Fandom stats and surveys and so on

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What are you most curious about in fandom?
destntoast wrote in fandomstats
Discussion question of the moment, for anyone who feels like participating: What question(s) about fandom would you most like to know the answer to?  Do you have any plans or ideas of how to get answers?

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A few questions on my mind:
1. how many collaborative fandom-only AUs like Omegaverse have come and gone in the past? What do such AUs have in common?
2. Do most fans read/write a large variety of tropes or prefer a fairly narrow genre? Are fans who mostly seek out something specific (e.g., hurt/comfort) more likely to be multi-fandom?
3. Do femslash, mslash, and het shippers tend to focus on the same tropes or different ones?
4. Wattpad seems like a very different world from AO3 and FFN (though those two also differ from one another)... what are the most popular tropes on that platform? What are the user demographics like?

#1 I don't know how to answer.

#2 is something I could in theory look at by examining patterns in authorship and kudos, but I worry about privacy issues and don't immediately have the right tools/data to do it. No immediate plans here.

#3 is one I think I'll be able to take a look at on AO3 (and probably will soon).

#4 I miiiight be getting someone from Wattpad to help me with, if they're willing to share the data. (If they are, I'll definitely share the data more broadly.)

4. Seconding the Wattpad question. My assumption is that wattpad users are younger and the fics posted shorter. But I'd love to have statistical facst.

This is excerpted from a comment I made on tumblr_refuge:

For a long time, I sort of assumed that everyone who enjoyed slash probably did for the same reasons I did. That didn't mean I understood those reasons very well, but it seemed obvious that if A WHOLE LOT of us all enjoyed the same thing that society says we should not enjoy, then we probably all enjoyed it for largely the same reasons.

But as I read my way through the vast corpus of Sherlock slashfic (and that's only one fandom!), I am coming to realize that I was totally wrong. We love slash for WILDLY different reasons, and we look for wildly different things in our slash. It's easy to assume that there must be some common itch that all of us are scratching when we ship m/m. But more and more, I am concluding that this is not the case at all.

One thing I would really like to do (or rather, I would like someone else to do, because it sounds like a hassle) is draw up a monster survey to gather data about why people enjoy slash. I've spent most of a lifetime thinking about possible reasons for people to be drawn to slash, so I'd start by listing all of those, and ask people to tick off the ones that felt reasonably close to their experience. And I'd leave room for people to add their own.

Or maybe even better would be to start with a survey that just said: "tell me why you like slash, in as many or few words as you like." Then I would sift through those replies for everything that looked like a reason, and make a list of all those reasons, and then send out another survey where I asked people to select which reasons best described their own experience. Then there would be a pie chart. Maybe a lot of pie charts. And a qualitative analysis, natch.

And even this data would absolutely not be definitive, because on this kind of topic, you can't necessarily trust what people say about themselves. People are likely to give answers that flatter themselves, and likely to ignore explanations widely regarded as "shameful", no matter how true they might be. Still, it would be data, and even suspect data is better than no data.

Oh, yes, that's one of the big questions of fan culture, imho - why is slash so wildly popular? And like all "why" questions, it would be very difficult to approach, but I'd love to get a few answers as well. Why slash, and why are we attracted to certain pairings or fandoms or tropes? What sort of itch do we scratch, as you put it, when we engage in fannish activities - like consuming, creating, exchanging and discussing any kind of fanwork?

Oh God, those would be monster surveys indeed. Perhaps it would be wiser to start with less ambitious projects. ;)

Edited at 2015-02-09 01:51 pm (UTC)

I'm really interested in fandom and personal identity. That starts with "How do people in fandom identify?" (in terms of gender, sexuality, race etc.) which I already took a look at in the AO3 census, and intend to continue working on when I have more time.

