It's all kicking off on Minecraft YouTube (again)
Read to the end for a really good video about lemons
Wow, what a crazy two weeks. First, I was in Lisbon for the Web Summit and then flew up to London for the first ever live event for my podcast The Content Mines. I’m currently writing this from an airport lounge and the minute I publish, I plan to drink my $59.99 day pass-worth of complimentary wine, thank you very much.
The Garbage Day project really didn’t exist properly before the pandemic, which has made reentering the world as “The Garbage Day Guy” a strange and magical experience. To meet people who read this thing in places like New York City is amazing, but to meet people who read it in countries as far away as Portugal and the UK, though, inconceivable. Thank you to everyone who said “hi” at the conference or came to the show! I, like most people who write about internet culture, have only really ever experienced people threatening to murder me, so for people to tell me they like reading me work is a completely destabilizing experience. Alright, enough navel-gazing. Here’s some garbage. First, a dive into the world of Minecraft YouTube taxonomy courtesy of Garbage Resident Allegra…
The Mincraft YouTuber Fandom Is Pushing Archive Of Our Own To Its Limits
“MCYT,” or the Minecraft YouTuber fandom, is currently the biggest thing on Tumblr. It also has a huge presence on Twitter and other platforms populated by people under the age of 20. In a nutshell: groups of charismatic streamers play large-scale games on private SMP, or survival multi-player, servers and massive audiences watch the server’s narratives play out on Twitch or YouTube.
Members of the fandom follow a mix of actual fictional narratives that come from the game and the real-life interactions of the actual players. It’s extremely meta and, when it comes to organizing MCYT fan fiction on fan fiction mega-platform Archive Of Our Own, it can get very confusing.
A large proportion of MCYT fan fiction deals with the ongoing storylines that play out within the bounds of these worlds, like the immensely popular Dream SMP. But fans who write stories about “C!Dream,” the character Dream plays in the streams, as opposed to CC!Dream, meaning the “content creator” himself (in real life), have no “top-level” tag on the Archive Of Our Own under which to assign their stories. Instead, they’re shunted into the bloated and generic Minecraft (Video Game) & Video Blogging RPF fandom tags.
This may seem minor, but it also presents a major problem for many MCYT fans. The fandom may play pretty fast and loose with the blurry edges of what is “real” or “canon,” but the idea of writing RPF, or “Real Person Fiction,” for many of them, is utterly taboo. This has been an ongoing ethical debate for years across the entire online fan fiction community. Though, not every MCYT fan is against RPF. For instance, the fourth-most popular fic on all of AO3 is straightforwardly actual MCYT RPF.
Ideally, so people could find exactly what they wanted to read, and avoid what they didn’t, there would be separate “canonized” (e.g. filterable) buckets for each category: the streamers’ Real Person tags would be separated from the characters they play, and each “series”/SMP would get their own separate top-level fandom tags. Except that’s not what’s happening and it has made things very chaotic.
While AO3’s volunteer-run tag-wrangling system has been lauded for its flexible folksonomy, it seems that in the case of the sprawling, overlapping, and prolific MCYT fandom, the system and its fairly inflexible guidelines have run up against some difficulties. Fans have protested what they perceived to be biased treatment, and tried to promote strategies and solutions, but to no avail.
It’s been over a decade since the standardized norms of the LiveJournal-based ship-fic community were translated into AO3’s interface. Fandom has changed a lot since then. While it may seem arcane, the MCYT tagging drama is a great example of emergent digital practices in conflict with the limitations of an existing platform.
The tension arising from this conflict — unless it’s resolved neatly and quickly by AO3’s wranglers, and even maybe then — might just end up being what leads to the rise of the first Gen Z-native transformative works platform, custom-crafted to fit the needs of new media that, like MCYT, blurs the boundaries between creator and character.
How Do We Protect Ourselves From Online Platforms Without A Moral Panic?
For this week’s Extra Garbage Day for paying subscribers, I finally got a chance to chat with Alice E. Marwick, the author of a 2008 study titled, “To Catch A Predator? The MySpace Moral Panic,” which I cited in recent Garbage Day. I was really excited when I came across Marwick’s study, which studied the moral panics around MySpace at its peak, because it felt like you could ctrl+F “MySpace” and replace it with “TikTok” and it’d be just as accurate today. Perhaps like a lot of aging millennials, I find myself thinking more and more about the MySpace era and asking myself, “what the heck happened there?”
I got to ask Marwick a question that’s been on my mind a lot lately, which is, how do you safely criticize and study online platforms without causing some kind of witch hunt or panic. It seems like, in America, we’re very good at holding ridiculous and pointless congressional hearings over every new thing that teenagers (teenage girls, mostly) do, but we never seem to go any further than that. The recent wave of reports about “TikTok tics” feels like just another example of that. I thought Marwick’s answer to how we move things forward while not causing some kind of massive national meltdown was really on point:
Well, the number one thing is you don't put the blame on the kid. I think for the moral panics, what often ends up happening is that people try to regulate what the kids are doing and they blame the children. Things like, “the kids today are so rude,” or “they're so weird,” or “they use pronouns,” or “they're getting texts,” or whatever it is. And rather than saying this is a really, really difficult time to be a teenager — it's so difficult to be a teenager at any time, but right now is a horrible time to be a teenager. So rather than giving kids a break, and just being like, “hey, kids are dealing with this stuff the best that they can.” A lot of the time, it comes down to people being like, “oh, I'm going to ban my kid from using TikTok,” or “I'm going to make fun of these kids I see on TikTok,” or “I'm going to judge kids I see on TikTok,” or “I'm going to talk smack about Gen Z because I think they're weird.”
