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Big “this might as well happen” energy
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The Consolidation Of Fandom Continues
I’m gonna be real, I did misread the press release at first and fully believed that Fandom, the company formerly known as Wikia, was acquiring “meme stock” company GameStop. Big “this might as well happen” energy, but no, it’s GameSpot, an entertainment website just like the other acquired properties such as GameFAQs, Metacritic, and Giant Bomb, which were all previously owned by the publishing group RedVentures.
It’s honestly so stupid that the company is called Fandom. Let me be clear, small-f fandom is my close personal friend, but fuck Fandom, all my homies hate Fandom-the-company. It’s an ad-bruised, shambolic zombie of its former self, which was founded by Jimmy Wales to serve as a for-profit counterpart to Wikipedia, using the open-source MediaWiki software. Over the years it came to be used for the sprawling user-generated wikis needed to catalog the ever-expanding storyworlds of modern franchises — Doctor Who’s TARDIS Wiki has become famous for having pages for literally everything that has ever existed or appeared in an episode — and eventually Wikia rebranded as Fandom in 2016, taking the name from an editorial vertical they had launched earlier in the year. Uuurghh.
You can still create and maintain a wiki for free on the platform, but at the cost of each page detailing a different element of your darling hyperfixation being splashed with targeted ads courtesy of Fandom’s extensive multi-stage profit funnel. “We have brands that catch you at different points of intent,” Fandom’s CEO Perkins Miller said in an interview with AdExchanger about the acquisition. (That sounds like the name of a 15th-century pretender to the English throne, but I digress.) He goes on: “We can meet a fan at different parts of their journey and offer advertisers that 360-degree, full-user-journey package.”
Of course, intellectually I know that most of my mass-culture interests and passions are merely fodder for slaughterhouse-esque chutes designed to eke the maximum amount of cash out of me as a consumer, but seeing it all laid out in plain language like that made me a little queasy. (This is why it’s vital to have at least a few wildly unmarketable, un-segment-able interests, such as early modern British history, but I digress again…)
One thing that Fandom does have going for it is that at least it’s not Discord, in the sense of being a searchable, public repository for subcultural information. A new outcry over the increased use of Discord as a wiki-replacement or long-term information host happens pretty frequently on social media. It’s bad for access as well as for archiving; a public webpage is at least a step up from that. What is probably ideal, though, is to avoid Fandom altogether, like some large wikis like Lost Media Wiki and the Transformers Wiki do, and use open-source software like the original MediaWiki format in conjunction with a Discord in order to coordinate editors. But that’s haaard, and Fandom makes it incredibly easy to launch a collaborative wiki with minimal web knowledge.
But hey, did you know that “fandom” first started to be used to refer to fans in the late 19th century in sports reporting coverage, and was then taken up more broadly as a self-referential community term during the swell of 1930s Golden Age science fiction fandom? What peeves me most about Fandom-the-company’s use of the term is that it brokers and reinforces a popular association between fandom and Fandom’s-kind-of-fandom, which is wholly the “collecting and categorizing” sort — of which I am incredibly enthusiastic about, having made plenty of deranged databases in my time, mind you, but which doesn’t come near encapsulating what fandom is about for many, many people. It’s merely the profitable side of things, the side that plays nice with canon and corporations.
Layoffs have recently affected gaming coverage at Fanbyte and Vice, and while Miller claims they don’t want to “break anything” with regards to the many media enterprises that have just come under their umbrella, color me skeptical. I suppose I am also just uncomfortable at the reminder, thanks to this news, of how many hours of fan labor have gone into these communities (“40 million pages of content and 250,000 wiki communities”) which are seen by their host company purely as resources to be plugged into their profit cycle.
Next week, I’ll be at Depths Of Wikipedia Live at Caveat in New York City on October 10. Then I’ll be back at Caveat, performing at The Meme In The Moment on October 26. And then my podcast co-host Luke and I are hosting another live event in London in November. It’s called Bad Posters Club. Hope to see you there!
Also, think about subscribing to Garbage Day if you haven’t already. You get lots of extra stuff like the new weekend edition and Discord access.
What If Musk Fans Get What They Want?
This week on my podcast The Content Mines, we went a bit deeper into the whole Elon Musk debacle, looking at the extremely grim — and now public — text messages that Musk had with folks like Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and current CEO of the company Parag Agrawal. And as Charlie Warzel astutely pointed out recently, the big thing that the texts reveal is just a shocking lack of understanding from Musk about how Twitter works, like on a purely functional level. He also seems to be deeply confused by how two-factor authentication works. It’s pretty wild to find out the guy who wants to be King Of Mars texts like a boomer.