But I also want to look at how fandom and identity influence each other. Many people in fandom are LGBT+ - is that because fandom attracts those people, or is it because people in fandom are more exposed to LGBT+ media and therefore likely to question their sexualities? How is the fandom experience different for people of different races, classes, genders, sexualities, and how does this vary between fandom subcultures? Does fandom then affect how people view other media, particularly things like canon LGBT+ representation?

I have vague plans for how to investigate all this, mostly starting with Step 1: Get Funding For a PhD In Fandom, but unforuntately all that will have to wait until I have passed my current course. :P

Many people in fandom are LGBT+ - is that because fandom attracts those people, or is it because people in fandom are more exposed to LGBT+ media and therefore likely to question their sexualities?

this is a super interesting question.

I'm a little desperate to understand why women are into slash. I can't come up with any convincing theory, which makes me think it's completely different for everyone and/or there are multiple reasons per person. Here are some ideas - don't hurt me, these are all things oft said:

1. Two guys in love is adorable, like in those commercials with a shirtless guy holding a baby or a kitten. The perceived emotional cluelessness of men just adds to the cuteness.

2. People like the "buddy" aspect of slash romance that many women may find lacking in their lives - hard to have a guy "buddy" without him wanting to sleep with you (or vice versa!), being a buddy with women might be hard because of competition issues.

3. Straight women are turned on by the idea of two hot guys in love (and/or lust)- the female equivalent of straight men's fascination with lesbian porn. That doesn't explain the motivations of many non-straight women, though.

4. This one will get me yelled at, but... In the media of the fandom, since nobody can have the two hot men of the ship, if the they're into each other, it makes one feel less deprived than if that b#%$^ I saw him with at the People's Choice Awards has him. That doesn't seem to make much sense, but there are nutcases who harass the girlfriends of actors who are shipped.

5. Way too often the heteronormative coupling is forced and inorganic with no apparent chemistry, and makes you want to vomit. Harry Potter & What's-her-name, King Arthur and What's-her-name, etc. To be fair, that's often the case where there is an actual m/m pairing.

6. Women are very kind to their gay male friends and write them hot fiction. I doubt this is common - most "gifted" fics are to other women, not men.

7. Some fandoms just have male leads with great chemistry and we want to see that go somewhere, and since TV never does it, it's up to us.

3 & 7 seem the most likely to me, but I know nothing except what works for me.

Having put a lot of thought into this, I have a few more suggestions:

8. Some women feel uncomfortable about their own bodies, sexuality, or the way their relationships are typically portrayed due to the sexism they experience in their day-to-day lives, and prefer reading stories about male characters as escapism from this, or to explore these issues in a less personal context.

9. Women who are LGBTQ+ want to write about LGBTQ+ relationships, but writing about multiple marginal identities simultaneously severely reduces their audience, so in order to gain attention they focus mainly on cis white men.

10. Women in fandom, like everyone else, are simply socialised to pay more attention to men's stories, creating a feedback loop of "All the fan-appeal shows are about men" -> "All the fic is about men" -> "Everyone in fandom learns how to write M/M" -> "There's no fannish demand for shows about women" -> "All the fan-appeal shows are about men"...

Put this in my intro blurb, but it fits better here, I think:

I'm fascinated by fandom as a space for amateur creation: a context for people to share and appreciate works outside of the (quality, content, and style) standards of professionally produced media. And the records we make of fandom works make it possible to explore bits of this empirically.

So, for example, I am curious about the dynamics of fan creators: how does popularity grow? what kind of feedback keeps creators producing through time? Do creators get treated differently depending on scale? Do creators comment differently than non-creators?

I'm also interested in looking at the reception of different kinds fanworks: what gets seen on what platforms? Are serial works and long works treated differently than short pieces? How are Works In Progress treated?

I have rough ideas as to how to get at each of these, though some require tools I've barely touched (natural language processing, eep!) Who knows how many I'll get to, but a little help and encouragement from similarly curious folks wouldn't hurt.

This stuff is SO COOL.