They're dealing with their own struggles. Let's put the blame where it matters, which is on the social platforms and the fact that they're making like enormous amounts of money off people who are sometimes quite vulnerable.
A Good Tweet
Jimmy Fallon Bought An NFT
A few things about this. One, I guess I had never bothered to look up what NFT artist Beeple looks like because while I was watching this, at first, I had just assumed Pete Holmes had aged considerably during the pandemic. Also, if you don’t feel like watching this (I don’t blame you) Jimmy Fallon says he bought a Bored Ape NFT. It appears to be Bored Ape #599, which he bought for $216,000. Cool cool cool cool.
I’m sure you all know the old shoeshine boy story, but if you don’t, it goes like this. In 1929, JFK’s father, Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Sr., said he knew it was time to pull out of the stock market when his shoeshine boy started offering up stock tips. Very interesting. Currently building a time machine to go back and ask Joe Kennedy what he thinks about Jimmy Fallon spending $200,000 on a cartoon monkey JPG.
While we’re on the topic of NFTS, Discord CEO Jason Citron recently teased in a tweet how crypto wallet integrations might work inside of Discord. Then, after massive backlash, claimed they don’t have any plans for adding them. The incident was a small, but ultimately very interesting example of where the battle lines are being drawn in the upcoming push for the metaverse. Here’s how I see it right now:
You have furries, Minecraft YouTuber fans, adult Neopets players, leftist Twitch streamers, and fans of tabletop roleplaying podcasts who all love Discord and, whether they are actively thinking about it or not, are working to make the internet more decentralized. Instead of hanging out on one corner of the web, these groups use fandoms and shared interests as a way to bridge online bubbles. Essentially, these are the people who are operating across like five different websites to, basically, talk to the same 100 people. And they, for the most part, hate NFTs, whether it’s because they think they’re a scam or because they hate hustlebros or because they’re concerned about environmental impact.
The problem is that Discord has, following the GameStop pump earlier this year, become the main hub for “Web3”. Groups calling themselves DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, are using Discord servers and crypto smart contracts to automate community organization and moderation. Recently, a DAO was able to raise $4 million to buy a Wu-Tang Clan album. These groups, obviously, love NFTs and see Discord as a path towards a Web3-based metaverse where all digital content has inherent worth.
What makes this even more confusing is that the furries and fandoms on Discord and the NFT bros on Discord, while hating each other, both hate Facebook, who they see as an existential threat to the open internet that want to exist in. I tried drawing this all out in a Venn diagram but it was actually more confusing than just using words.
3D Printing Is Truly Amazing
Lowtax Is Dead
I was not a Goon, or a member of the Something Awful message board. I am a habitual lurker, even in my own Discord, and, while I read Something Awful religiously as a teenager, I never was in the actual community. Which is why I don’t publicly talk about the site too much because the users there have a long and, frankly, wildly screwed up cultural history that I was not really part of.
Yesterday, it was reported that Something Awful’s founder Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka died. Kyanka sold the site in 2020 and, by all accounts, was a horrible person. Something Awful users have created a GoFundMe for his three daughters. Kyanka’s legacy on the internet is equally messy.
Something Awful is responsible for some of incredibly important early moments in internet history, but, also, unbelievably, through one act from Kyanka, it also essentially led to the January 6 insurrection earlier this year. As my friend, Gaurdian reporter Alex Hern tweeted yesterday, “Can conceivably argue that if Lowtax hadn’t banned hentai from the anime subforum in 2003, there wouldn’t have been the US Capitol insurrection in January 2021.”
If you don’t know this story. Something Awful used to have a subforum called "Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse" (ADTRW). It was modeled after the extremely radicalized Japanese message board Futaba Channel, or 2chan.net. ADTRW was quickly growing out of control and Kyanka made the decision in 2003 to ban hentai, or cartoon Japanese pornography, from Something Awful. That’s when a then-15-year-old Goon named Christopher “Moot” Poole created a spillover site for angry users to go to. That site was called 4chan, which would go on to become Steve Bannon’s Gamergate testing ground and then his full-on digital battle station during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. 4chan was where #Pizzagate first launched, which then mutated into a series of related conspiracy theories such as FBIAnon and, then, of course, QAnon. And now, Jake Angeli, the QAnon Shaman, has become the face of the Trump insurrection and was just given the longest sentence of any of the insurrectionists.
Unsure what we all do with that, frankly, but you can honestly say that this very dark and uncertain era of American history was largely created by a bunch of teenage boys who really wanted to share cartoon porn.
A Marine Learns How Dates Work
Here is an extremely good TikTok that was sent to me by my friend Willard. In many ways, it’s like a Gen Z version of the infamous “Full Body Workout Every Other Day?” from the bodybuilding.com forums.
Brazilian Journalists Finally Get Into The Facebook Papers
This link is both paywalled and in Portuguese, but I wanted to highlight it because it’s from one of Brazil’s largest papers, who have finally gotten into the Facebook leaks. Here’s a readable summary in English.
According to hundreds of internal documents, Facebook was conducting internal surveys on the source of misinformation in countries such as Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Those surveys, using a term the company came up with called “civic misinformation,” found that the largest source for this kind of misinformation were third-party links to articles being shared on their platform, with the second and third largest sources being “jokes” and “marketing”.
A lot of this is confirming what many already knew, but the fact that Facebook also knew it is, uh, not great!
Another Good Tweet
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a really good video about lemons.