Since I’m a fan of and a dabbler in both fanfiction and Open Source,* and keep coming back to them because the communities are nutritious and fun, I wanted to briefly explore the ways in which their communities function similarly:
- They are distributed. While there are fanfic writing rock stars and coding queens, it is a rare community where hierarchy exists beyond the level of admin/poster. There are no Associate Assistant Vice President developers or fen.
- They are existentially challenging to the intellectual property status quo. Fanfic and open source deal with the edges of what most people understand intellectual property to cover. Neither are clearly protected under the law (see JMRI and my posts).
- They are done for love/interest/geekiness/practice/professional development/fun. Open Source is not necessarily free, and neither I believe if fanfiction if defined broadly, but I feel safe saying most groups in either community are creating for reasons other than profit. Perhaps this is related to their status on the avate-garde of society’s legal understanding of intellectual property, and their propensity to push that boundary.
- They live substantially online. Though I know fanfic writers and open source developers in real life, I am connected to many more online, because the products of those communities are primarily displayed and used online.
- They are dramatic. Flaming and trolling and personal gripes played out in public aren’t just for Rotary Club meetings: they exist online as well.
Others have seen these intersections, and even proposed innovative ways to bring the two groups of communities together
*My Open Source creds stem almost entirely from my ethical support of the movement, and a little from my brief life as an interning developer for Stanford working on JBPM workflows. My Fan creds should be shored up by the several dozen posts I’ve done about fanfic, and my decade of reading them.
To one who has been long in city pent,
“‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.”
–John Keats, Sonnet XIV