Re just the popularity question, I'm starting to do some analyses of just my own works and what impact different events (recommendations, etc.) have had on my own fics -- looking at my own because I have access to a bunch of data for mine that I don't for most; I can go back through my inbox and see exactly when I got kudos on a story, and I know when I posted about my stories on various platforms. But I was thinking about how one could maybe use public info (the dates on public bookmarks and on comments) to trace popularity surges for other stories...

Also, I took some courses in NLP ages ago and have lingering interest in it. Happy to help brainstorm if useful.

Edited at 2015-02-16 11:27 pm (UTC)

Besides the things already mentioned, I'm interested in fan terminology, and tagging (flat/hierarchical/facets, managed/freeform, various managed tag strategies), and all the ways fans use to make things findable.

I also find it interesting how different platforms can have such different userbases. I always wonder what kind of results that AO3 survey would get if it was done on other platforms.

Yes! Good questions. Have you seen the FFN demographics survey? It's a couple years old, but an interesting comparison:

Lately, my biggest question is the correlation of fanfic and the culture of the authors (and consumers). Whenever the author is from different culture (nationality, race, class, city/country, so many variables) than their characters... what really happens?

This obviously comes from personal experience: I am Czech and I write for a US-centric fandom. My culture is pretty americanized, but sometimes, things get hinky.
I know there are many second-language writers like me, and many Americans write for HP or Sherlock. And it can go even more granular than that: minority writers, writers from different social class... what do we bring into the work, and into the whole fandom? How does our second hand knowledge of the culture influence things like:

* language - "britpicking" is an old tradition; but how much is the "fic British" similar to the language actually spoken in UK?

* living situation - where do the characters live, how big is their living space, do they live alone or with roommates, what is seen as "normal" and what is read as poor/wealthy? (remeber Friends and the huge apartments they had?)

* food - how similar is the kind of food eaten by characters to what "real people" eat? (is "real people" even a thing?)

Where do we take our idea of the culture being written? From the original work? Own research? Guesswork? Ads and media? Other fics?

While the original impulse for this comes from my own escapades, it could actually be much bigger than that. This could become a basis for the debate about representation in media, because that's what it is about - white authors writing PoC characters, PoC authors writing white characters, the fictional shared "default" and the need to contest that default.

Oh, WOW. You just blew my mind in fantastic ways! I love these questions... I wonder how one could best gather data on this?

I mentioned this in a thread on a different topic, but the topic I am most interested in currently is tracking a fandom's popularity over time (e.g. how many HP fics were published in 2009 v. 2010, say). But it's not just a statistical problem but a practical one--many older fics are impossible to accurately date, and when they get re-posted to AO3 the date defaults to the new upload date, which does not reflect the true original publication date.

The only way I could imagine tackling this would be through crowd-sourcing --recruiting lots of fans and authors to verify the pub dates of fics in a database. It's just a huge, huge, problem.

I'm not sure what can be done about the posting dates issue, but as for tracking popularity, or perhaps more accurately productivity of fandoms over time, you might want to take a look at my creator wave analysis for the Sherlock fandom (on AO3). I grouped creators by the time of their first works, and then counted how many of each pool are posting each week. I've been thinking it would be really interesting to do the same kind of things for Harry Potter, though I don't know how people would feel about having the fandom's decay plotted out.

I love this thread! So many good ideas! I'm interested in fandom as a subculture, especially from a linguistics perspective, so here are a few questions on that topic:

How/where does fandom slang develop and how consistent is it across time, platform, and fandom? How much does it have in common with wider internet slang? Which fandoms are most prone to inventing wild names for ships, and which stick to basic patterns?

How often do fanfiction create its own non-fandom-specific phrases like "toeing out of his shoes"? A lot of people who read fic comment that it's just written differently than other prose--what are the markers of that? (This seems difficult to investigate because it probably involves comparing fanfiction to anything/everything outside of fandom. Alternatively, it could be a survey question for fanfiction readers.)

