Defeating Social Media Algorithms in the Name of Social Justice

I recently watched a video on TikTok from user mikaila simone; the video is a spoken word poem about the trauma black Americans face thanks to institutional racism, and how that trauma continues even after their deaths. It’s an incredibly affecting video, and I opened the comments, hoping to see how others were reacting to simone’s video. What I found, to my deep confusion, were supportive comments absolutely laden with emojis, and a series of completely incomprehensible comments, from multiple users, in all caps. One comment read “A WHILE AGO I WAS LIKE OH YEAH YEAH OH YEAH NO NO REASON WHY NOT I JUST DON’T WANT TO ME GO TO SLEEP AND THEN GO EAT AND THEN GO TO SLEEP AND THEN GO.” These aren’t even song lyrics; these words are, quite literally, gibberish.


And they’re helping advance social justice.

Copyright and Fanfiction

The latest fanfiction community scandal seemed to start with an app called Pocket Archive Library. Twitter and Tumblr users started sharing screenshots of the app a few weeks ago, claiming that it illegally copied fanfiction from AO3, and that it was tricking users into paying for fanfiction. It was later clarified that the app is simply a skin for the AO3 website–it doesn’t “steal” fanfiction per se, it’s just a very specialized browser for the site. but Pocket Archive Library does show ads, and ask users to tip the app maker or to subscribe to pro features, with the money going back to the app maker. There’s also a group called Woodsign j.d.o.o. that has produced a slew of fandom-specific fanfiction apps, that do seem to be copying and redistributing fanfiction from Archive of Our Own, and charge for access to these works.

The primary concern with these apps is copyright. Aside from the ethically-dubious act of monetizing something that’s actually available for free, fanwork creators don’t want their work being distributed without their permission, or for others to make money off of something they made. While a number of users on social media have made various legal claims, some of them less than accurate, the concern boils down to the fact that fans believe they own their fanfiction in some way. It’s not necessarily a controversial idea, or a new one, but it is one that has evolved over time, and isn’t black and white. So let’s talk about fanfiction and copyright.

A Total Fashion Idiot’s Guide to Resort 2020 Runway Looks

Sometimes, when I’m at my day job, I pull up Vogue’s runway slideshows and look at the runways. This is because I like looking at clothes, and because I work a service desk. And also, ADD. So I have to distract myself, to keep myself from gettingĀ too distracted, so that I stay in place and look happy and available to all the lovely people who come to my library. The point is is that I spend a lot of time looking at runways.

Comment Policy

My blog is set up so that I moderate all posts before they post; since I haven’t had a real flood of readers interacting in this way, that’s been perfectly manageable for me. I’m also not the type to delete a discussion because it makes me uncomfortable; in short, I trust myself with moderation.

And I had to send a comment to the trash this morning, and I don’t feel bad about it.

Pet Update

Dr. Jimothy J. Tortington Tortoro Tortimer III, PhD is doing fine and dandy this morn. Sometimes when I feed him in the morning he likes to crunch a bunch of leaves and stand on his dish as if to say, “I conquered this.” I also put a lil bit of water on the bottom of his dish just to make everything a lil extra moist and crunchy; he seemed to like that a lot.

Suzie and Kaylee are fine and like standing on top of us in the mornings. How are your pets?

Videodrome: Disney Fanvid Madness

Videodrome is a series of blog posts I’m considering making wherein I talk about various videos of every stripe, because fuck it, I have the ability and it’s not like I’m here to make money, folks.

More than a memory | (non)Disney Valentine’s MEP” is a fanvid (fan video) that crosses all over the animated children’s film universe, pairing characters in what seems to be essentially random groupings. The creator, AiraSora, puts a lot of work into even having these characters appear in the same shot, much less to construct a narrative of romance between each pairing. This video is fast-paced, apparently throwing a shitton of pairings at  us in celebration of Valentine’s Day, so your mileage may vary on whether you find any of these pairings romantic or whether you can remember any of them. I’ll admit to being charmed by the Nani/Prince Charming pairing; when I watch these sorts of videos, I base the merit of the pairing on the merit of the plot the vid creator has constructed, and the story of a white prince falling in love with Nani when she’s halfway through a dog door is delightful.

I think this video serves as a good, albeit over exaggerated, example of what fanvids are made for. A fanvid is made, generally, to either express appreciation for a franchise or to create a fake, generally romantic scenario. A large and growing aspect of fandom is the act of shipping, where a fan finds a cute couple (or threesome or foursome, etc.), obsesses over them, and produces fan works about the couple. This couple does not need to have a single basis in reality, and that’s what often makes fanvids interesting. Because fanvids take footage from the franchise they’re a fan of and remix it to create a new work, the video maker cannot decide that the characters work in a coffeeshop or are stuck in a hot tub, because the footage doesn’t exist. They have to work with the footage they have to create a narrative it wasn’t intended to create, and it’s brilliant the way vid creators go about doing this.

I’ll be frank with you: I cut and run from this one once a woman romantically kissed a child. That’s gross, man, don’t do that.

There’s a dedicated community of video makers on Youtube dedicated to this particular subgenre of cut-and-pasting animated characters into new stories. It’s more advanced in some way than normal fanvid making; the ways they succeed as well as fail in making characters look like they exist in the same universe is something really outside of what’s normal for the average fanvid. In a Supernatural fanvid, Dean and Castiel’s thousand-yard stares will be reinterpreted to be in the other’s general vicinity; in these videos, characters are manipulated into kissing, and often. In the above video, several characters are also animals and have magic powers. It takes a few watches before you can make the leaps of logic along with the video maker, but the fact that the leap can be made is a testament to how well these video makers understand narrative.

