Category Archives: Ivory Tower

General Updates and OSU/IU Paper Link


http://uxyd.deviantart.com/art/Apple-Bloom-Oh-Hai-340508499

OH HAI!

It’s been a while since we’ve updated, but we’ve had a lot of pretty cool things going on that we’re really excited about and we’ve finally been able to start ourselves back up on a regular research/updating schedule again, which is also exciting for both of us. We’re planning to make regular weekly posts and updates on (/around) Mondays and include other posts as we get them.  I figured that I’d go ahead and use this post to announce what’s been going on while we’ve been off the radar

Continue reading General Updates and OSU/IU Paper Link

RiM Interview Featured in Library of Congress Blog

Jason-and-Kurt-bronies

Hello everyone,

Apologies for the lack of posts over the summer. Jason has had a wedding to plan and I’ve been out of town doing intensive language-study courses all summer while also trying to buy a house and it’s all gotten in the way of any sort of academic work we’ve hoped to do over break. However, Jason has a lot of good stuff from his visit to Bronycon and we’re both ready to get back to posting. Hopefully we’ll be around quite a bit more here in the near future.

Anyway, we are both happy to announce that an interview we did with Julia Fernandez for the Library of Congress’ blog “The Signal: Digital Preservation” is up and running on the LoC site. We’re incredibly excited, as many of our favorite internet scholars have given interviews for the blog as well. The post is a bit dense, as it is focusing on conducting research on the internet, and they sadly didn’t include the awesome pictures/gifs/memes we sent them, but we did our best to represent the fandom as best we could and tried to include links to some of our favorite Brony-related content. We certainly enjoyed writing it up and hope you enjoy it too.

Check out the post here and be sure to let us know what you think!

EDIT: Jason worked his magic and made an awesome bookmarklet that adds in the pictures we originally wanted. To view the post in it’s intended glory, go here and follow the instructions.

[Video] 2014 Ray Browne Conference Presentation: Knowing How to Live/The Magic of Friendship

Sorry for slacking off on posting recently; we’ve both been super busy with teaching and schoolwork. Last weekend, however, we were able to travel to the Ray Browne Conference on Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University, where we gave our first official presentation using the research we’ve been doing on this site. Overall, the presentation seemed to go very well; everyone seemed very interested and we got some good questions (and even a twitter shout out) at the end.

Unfortunately, our recorder died so we could not record the presentation at Bowling Green. However, we wanted to share it with you, so we’ve re-read and recorded the paper here and synced it with the powerpoint presentation. The presentation is posted below. We hope you enjoy and would love to hear your thoughts/questions/concerns/etc.

So, without further ado, here is our 2014 Ray Browne presentation entitled “Learning How to Live/The Magic of Friendship: Ethnographic Methodology and the My Little Pony Fandom.”

We’re off to Bowling Green for the Ray Browne Conference!

you can do it

Sorry for the late update on this, but we did get accepted to the Ray Browne Popular Culture Conference at Bowling Green State University. We’ll be headed there in two weeks! The abstract is copied below.

Proposed Abstract

Knowing How to Live/The Magic of Friendship: Ethnographic Methodology and the My Little Pony Fandom

While technologically-mediated interfaces are often understood as producing a different order of anxiety about human socialization, we wish to denaturalize the notion underscoring this view: that media interfaces are strange, foreign, and mysterious in a particular way unique to modernity. Are current media ideologies categorically different an interface than the vernacularization of biblical knowledge spearheaded by the Gutenberg Bible1, the encounter between the colonial west and the non-west2, or the Cold War promise/nightmare of atomic power3? While historical and cultural specificity must be maintained, the encounters are surprisingly similar: early-adopters integrate and mediate the interface as part of their social habitus just as others have their ideologies and ways-of-being jilted by the very same possibilities.

