• davis logo
    Davis Media Access's offices
  • A video on Luminosity's YouTube channel
  • A visionOntv training template
  • An edit suite at Davis Media Access
  • A video on AbsoluteDestiny's YouTube channel
  • The visionOntv platform's menu
  • telex
    Davis Media Access's studio control room
  • Laura announcing a video on LiveJournal
  • visionOntv's YouTube channel
  • mixing board
    A mixing board in Davis Media Access's control room
  • Obsessive24 announcing a video on LiveJournal
  • One of visionOntv's Twitter feeds
  • Davis on air
    The entrance to Davis Media Access's studio
  • Laura recommending a video on her Dreamwidth journal
  • visionOntv's Facebook page
  • marin control
    Community Media Center of Marin's studio contol room
  • Here's Luck's website
  • visionOntv's Blip channel
  • mural
    Davis Media Access office's wall mural
  • Here's Luck announcing a video on tumblr
  • Merseyside Street Reporters Network's Facebook page
  • MarinWindow
    The Community Media Center of Marin's offices
  • AbsoluteDestiny announcing a video on Dreamwidth
  • Merseyside Street Reporters Network wiki page on the visionOntv platform
  • Davis camera
    A studio camera at Davis Media Access
  • Luminosity's video "Vogue"
  • Sara Newton's YouTube channel
  • Marin cameras wide
    Remote control studio cameras at the Community Media Center of Marin
  • researcher
    The reseacher (left) co-operating visionOntv's "pop-up studio" at OpenTech 2011

Internet technologies: reasons and uses

All my fan informants (introduced here) had adopted the Internet as a distribution technology for their videos, although their reasons for doing so varied.  Some did it to get a larger audience than was possible through the traditional means of conventions, meeting up with friends or posting out physical media. Others adopted the Internet because it provided a more convenient way to reach their existing audience than traditional methods, rather than as a way of expanding it.

Also, my informant group was already well established on the Internet by the time online video distribution technologies became viable, with some members having used various technologies since the mid-1990s to engage in fan-related activities. Some therefore saw it as logical to integrate their video distribution into these established online activities. The traditional methods however still had important roles to play within the group, primarily in the context of conventions, and were not entirely displaced by the Internet.

My informants used a large and diverse set of Internet technologies to distribute their videos. Their reasons for choosing one particular technology over another varied, but issues concerning copyright, platform dependability, image quality and audiences featured most prominently.

Copyright.  Issues concerning copyright featured prominently in the choice of hosting platform, and in how the chosen platforms were subsequently used.  For example, Carol S was cautious in how she distributed her videos, and her choice of hosting service reflected this: "I’m on Viddler in part for copyright reasons … music [rights] holders are less likely to be scanning Viddler than they are YouTube …".

Obsessive24 also maintained a somewhat defensive posture with regard to her use of Vimeo: "Most of us password-protect at Vimeo because Vimeo is known to take down infringing content and suspend accounts. I've heard of it happening even with password protected videos, but at least that happens less often". Obsessive24 had previously had her fan videos on her YouTube channel, but decided to remove them because of copyright concerns, as she indicated on its "About" section.

YouTube content block notification

The YouTube message when attempting to play Obsessive24's only remaining fan video on her channel

A concern about how YouTube enforced copyright infringement claims was one of the main reasons why most of my informants avoided using it, or why they used it only in a limited or reluctant way.  Here’s Luck’s response, when asked why she used the platforms she did to upload her videos, was typical of many of my informants’ stance towards YouTube: “Really my attitude is ‘anything but YouTube’; YouTube has a history of removing vids for any or no reason, including but not limited to ridiculous copyright claims”.  Although AbsoluteDestiny had adopted YouTube for his videos, he had done this only recently, and he explained that copyright issues were the reason why he delayed his adoption of it.  However remaining on YouTube had required him to actively defend himself against “plenty” of DMCA notices for videos he considered were fair use. 

