items, not just 25. Then I needed a parameter to control the order in which the items were displayed. It seems like parameters for RSS feeds are not very standardized and sort of all over the place, but I tried out the likely-sounding ones, and “order=title” did the thing for Zotero. The end result, https://api.zotero.org/users/14360/collections/FH46FU3G/items/top?start=0&order=title&limit=500, displays up to 500 items from an RSS feed in alphabetical order by title. Much better! There are more parameters to control what info an RSS feed displays. Given how many sources of information online have RSS feeds but no other way to pull data out of them and into something else, this is going to come in reeeeally handy. There’s so much basic stuff about the internet that I haven’t discovered yet :/

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.
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I’m back! Spent the last few weeks presenting at SGMS in Minneapolis, presenting my first poster at a digital humanities event in Belgium, working on our department web site, finishing a job application, and then spending the most relaxing ten days ever in Toronto with SO. Feeling very much rejuvenated.

Wiki pages worked on today:

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)

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.

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I'm presenting a poster at our university's digital humanities summer school today about my PhD research, with a focus on how I'm using digital tools to communicate findings. In some parts, about how I'm planning to use them - some of these things are only just ready to be kicked off, since I've just started writing things up for real. Click the image to embiggen! Very giant PDF version here.

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.

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Thing learned: even when busy, explicitly devote the last half hour of the day to cleaning up and posting about what I did, because otherwise it’s not going to happen. It’s been a rough few weeks, sorry.
  • 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.
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Doing some academic writing about a thing that made me very mad when I heard about it quite a while ago. Mad mostly because it was so disappointing - someone was proposing a solution to a serious problem that jived very much with an idea I wanted to propose in my dissertation, but they were doing it in a totally misguided way that seemed like it was guaranteed to fail. I talked with my advisor back then, and she agreed with my assessment of the bad proposal, but cautioned me to not publish the rather strongly worded blog post that I'd been writing up. She thought I'd just end up offending the (famous) person I was mad at and nuke my chances of building allies in a community of people whose goodwill I'd be needing in the future when I was ready to make my own ideas happen.

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.
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  • 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.


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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.

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)


*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.

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Made a timeline for finishing my dissertation. It's twice as tight as I'd been planning for the last three years, because it was recently decided that I'll defend in May 2014 instead of in September. Eek.

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).
  1. September 25: Introduction and Chapter 1: How dojinshi exchange works
  2. October 31: Chapter 2: Reading dojinshi exchange as a hybrid economy
  3. November 30: Chapter 3: Dojinshi as open source goods in a hybrid economy
  4. December 15: Conclusions and questions
Then I'll send the whole package off to Very Helpful People who are prepared to give critique, and take two to three weeks off from all brain-intensive work. We have a big slash fangirl retreat planned around Christmas, and I'll be needing that so badly. Will have to make it very clear to both myself and readers on- and offline that I won't be able to get into any discussions about the text during the holidays, or I'll spend the whole two weeks arguing on the internet.

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*
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  • 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.


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