In this paper, we counter Henry Jenkins’ notion that “[n]one of us really know how to live in this era”4 by insisting that people are remarkably adept at living their lives, technologically mediated or otherwise. Technologies result in new ways of doing old things—expressing oneself, forming communities, and interacting with others—and while these new forms can be troubling for some, they quickly become home for others. Using our collaborative ethnographic project with fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (or more affectionately, “bronies”) as a point of departure, we argue for an ethnographic methodology that emphasizes not the strangeness of media technologies to those in online communities, but rather their mundanity and everyday-ness. Our blog, Research is Magic, represents an attempt at participant-observation5 that collapses the boundaries between academic and interlocutor based on those grounds—that we need not “do” the Internet in different ways and places than our interlocutors, and that a more productive way to interact with ethnographic subjects might be to theorize, create, and write with them, in their midsts, rather than far away and long after the ethnographic encounter.6


  1. As the first book printed in the West in any kind of major scale, the Gutenberg printing of the bible made church leaders anxious since it represented a threat to the church’s power in social life. 

  2. The colonial gaze and colonial power changed the ways people on both sides understood themselves and others. 

  3. Views of atomic power were utopian on one hand, since it meant this amazing new form of energy, and dystopian on the other, since the destructive power of the atomic bomb was scary for everyone involved. 

  4. Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture. 

  5. Participant-observation is a form of research that involves deep “hanging out” with the people you want to understand: both participating and observing. 

  6. Anthropologists have traditionally had a tendency to go to some far-flung corner of the world, live with the people there for some number of years, and then return and write books that the people they study never come into contact with. 

“Resistance is futile, hugs inevitable”: Discourses of Resistance in the My Little Pony Fandom – Abstract submission to IU-OSU Conference

Resistance is futile, hugs inevitable

Hi again everypony!

Thank you so much to everyone reading, following, and commenting here at Research is Magic since October. The comments on our last post really show how thoughtful and inquisitive this fandom is, and it’s been so much fun to interact with you all. We’ve been working to keep this train going, and that means we’ve submitted an abstract to present at another academic conference (we’re still waiting on the status of our Ray Browne Conference abstract…stay tuned)! This time, it’s the Indiana University/The Ohio State University (IU/OSU) Joint Student Conference in Folklore and Ethnomusicology. The theme for the 2014 conference is “2014: Decentering Power: The Art of (Everyday) Subversion.”

The idea for the paper has been heavily influenced by our recent conversations with the community, and we hope that shows through below. As with the previous abstract, I did my best to annotate the academese of the abstract, but here’s a tl;dr version: when analyzing a situation where people claim they are resisting some kind of power, we should be careful to realize that (1) there are many power relationships at play in addition to the one people focus on; (2) people may not be the underdog in all of them, and (3) a focus on resistance tends to ignore other sorts of community labor that may be equally important.

Proposed Abstract

“Resistance is futile, hugs inevitable”: Discourses of Resistance in the My Little Pony Fandom

Fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, or “bronies” (a portmanteau of ‘bro’ and ‘pony’) often profess an ideology of “love and tolerance,” which they feel is in opposition to perceived injustices from society at large. Often singled out as “sexual deviants” or “childish,” many within the brony community have taken an explicitly oppositional stance toward the normative biases that have led to their stigmatization1 . Given that, it would be relatively straightforward to describe their actions as resistant to hegemonic orders of gender, sexuality, and age2 , but we argue that an analytical orientation that positions bronies as resisters trivializes their rich social interactions and effaces complicated power dynamics within and peripheral to the fandom3 . Drawing upon resistance as an analytical frame dangerously privileges acts of resistance to societal norms over other meaningful acts (e.g. creating a safe space within the fandom). Positing a unified fandom against larger societal norms also obfuscates the complex power relationships at play within the fandom itself, where the discourse of love and toleration can mask oppressive behaviors as opinion or diversity4 . In this paper, we draw from our ethnographic work with the brony community to describe issues of identity latent within broader, binary discourses of resistance and hegemony. In doing so, we argue for an understanding of resistance as a discursive strategy that indexes power relations but which must not be mistaken for a schematic of them, particularly because ideologies of identity do not identically reflect the social hierarchies in which they function5 .

mlfw8315-0c4[1]


  1. Put otherwise, some bronies clearly take an FU stance to people who make fun of them 

  2. Cultural hegemony is the idea that, given a certain power hierarchy, the powerful in society produce cultural expectations and normative behaviors that maintain the status quo and which are accepted by everyone else. Antonio Gramsci is the go-to scholar for this concept. 

  3. This critique of the value of the idea of “resistance” draws heavily on Lila Abu-Lughod’s article “The Romance of Resistance.” 

