Doctoral Thesis

So… what is it that I’ve dedicated several years of my life to? That would be vidding!

My dissertation focused on the fan community of vidders, who create remix of film and television sources in combination with music to create vids, or fan-made music videos. This is a (mostly) female community with a unique method of interpreting popular culture texts who share their creations both online in Livejournal vidding communities and face-to-face at conventions and other fan gatherings. Vids often explore themes not intended by the original creators, and demonstrate in a dynamic visual and auditory form how television audiences engage with their favoured texts. Here’s an example of one of my favourite vids to give you an idea:

Using ethnographic methods, online and off, I explored both the texts created by this community and also the individuals involved in the practice. I argued that vids deconstruct television texts in specific ways by separating the paradigmatic and syntagmatic elements, and that this practice is influenced by the social construction of gender. I explored the boundaries of and relationships within the vidding community, and also the strategies used by vidders to protect themselves from intellectual property disputes.

This Prezi gives an overview of some of the key themes of my work on vidding. Also check out my publications page for more information!

Here’s a quick table of contents with a quick abstract for each sections.

Chapter 2: The Practice of Vidding

Chapter 3: Methodology

Chapter 4: Making Meaning

Chapter 5: Gender & Paradigms

Chapter 6: Vidders & Their Work

Chapter 7: Community

Chapter 8: “Fair Use is Legal Use!” Copyright & Intellectual Property

Chapter 2: The Practice of Vidding
This chapter contextualises the practice of vidding by detailing its origins and history as part of media fandom. It outlines the history of the practice from its origins in fanfiction, through live slideshow performances at fan conventions, to VCR vidding and the development of digital editing and its effect on vidding practices. The role of history in the vidding community is also explored. In the second section, this chapter describes how contemporary vids are made using digital editing software and shared online, based on the ethnographic information from vidders which I collected. This chapter introduces many of the themes that will be explored throughout this dissertation, such as the boundaries of the vidding community, achieving authenticity as a member, and the shift towards more public awareness. The aim is to inform the reader on the historical factors that shape many of these arguments, and to provide background on how recent digital technologies have affected the practice. Back

Chapter 3: Methodology
I address concerns relating to the use of ethnography as a methodology. First, I analyse criticisms of this type of research and its efficacy for studying fan cultures, as well as my open position and subjectivity in relation to this community. Then, I contextualise the use of ethnography for the specific study of vidding, by problematizing the notion of the “fieldsite” and how it relates to both virtual and face-to-face ethnography. Then, I describe the online vidding community as it existed at the time of my research, and outline the methods I have used to engage with this community both online and off. Additionally, this chapter addresses the relevant issues of consent, privacy, and confidentiality.Back

Chapter 4: Making Meaning
This chapter explores the complex relationships between the vidders, the source text, and their remixed texts, and looks at the vidder’s position as both audience and producer. Drawing on relevant literature on audience reception, I argue that media texts are polysemic, and can be interpreted in different ways depending on the context and experience of the “reader”. The unique reading and creative practices in media fandom are discussed, and the shifts the concepts of “audience” and “text” will be unpacked in relation to new media technology. Using the language of semiotics, I argue that vids function by deconstructing a text into its component paradigmatic visual elements, which are then re-organized into a preferred syntax. Additionally, I explore how music reinforces and how narrative is created from this new syntagmatic reading.Back

Chapter 5: Gender and Paradigms
Vidders strongly identify as a female community of video editors and viewers, and the demographic information I collected from the vidding communities on Livejournal reflects this. This chapter explores the gendered aspects of vidding and fannish reading practices in order to provide context and a partial explanation for why the community might be primarily composed of women. I describe the role that gender plays in how vids are created in two different ways. Firstly, I expand upon the argument in Chapter 4 that vids are organized paradigmatically around characters, relationships, and thematic elements, and argue that this is a gendered practice, drawing on the relevant scholarship, quantitative information I collected in my questionnaire, and the qualitative information from interviews and my own observations. The second section of the chapter uses the ways vids are created to extend the discussion of gender. Drawing on both Turkle’s use of the term bricolage to represent a form of “soft mastery” and its usage by the Birmingham School in connection with the way subcultures re-purpose signs to represent additional levels of signification, I argue that vids function in both these ways as a type of bricolage.Back

Chapter 6: Vidders and Their Work
This chapter supports the theoretical claims made in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 using ethnographic case studies of several key vidders who participated in my study. I have chosen three vidders with very different creative styles who work in different fandoms: Talitha, an American vidder who focuses on slash and comedy vids; Buffyann, a French vidder who focuses on thematic explorations of various texts; and Ash, a Perth-based vidder who manipulates genre style using Supernatural. After introducing each of these women, I unpack several specific vids in detail in order to demonstrate how vids in relation to the elements discussed previously. Drawing on arguments made in Chapter 4 on meaning-making, I demonstrate how vids draw different or unintended elements out of the source text, explore vids as a complex and contextual system of signification, explore the paradigmatic restructuring of the source text to create the vid, and discuss the specific examples of music use and narrative structure. Secondly, I examine how the social construction of gender influences the creation of vids through an exploration of the use of paradigms that are coded as feminine. Additionally, the creative processes of these key informants are described as a method of bricolage.Back

Chapter 7: Community
This chapter explores the tensions regarding the boundaries of the vidding community, and deals in particular with the role of gender and inclusivity. It explores the community debates regarding membership which were held following the major face-to-face social event, the convention Vividcon, in 2009. The boundaries of community are explored through the categories outlined in Baym (2010): shared space, shared practices, shared resources and support, and interpersonal relationships. These categories are described and critiqued in relation to the vidding community, and in particular, how discourses of gender, history, and “newness” are deployed by vidders to articulate boundaries. While not necessarily so in other online communities, the offline identity categories of gender, race, and sexual orientation remain vital to the vidders’ understandings of themselves and of their community.Back

Chapter 8: “Fair Use is Legal Use”: Vidders and Intellectual Property
This chapter examines the external pressures of copyright and legal forces on the vidding community. It first conducts a brief, historical review of the relevant copyright laws which apply to the practice, and notes the changes how the increasing term of copyright protection and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act affect remix cultures. Then, it outlines the perception of vidders towards copyright laws and its influence on the community. The unique strategies used by the vidders to mitigate the perceived threat of copyright are also discussed. This chapter also introduces the fan-advocacy group known as The Organisation for Transformative Works, and critiques the discourses used by this group regarding legalistic terms such as “fair use” and “transformativeness”, and documents the work of the OTW to legitimate the practice of vidding to the wider public and the law, in light of historical pressures which kept the vidding community private.Back

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