by Keidra Chaney and Raizel Liebler
The Learned Fangirl has existed for six years! We wanted to take a moment to look at our history and share our future plans aloud. Because saying it aloud makes it real.
TLF: The Early Years
The Learned Fangirl started off as an off-shoot of Keidra’s personal blog, Enjoy and Exciting, (now retired) which ended up evolving into more of a music/pop culture blog by the end of its tenure, and also based on Keidra and Raizel’s respective fandom interests and our respect and admiration for the work of scholar Henry Jenkins. While we still write about fandom and fan culture, one of the most important (and little-known) inspirations for TLF was our “award” winning Gundam Wing parody fan-fiction (that thankfully can’t be found on the Internet anymore.)
We were both involved in fandom on varying levels, and at the time, there were not a lot of blogs that explored fandom and internet fan culture in a smart (or at least non-derisive) way.
Many of the blogs that we read and admired during those early years have shuttered. After all, doing this type of writing — not for pay, but still meant for a general audience — can sometimes be rewarding in punctuated equilibrium. Due to work and personal lives (we haz them!), there have been some months during the dark era, where we posted a couple of times a month, if we were lucky.
Putting on our big-girl panties
But TLF has survived — and flourished. A couple of years ago, we decided to invite contributing and guest writers, allowing for a diversity of voices and interest, and made the first concerted steps towards becoming a true online publication, beyond the status of a semi-professional blog. We started to focus more broadly on writing about online culture, technology, media, law — especially intellectual property, in addition to fan culture.
It’s our hope, our mission, actually, to focus on unique perspectives on pop culture, technology, and fandom: especially from women, people of color, LGBT, those with disabilities, and those at the intersection of all, whose voices are too frequently ignored or marginalized during conversations around technology and culture. To be blunt, we know that women, POC, LGBT, and beyond have opinions about something other than their own representation within a subculture, and we want to feature them. In the words of Lion-O from Thundercats, “Intersectionality, Ho!”
At the same time, we don’t believe there’s a particular party line when it comes to the perspectives of underrepresented groups, and we’re not interested in cultivating a singular voice or perspective around any topic or sub-culture. We are old-school in our approach to online writing and discourse, and even though there’s not a lot of anecdotal evidence to support our faith in civil, respectful online discourse, we still believe in it and want to create a space where opinion isn’t shouted down or shamed.
The future of TLF
And we want to broaden our focus further. Considering the recent Scientific American blog cluster!@#$ involving racism, sexual harassment, what is “real” science, and the FUTURE of journalism, we want to specifically reach out to those who want to write about STEAM-related issues here. We define STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design and Math) very broadly, to include everyone from lab-coat scientists, to social scientists, to game theorists, to those in new fields, like digital measurement. So if you use spreadsheets or percentages or think about sample sizes in your bidnezz and want to write here about your experiences, we welcome your thoughts! (e-mail us at learnedfangirl [at] the mail from google)
In the past year, we’ve done a lot: Presented at the MIT Media in Transition Conference (for the third time!), brought on five new contributors, hitting a few web traffic milestones and got a snazzy redesign. (Thanks to Alvin Black III and Elaine Griffin!).
We are especially proud of our first chance to demonstrate that TLF can change the world — Heather’s post regarding LEGO policies changed the company policy! (Though perhaps not quite as much as we would have liked.) This post was shared widely by PFLAG and the Brazilian LGBT site, Ladobi.
So what are planning next?
- We added Viv Obarski as our Production Editor. Keidra and Raizel will continue as Founding/Managing Editors.
- We’re seeking to pay our contributors. We appreciate all that our writers have done here and want to be able to monetarily appreciate them as well. Of course, that requires a funding model and we’re trying to figure out what model is most appropriate for what we do.
- We are planning to expand into other media and formats. Podcasting, longer-form journalistic writing: there’s more we’d like to do that’s best supported by other media and we’re planning to do more along those lines.
TLF has been a source of creative freedom – and oddly enough – stability in the past six years. Thanks you, readers, for taking the time to check us out, and many thanks to our fantastic contributors in the past six years: Vivian Obarski, Kristin Bezio, Heather Ash, Sophia Madana, Laura Fletcher, Laura Jung, Laura Nash (see a trend here?) Lauriean Davis, Cheryl Collins, Corrin Bennett-Kill, Sam Ford, and Clarissa Simon. We’re just counting the years till TLF is old enough for a drink.