Less related to linguistics, but just another thing I'd be interested in: a statistical breakdown of fandoms that are common as AUs for other fandoms rather than as sources for fanworks in their own right. (Pacific Rim is a big one right now.) These could be difficult to separate from other types of crossovers, but AO3 at least has the helpful "Alternate Universe - Fusion" tags.

How often do fanfiction create its own non-fandom-specific phrases like "toeing out of his shoes"?

I'm so interested in this, but no idea how to study it quantitatively.

Ooh! Fellow linguist here. I don't know about all fandom slang, but I can point you to an article on ship/pairing names blurbed here:

*clears throat* You called?

Anyway, hi all, I'm also a linguist and I believe it was in response to my analysis of synonyms for Benedict Cumberbatch that Toasty coined the word "fan-guistics". So I'm perpetually interested in this sort of thing!

If you want to see everything I've come across so far, more specifically and more generally

All right, so I'm a little shy about this question and am prepared to be judged for it, but I am just SO CURIOUS:

How do people (particularly women) who write slash fic learn about M/M sex, especially anal?

I picture a few likely avenues:
1. Watch M/M porn, and/or read M/M erotica written by gay men
2. Ask gay male friends
3. Try anal sex, either alone or with a partner. (I have to admit, I am super curious whether anyone has ever done this *specifically* as research for a fic. God I kind of hope so, lol.)
4. Have existing experience with anal sex (not specifically as research).
5. Read reference texts (not porn), in print or online
6. Just guess, or rely on personal fantasy
7. Repeat and recombine stuff seen in other slash fic.

Anything I haven't thought of?

I would *love* to know which tools most fic writers are using, and if they would appreciate more guidance toward realism, or if they prefer fantasy to be purely fantasy... but as far as collecting this info, all I really can say for sure is that it would have to be SUPER anonymous. for obvious reason, lol.

I don't have much shame; I would answer such a survey. But yeah, anonymity is probably the way to go! :)

I'd really love to know how this has changed over time, and what people used to use as well as what they do now. When I first read slashfic in the early 2000's, it seemed like some writers were relying on personal fantasies that didn't actually make a lot of anatomical sense (and/or learning from bad sources). I found that original erotic writing in ASSM ( and similar venues was on average more realistic about the details of different types of sex (though less satisfying in other ways). That's definitely changed.

I'd really, really like an analysis of whether the fan works and number of fan creators severely dropped off around the middle of season 9 of Supernatural - specifically after the episodes 9x03 and 9x08.

It is my impression that after those two episodes, a high than average number of creators and fans left the fandom. I would love to see whether the average rate of produced works and fic writers supported that.

Oh, interesting! That seems like a question that fffinnagain's methods might be particularly well suited to.

I'm most probably going to ask some (about a thousand?) students in Estonia to fill a survey on their experiences with fanfiction. The most interesting thing for me would be to ask about their preferred fic language and the reasons behind that, plus I could ask about which sites they use. Does anyone know of similar surveys in other countries? I've been trying to find some for a long time, and I'm starting to think no-one has done it because it would be A Spectacularly Bad Idea, possibly because I wouldn't get enough data.

Another fun thing would be to make a survey about what fic writers and readers think about literary merits of fanfiction. I'm slowly getting into all the papers on fanfiction, but what I've seen is that authors analyse fics and then offer their stance on it, or interview a small number of writers/readers.

How to get more feedback in order to improve writing skills? Fanfiction vs original fiction, communities or websites, getting beta readers, etc.

There has been some research ( into what information librarians should provide about fanfiction. Personally, while this is a topic that should be looked into a lot more deeply, it might be a bit early to be relevant.

As for quantitive analysis:
The most common (literary) genres (PWP, angst, h/c, etc.) on AO3 (common combinations, how fic length and number of genres are related, which are more prevalent in certain fandoms, and possibly which genres get more hits). Problems I can foresee: since genre tagging is optional, the results may be pointless; tagging traditions vary over time and fandoms.

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