These videos might not be enjoyable or especially watchable to people outside of this particular video making community, but I am obsessed with watching them, to see what they choose to portray, what movies they take apart and sew them back together. They use a shitton of cheesy iMovie filters to cover the lighting differences across films, to change hair colors, to create overdramatic moods. They use flashing, pulsing crossfades more than any human should be allowed. Every character becomes everything, from an innocent virgin to a rapist, and they live in half-worlds between properties that don’t feel like real places, only amateur backdrops to the drama unfolding between creations that were never meant to touch. Video makers have only the videos that have already been made in reality to work with, and in this particular community, they prove that it’s no barrier to their imagination. Anything is possible in their worlds, and frequently, there’s already a video about it.

Talk to the author on Twitter @yipp33kiyay.

Banned Books Week, Library Censorship, and Common Sense

So, I work at a public library. I’m not a librarian; you get that title only upon completing your Master’s, although most library employees will reply to “librarian” just to save time. I work full-time creating programming for teenagers, in a big, decently well-funded, flourishing library system, and for this I’m extremely fortunate. I see my job as an extension of an institution that does some of the greatest good there is to do in communities.

Not everyone agrees.

This week we’ve gotten on the national news for choosing not to buy the graphic novel version of a book that has previously been released, and acquired by us, in a variety of other formats. The reason this made national news is because the book is critical of the Democratic presidential candidate. In an example of truly bad timing/incredible irony, Banned Books Week starts September 25th. This is exactly the kind of press you don’t want, as a library.

Now, all of this could come back to bite me in my professional ass, so let me preface: I’m offering my own, private opinions here. I don’t think my opinions have any place in my workspace, which I do my best to make a welcoming place for everyone. My library is not responsible for my dumb thoughts.

Besides, I don’t want to really talk about politics or right or wrong. Saying that we have been slandered might be a bit much; to say that we have been misrepresented by all the news outlets that have repeated the story seems to be true. Choosing not to buy a book can come down to any number of reasons, from “I don’t think it’ll circulate well” to practical reasons like money and what exactly we can get from our suppliers. We have, like many larger library systems, a complex policy system in place regarding what books we can acquire, from where, and what can be done with donated books. We have a lot of good responses to a lot of people who have a lot of beliefs about what we do that are being fueled by the kind of close-but-not-quite purposefully inflammatory statements that make my skin itch.

The beliefs about libraries is, really, the part that gets me. I think the most common consensus among the comments I read on these articles is that librarians are all old, liberal lesbians; the next most common was that there’s always a homeless man pooping in the corner. I was genuinely surprised by that one. A homeless man, pooping in the corner? Always? It’s true we have a lot of homeless people in libraries, but it’s for the same reason that you run at the gym instead of around your neighborhood–why do what you do if you can do it someplace with central A/C and wifi?

You can imagine how the other common threads went. We are controlled by liberals who want to destroy everything. “The brown shirts are out,” “soon they’ll be burning books,” etc. Of course we don’t burn books; we throw them in the dumpster. More people should throw away books, actually. I’ve contracted at least three serious illnesses from mildewed, blood-stained, fluid-covered books that people just won’t throw away, because the spectre of Fahrenheit 451 flickers in their brain. Most information is immortal these days; you can’t take anything away by occasionally putting a book out of its misery.

(I’m genuinely not kidding about the diseases. If you leave a library book out in the rain or your cat pees on it, please, for the love of everything. Write down the title, throw away the book, and tell the library you need to pay for it. Our immune systems will thank you.)

I think it’s easy to tell from my dyed hair and public profession and bisexuality that I’m a liberal. I admit openly that I don’t know anything about financial issues and generally vote on social issues and keep my mouth shut about things I don’t know about. And I generally don’t go where conservatism lives. It’s just not a place where I would feel comfortable, and I know many conservatives wouldn’t much like me. But reading those comments was like stepping into a shadowy other-world, not only a world deeply ill-informed about libraries, but also a mirror reflection of the one I’m used to. It seems like everyone is concerned about the wrong people controlling us and screwing us over; we just disagree on who those people are.

So while my knee-jerk reaction was to align with my liberal self, as a library employee, here’s what I want to say:

Please come. We would love to have you. We would love to circulate as many anti-Hillary and pro-Hillary and Hillary Duff titles as we realistically can. We don’t buy books sometimes, and it is not censorship, and you are free to talk to our board of directors if you think it is. We do buy books sometimes, and we will never remove them from the shelves if they offend someone, unless we are truly terrible at our jobs. Homeless people abound, and mostly they sleep, play internet games, and apply for jobs. This is also true of literally every other library demographic. We have storytimes and teen read-ins and craft projects and a Wii and DVDs and movie nights and books, books, and books. We do our best to be what every human being needs when they walk in, and if we’re not, we’d like to know. We’re here for you.

Please come. If there are any homeless men pooping in the corner, I’ll buy you dinner.

Come talk to me on Twitter at @yipp33kiyay.

An Introduction

Exhibit A of void-screaming.

I think everyone has an itch to write, in the same way that everyone has an itch to speak, to tell others their story. I think it comes from being sentient beings–while realizing your own existence is great, and language is great, it create an inherent yearning for a connection, to reach out to other people and touch them with your self-ness. It all comes from wanting to not be alone, in our own, self-centered ways.

That’s my best guess at why I’m deciding there needs to be a place on the internet for my silly thoughts. I don’t have a lot of urgency or professional need for this; I want to be a published writer one day, but I’m currently working full-time at a library as well as going to grad school two nights out of seven. I’m also planning my wedding and volunteering at the local natural history museum, so frankly, I don’t have the time.

But I want to have the time, you know? I want to write. I want to scream out into the void, with the vague hope that the void will scream back.

Or at least, talk to me about fanfiction.