The Cult Media and Global Fandom panel at this weekend's MiT 6 Conference focused a variety of ways that media texts circulate in the global community.
Derek Kompare presented a paper entitled "Time Vortex: Versioning and the Fluid Text," in which he explored the "versioning" that takes place with the arguably "cult" TV series Star Trek and Doctor Who. Kompare graciously made his slides available so we can share them here.
Kompare argues that while US television was once organized around textual reception, it now functions on a logic of versioning, which is based on mobility, scalability, and creativity. Media texts, like Star Trek and Doctor Who, are released in as many versions as the market will tolerate. Versioning does not refer to remakes or adaptations of original series, but instead refers to the ways a single text is remastered, repackaged, and ultimately re-sold to fans.
Kompare poses three sites through which we can examine the practices of versioning:
- The text is the starting point in both official and fan versions of a property.
- The work is the text in its fixed, copyrighted form, but fans can also create works that have the materiality of official versions.
- Brands benefit from versioning practices because each version of a text helps to create a brand presence and recognition.
Shawn Shimpach presented a case study of Doctor Who entitled "The International Circulation and Afterlife of Doctor Who or Who in the World?" Shimpach argues that time shifting options have changed the temporality of watching Doctor Who. Where once liveness and simultaneous viewing was paramount, industrial processes have made temporal expansion possible. Viewers are now able to see a program in a variety of distribution windows: first on broadcast, then on DVD, then in syndication, etc. Shimpach urges us to consider the "developing institutional strategies around the 'afterlife' of television programming."
As both Shimpach and Kompare argue, fan production is very important to the concept of versioning. For example, the restoration of Doctor Who was originally a fan product. Petra Kwong turned the discussion more explicitly toward fan production in her exploration of Chinese ACG fan communities, "Remapping the Relationship between Authors, Readers and Texts among Chinese Fan Communities in the Cyber Age." In her presentation, Kwong examined doujinshi--nonprofit magazines and books that are published and funded by amateur fan artists and writers. Kwong traced the history of these publications and explained how the Internet has allowed these communities to circulate their work on a larger scale. Doujinshi are an interesting example of organized and monetized fan labor that give us different ways to think about the value of fan work.
As Kompare, Shimpach, and Kwong demonstrated, fan practices and new technologies continue to inform industrial strategies and distribution flows.