  4. We’re referring to ways in which “tolerating other points of view” may allow harmful perspectives to continue to perpetuate 

  5. In other words, referring to something as resistance or making something appear to be resistance is a strategy available to people regardless of whether they are “actually” resisting anything. The fact that they do it “indexes” or signals to us that there is a power inequity, but it may not be the same inequity that the people involved say it is. 

Woohoo! IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval achieved!

irb
Jason spent at least 15 minutes he could have been grading on this.

Great news everyone! Indiana University’s Institutional Review Board, which helps to insure that “human subjects” are not abused in some way during academic research, has accepted our application. That means that this blog is now “officially” an academic social research study, and it even gets an official study number at Indiana University.

Up until that point, we were primarily doing our due diligence by making sure all posters/commenters were aware of the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License we covered the blog under. Very little is changing for you, except maybe you can trust us a little bit more as a legitimate research project (ROFL!). Still, it’s a pretty big deal for us and we wanted to celebrate with y’all. It’s also been important to us that we make the academic world as transparent as possible to contributors and visitors, so this post continues along that path.

Party Time! (Okay, not really. We’re freakin’ out about finals over here!)

pinkie-pie-party-cannon-i3[1]

Cheers,

Jason and Kurt

Knowing How to Live/The Magic of Friendship — 2014 Ray Browne Conference Abstract

Twilight's Ivory Tower
Twilight’s Ivory Tower seemed appropriate.

Hello everypony!

We’re submitting an abstract for consideration for the 2014 Ray Browne Conference on Cultural and Critical Studies, meeting February 21-23 at Bowling Green State University based on the work here at Research is Magic. If accepted, our paper will discuss our approach to this blog/study as a research method and means of critiquing current anxieties within cultural studies about the internet and other technologies  (and the conference theme). Check it out below (pardon the Academese…we did add some footnotes in this version for anybody who wants to wade through it) and feel free to post your comments and thoughts.

We’ll be sure to keep the paper/presentation updates coming.

Cheers,

Jason and Kurt

Proposed Abstract

Knowing How to Live/The Magic of Friendship: Ethnographic Methodology and the My Little Pony Fandom

While technologically-mediated interfaces are often understood as producing a different order of anxiety about human socialization, we wish to denaturalize the notion underscoring this view: that media interfaces are strange, foreign, and mysterious in a particular way unique to modernity. Are current media ideologies categorically different an interface than the vernacularization of biblical knowledge spearheaded by the Gutenberg Bible1, the encounter between the colonial west and the non-west2, or the Cold War promise/nightmare of atomic power3? While historical and cultural specificity must be maintained, the encounters are surprisingly similar: early-adopters integrate and mediate the interface as part of their social habitus just as others have their ideologies and ways-of-being jilted by the very same possibilities.

In this paper, we counter Henry Jenkins’ notion that “[n]one of us really know how to live in this era”4 by insisting that people are remarkably adept at living their lives, technologically mediated or otherwise. Technologies result in new ways of doing old things—expressing oneself, forming communities, and interacting with others—and while these new forms can be troubling for some, they quickly become home for others. Using our collaborative ethnographic project with fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (or more affectionately, “bronies”) as a point of departure, we argue for an ethnographic methodology that emphasizes not the strangeness of media technologies to those in online communities, but rather their mundanity and everyday-ness. Our blog, Research is Magic, represents an attempt at participant-observation5 that collapses the boundaries between academic and interlocutor based on those grounds—that we need not “do” the Internet in different ways and places than our interlocutors, and that a more productive way to interact with ethnographic subjects might be to theorize, create, and write with them, in their midsts, rather than far away and long after the ethnographic encounter.6

 Look upon my works


  1. As the first book printed in the West in any kind of major scale, the Gutenberg printing of the bible made church leaders anxious since it represented a threat to the church’s power in social life. 

  2. The colonial gaze and colonial power changed the ways people on both sides understood themselves and others. 

  3. Views of atomic power were utopian on one hand, since it meant this amazing new form of energy, and dystopian on the other, since the destructive power of the atomic bomb was scary for everyone involved. 

  4. Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture. 

  5. Participant-observation is a form of research that involves deep “hanging out” with the people you want to understand: both participating and observing. 

  6. Anthropologists have traditionally had a tendency to go to some far-flung corner of the world, live with the people there for some number of years, and then return and write books that the people they study never come into contact with.