YouTube complaint

A YouTube copyright complaint notification (click to enlarge)

Some of these included what he considered particularly spurious claims that he believed were generated automatically by corporate “robots that look for tags … and just give you takedown notices … that’s the sort of annoyance that held me back from using YouTube”. 

Platform dependability. Platform dependability was something that troubled all my informants.  Speranza, for instance, believed that “having a stable home for video hosting” was one of the biggest issues facing the group: they had been having problems with third-party hosting platforms shutting down, rejecting their videos, changing their terms of service unacceptably, or having technical issues. 

The idea of having not only a stable repository, but also a permanent one had influenced some of my informants to use Archive of Our Own (AO3).  This was a platform developed and run by the Organization of Transformative Works (OTW), a nonprofit fan run organisation.  In the stage of development it was at during my fieldwork, it was primarily a place for fan fiction and it did not host videos.  However Speranza, who was actively involved in the OTW and the platform’s development, explained it did allow producers in its current form to create a directory of their videos and embed and tag them there, so it could at least act as a permanent place both for fans to leave their comments and for producers to track hits on their videos.  AO3 however had only had limited success in interesting my informants in its use: AbsoluteDestiny, Obsessive24 and Here’s Luck all felt that the work required to create entries for all their videos on the site was not justified given its restricted current functionality.     

Concerns about the dependability of third-party hosting services was one reason why all my informants also maintained their own websites alongside the other services they used.  For example, Here’s Luck explained that she uploaded videos not only to third-party streaming video services, but also maintained her own website where the videos were available for download: “… a lot of fans like to download vids we love … because we want our own copies in case the vidder leaves fandom or the streaming site shuts down”. 

here's luck's site

A screenshot of Here's Luck's own website (click to enlarge)

Quality.  The other reason Here’s Luck gave for why she maintained her own site for downloading was that it allowed her to provide higher quality versions of her videos than those available on streaming sites. 

A video announcement on LiveJournal providing two high quality download options

This concern for quality was emphasised by other informants too, not only with respect to offering downloadable versions of their videos, but also in their choice of third-party hosting services.  For example, as Speranza explained: “A bunch of us started at iMeem back when YouTube’s synch was really dysfunctional: fan vidding is dependent on good video-audio synchronization”.  Laura Shapiro initially used Blip partly because she believed it “offers good visual quality and playback”, and AbsoluteDestiny avoided Viddler because he believed the video quality was poor, due in his opinion to the way the videos were encoded and the very low bit rates used.  Also, Obsessive24 had initially used BAM Video Vault but moved to Vimeo because she said BAM converted streaming videos to 15 frames per second, while Vimeo used the source videos frame rate.

Audience. The journal site LiveJournal was the primary platform where my informants sought and engaged with their audiences. The main reason why LiveJournal was adopted for distributing videos was because it was already being used by my informants for several years before as part of their general fan-based activities, such as talking about television shows and films, publishing and talking about fan fiction, and discussing fan videos and videoing techniques. There was therefore a ready-made audience awaiting these videos, as well as a desire by my informants to integrate their offline video distribution activities into their wider online "fannish" social life.

A page from Laura's LiveJournal

Laura announcing a new video on her LiveJournal account

While LiveJournal was the main platforms where my informants sought their audiences, this was not the only platforms used.  Some of my informants were also using or considering Tumblr for distributing their videos. For Here’s Luck, Tumblr was a way of getting to an audience she might not otherwise reach on her other platforms.  She characterised the audience on Tumblr as being younger and much more interested in the immediate impact of shared images than an engagement in lengthy text discussions, in contrast to the LiveJournal and Dreamwidth audience.  She also believed that particular fandoms were focussed on Tumblr, such as that of the television series Glee.  This is why she chose, as her first post to Tumblr, a Glee video that she described as light and not requiring a lot of reflection.

Here's Luck's Glee video

Further discussion of my informants' audiences can be found here.