Blog Post 1/Presentation Topic: Fan-Generated Content on the Net

Fan-generated content had its big break with one very big show that started very small: Star Trek.

Upon airing in 1966, the show gained lots of fans who became interested in creating and sharing their own content that was related to the show. The biggest two types were fanfiction (stories involving the characters and plot of the show) and fanart.

(By DennisBudd on DeviantArt)

The most efficient way at the time to share the work with other interested fans was by submitting them to fanzines – amateur publications usually dedicated to one popular interest. People would submit their stories and artwork, or simply submit to see what others had made.

The internet was an enormous gift to the fan communities. There was suddenly a much more instant and direct way to share their work with each other. The X-Files ‘fandom’ was especially grateful, for personal computers and dial-up internet access were becoming more and more commonplace just as people were getting into this latest sci-fi show; it was incredibly easy to search out websites dedicated to ‘X-Files Fiction’ or ‘X-Files Art’ and either read or submit whatever you wanted.

While it was ongoing shows or new movies that had the strongest and most immediate following, older media gained internet presence as well. Doctor Who, which had been canceled in 1989 and wasn’t picked up again until 2005, still had ardent fans online who were generating their own fan content as soon as it became an option.

(By Lithrael on DeviantArt)

What changed everything again was video editing software. Until the past few years, such software was incredibly expensive and was only really owned by professional editors – now of course every laptop comes with at least a barebones program like Windows Movie Maker, which allows users to isolate clips, rearrange them, and even set them to music. They became very popular in the anime community (where they’re called AMVs, for Anime Music Videos), but everywhere else they’re just called fanvids. As the available software became more and more advanced and readily available, so did the content.

Fanvids were originally very basic due to convention and ability – they were brief, successive clips from the movie or show set to music. As fanvids became more commonplace, however, the medium was explored further: narratives were explored, and even character sketches. (“Zebra“, a due South vid by Shalott, is a good example of a character getting fleshed out by the editorial choices and by the music.) Other variations involved combining two fandoms in one video or integrating stock footage to help tell the narrative where the footage from the show or movie couldn’t provide.

As the technology progressed, however, it was suddenly possible to do even more with just a personal computer and a budget. Pirating software, for better or worse, also meant that people who previously had no access to good video editing software or any editing software could get it for free. Experimentation continued, and the medium began to see changes in the form of user-generated content within the videos. One of the more abstract ones is Lim’s “People are People” fanvid, which is more computer-generated than from the show (Stargate: Atlantis). I can’t tell you exactly what her video means, but I can tell you that it’s impressive and that the lyrics and tone definitely tie in with many of the themes of the show.

It’s not just the tools that wouldn’t be here without the internet, however – the video editing software, Photoshop software, tutorials, and help sites would all be nothing without the fan communities that bring fans together, encourage them to create, and keep egging each other on to get better all the time. The interactive quality to these groups means that as long as there is still media to be sought out and enjoyed, there will always be something new to make and shape in response to it. And thanks to the web, there will always be someone out there to stumble upon it… and hopefully think it’s really cool.

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