I also think it’s fair to argue that Musk’s obsession with Twitter — and his scrapped plans for making it a pay-per-post platform, where users micropay dogecoin to tweet — is in line with his career-long attempts at kneecapping other services that could give average people access, mobility, or a voice. Is there really much difference between his clumsy and ridiculous handling of Twitter to how he, according to author Paris Marx, dreamed up the Hyperloop to allegedly block high-speed in California? This is his entire schtick.
On Wednesday, though, I made the mistake of tweeting about Musk, saying that he wants to buy Twitter and trap us inside of it. His stan army found me and spent the afternoon tweeting at me some variation of “delete your account then” or “can’t wait for my big strong and smart Daddy Musk to punish all the people I hate” or whatever.
So what do Musk fans actually see as the end game here? A shitty TruthSocial-esque hustle bro message board with just them and Musk, where they share his cringey top-of-r/all memes, tell him how smart he is, and try and scam each other with NFT phishing? To ask a question I’ve asked before, is Twitter still even Twitter without the ability to harass other people you don’t agree with? Isn’t that what we’re really talking about when we talk about “Twitter being the public square”? A PvP arena for Silicon Valley CEOs, journalists, teenage anime fascists, furries, and congressional candidates? It seems likely Musk will end up owning Twitter. And contrary to most, I don’t think he’ll do anything nefarious with it. I think he’ll immediately get frustrated, give up on it, and let it rot, or sell it à la Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of Myspace. And users will leave. And as they do, I think it’s worth beginning to dream about what new, better platforms we could use as a “digital public square” after we finally give up on Twitter.
The Internet Finally Hears Mario’s Voice
The trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie dropped yesterday. Jack Black as Bowser? Perfect. No notes. The little bit of whimpering we heard from Charlie Day as Luigi? Seems great. Chris Pratt? No thanks! First, it seems like instead of doing an Italian accent, Chris Pratt is doing a New York Bronx-kinda accent. Which sounds terrible.
The movie doesn’t come out until next year which gives us plenty of time to Sonic’s-teeth this situation and pressure the studio to recast him. Or, at the very least, make enough noise for Pratt to have to respond to the controversy, which would be funny. Also, adult Nintendo fans, which as I’ve written before, are pathologically horny, and are mad that Mario doesn’t have enough junk in his trunk.
Anyways, here’s my theory about all of this: Based on the very little we’ve seen from the trailer, I think Chris Pratt is actually playing the Bob Hoskins Mario from the original 1993 Super Mario Bros. and this movie is going to be about that Mario waking up in the Mushroom Kingdom. Which explains the accent. And, lastly, it’s time to revisit 4chan’s pitch for a Mario movie.
Lula Stans Loona
Though left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or “Lula,” didn’t do as well as polls suggested he might have in the first round of Brazil’s election last weekend, he still squeaked by with about 5% more of the vote than the far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
We’re now in the very tense weeks leading up to a second round vote. Also, a 2017 video of Bolsonaro leaked this week, which has caused quite a bit of panic from the bolsominions, who, as you could imagine, love conspiracy theories. But Lula’s had a good week.
His TikTok is currently being overrun with excited K-Pop stans after he posted a video using music from the group Loona. A reader named @BrowneBrownie alerted me to a trend where university students are making posters featuring one of Loona’s members Chuu, saying she’s going to be Lula’s running mate. Time to see what the global K-pop coalition can achieve at the polls!
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Music A.I.’s Are Here
I wanted to circle back to this after I first mentioned the audio plugin XO back in August. XO, which I have since downloaded and begun messing around with, takes all the drum samples on your computer — the kicks, the snare hits, the cymbal crashes — and creates a map of similar sounds and lets you mix and match them. The bulk of its A.I. seems to be focused on how it connects different samples. Either way, it’s super cool and I use it all the time now.
This week, I came across another audio plugin that does the opposite of what XO does. It’s called MACE and instead of creating maps of similar preexisting samples, it “generates” them based on 16 different A.I. models. I tried it out this morning and it’s pretty cool. The samples definitely have a “machine-learning feel” to them, in the same way that a DALL-E or Midjourney renders or a deepfaked face has that hint of uncanniness to it, but the sounds are closer than what I expected.
I won’t bore you with why it’s easiest to create something like this for drums first (it’s the way audio transients work), but I think we’re getting closer every day to a fully-functional DALL-E-like tool that can handle at least parts of the music production or songwriting process.
Babybel Cheese Wax Crab
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a dancing landlord that’s taking TikTok by storm.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***