Preserving Fandom as a Cultural Heritage

I’m pretty sure my idea will be the roughest out of everyone’s. The first week “off” we had from assignments in order to work on the proposal, I kept spinning my wheels and hitting walls. I had a hard time coming up with something that hadn’t been done before, or done in a way that I could improve upon or repurpose. I was feeling decidedly unimaginative and un-smart in terms of Digital Humanities.

As I was working with Mukurtu for the CMS evaluation, I got inspired by thoughts of culture and heritage. As one of my research interests is fandom studies, it occurred to me that fandom is a culture (which contains many subcultures, depending on the specific fandom or ways people choose to participate), and fans thus have a heritage. Fandom has changed quite a bit since the Internet, and as many older fans are passing away, many of the older stories are lost, as are some of the artifacts. For the purposes of this project, the fandom community I will focus on are members of MediaWest*Con (http://www.mediawestcon.org/), a fan-run convention whose history dates back to 1978.

Ultimately, the final product I imagine is a website on which a CMS (Mukurtu repruposed, or something like it) for use by scholars and the fandom community alike in order to archive fandom artifacts (digitized photos, fanzines, correspondence, fan art, news articles, etc.), which would be available and searchable for scholarly research. Members of the fandom community could contribute artifacts themselves, but one of the best features of Mukurtu is the ability for community members to add metadata in the form of a “cultural narrative.” For example, imagine that a collection of photos from a particular convention costume contest was archived. If a community member knows something about the photos – information about how a costume was made, a story about a situation that was occurring during the contest, etc. – the user can add that as a cultural narrative through a text editor, thus giving researchers (and other fans) more rich detail about the artifact, which would ordinarily be lost when all one has is the artifact.

To begin, I will have to assemble a team of coders and scholars to adapt Mukurtu to the purpose. I am uncertain if I will need software developers or not – I’m assuming not, if I am going with repurposing Mukurtu, but I could be wrong about this. I would also likely need to recruit some fan community members for the development and beta testing phases – likely someone among the convention organizers or committee members who would have access to artifacts to be added to the site and/or be knowledgable enough to add to what is already there.

I would also need to determine if I am to assume that my institution will provide me with server space and a database to populate, as well as IT support, or if my fictional team and I are completely on our own in that regard. (I guess that’s a question for Dr. Schocket.)

This is about as far as I’ve gotten, seeing as this particular idea was just born Sunday night. I welcome any and all suggestions and feedback, and QUESTIONS!!! Anything would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, I plan to hit this pretty hard tomorrow and develop it some more.

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