|Title:||Participatory media fandom: A case study of anime fansubbing|
|Citation:||Lee, H.K., 2011. Participatory media fandom: A case study of anime fansubbing. Media, Culture & Society, 33(8), pp.1131-1147.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||This article uses data from a case study, which provides empirical findings from the analysis of text written by anime fans (fan forum, fans’ news sites and websites of selected fansubbing groups) and interviews conducted by the author with nine fan-subbers, an editor of a well-known anime news website, an anime historian and four industry commentators.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||Yes|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
Recent years have seen the rise of consumers’ voluntary translation and distribution of foreign cultural products on a global scale. Such a practice not only facilitates the grassroots globalization of culture but also questions the cultural industries’ current model of global distribution. This article explores the nature and implications of fan-translation and distribution of cultural commodities through a case study of English fan-subbing of anime (subtitling of Japanese animation in English). Anime fan-subbing is situated at the disjuncture of the global mediascape, which intensifies with the increasing public access to means to copy and share, the expansion of collective knowledge and the rise of fans’ voluntary labour coordinated on a global scale. It exemplifies participatory media fandom whose globalization exceeds that of cultural industries in terms of extent and velocity. The article argues that fan-subbing, pursued as a hobby, can unsettle the global mediascape by allowing multiple mediations of cultural text and presenting a new model of content distribution and its organization based on consumers’ voluntary work.
Main Results of the Study
The participatory media fandom that has resulted in fan-translation and distribution exists at a point where there is a growing contrast and disjuncture between different forces in the global mediascape: the incongruence between the ownership of copyrights of cultural products and that of technical means to copy and share; the blurred distinction between copyrighted contents and free knowledge; and gaps between the territorialized distribution of foreign cultural products and the transnationality and immediacy of consumer desire. The case study of anime fan-subbing sheds a light on the fandom’s evolving dynamics. English fan-subbing of anime was triggered by the gaps in the overseas distribution of anime and, consequently, the unmet demand of US fans. Initially, it functioned within the industry structure instead of giving birth to alternatives to the authorized products. The consensus of ‘drop the project if licensed in the US (or North America)’ reflected fandom’s attempt to limit its effect to that of supplementing the local anime industry’s offer. In addition, fan-subbing’s geographical and technological constraints kept its role as a connector of missing links between the industry and viewers. However, with the arrival of digital technologies and the globalization of the fan-subbing community, fan-subbing has emerged as a new, popular model of global distribution of anime. The mediation of anime text by fans is likely to lead to a surge of multiple, sometimes competing mediations of global flow of anime – by the industry as well as its consumers. Even within fansubbing itself, competing mediations are not uncommon: today we can observe multiple speed subbing groups working on the same projects, resulting in different versions of fansubs of an anime. The existence of plural mediations, within and outside the market-based system, intensifies the tension in the global mediascape by spreading multiple goals, legitimacies and operational practices of the transnational flow of cultural contents.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The anime industry exemplifies cultural industries that are facing pressure from their own consumers who, networked and coordinated on a global scale, can self-organize mediation and distribution of cultural commodities, based on the non-commercial principle. Under such pressure, the anime industry has begun framing fan-subbing as piracy. Nevertheless, the industry does not regard taking legal action as a good solution because this could alienate the fan-subbing community which has constituted the core of anime fandom. The industry’s current strategy appears to be exploring a new medium – such as the internet – for global distribution of anime, but it does not look effective at reducing the demand for fan-subbing. Like DVD distribution, authorized streaming is territorially and technologically bounded and thus still cannot subdue the immediate mediation and borderless mobility of fan-subs. In this sense, we can perhaps view a significant part of the overseas anime market as a so-called missing market: in spite of overseas fans’ growing demands for anime, a market hardly exists due to constraints such as high costs for global distribution, limited technologies (and thus limitations on visual quality as seen from authorized online streaming) and anime’s increasing assimilation to and inclusion in the free knowledge of global anime fandom. Anime’s globally dispersed missing market has been and can be explored only by the free labour of dedicated fans who have strong missions and motivations and an enthusiasm for technological innovation, and who voluntarily donate their time and skills, and can work virtually 24 hours per day collaborating with colleagues in different continents. Such a type of operation looks hard to copy and be adopted by cultural industries that work strictly within the commercial paradigm. It is yet to be observed whether or how the anime industry can come up with commercially viable models of global anime distribution that can successfully make markets out of overseas fans’ desire for anime consumption.
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Individual|
|Period of material under study:||2009|
|Level of aggregation:||Case study|
|Period of material under study:||2009|