Study Information

The Construction and Maintenance of Online ‘Brony’ (My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic Fan) Communities

Indiana University IRB Study #1310483908 

 You are invited to participate in a research study of the online activities of people who self-identify as “bronies” or are otherwise associated with the My Little Pony fandom.   We ask that you read this form and ask any questions you may have before posting to this site.

 The study is being conducted by Kurt Baer and Jason R. Nguyen at Indiana University, Bloomington through the Department of Communication and Culture.

 Study Purpose

The purpose of this study is to investigate the ways in which bronies create a sense of community in digital space, using the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in ways largely unintended by the program’s creators as the raw materials for a distinct group identity. We wish to further analyze the ways in which this identity is situated in relation to the My Little Pony and other fandoms.

 Procedures for the Study

By posting, you agree to be a part of this study and acknowledge that you are at least 18 years old. Any posts you make will be covered by a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, meaning that people are free to share and remix parts of the blog as long as they attribute the source.

The researchers will make regular posts to which study participants are encouraged to respond. Participants who are particularly active may be invited to author full blog posts as well.

Participation is entirely voluntary and you are welcome to post as much or as little as you would like. Leaving the study will not result in any penalty or loss of benefits to which you are entitled.

If you have observations that you would prefer to not be in the public domain, you are welcome to email the researchers at [email protected] and [email protected]. You can also use this address for requests to remove your posts from the blog.

Confidentiality

Contact with participants will be entirely electronic and only an email address will be required to post. We will not be publishing these email addresses in any way, though your personal information may be disclosed if required by law.

Blog usernames will be the main form of identification in the research study. Therefore, participants wishing to maintain their privacy may want to keep this in mind while selecting user names.

The blog as a whole is covered under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, as indicated above. Therefore, all public posts are public domain.

Organizations that may inspect and/or copy your research records for data analysis include groups such as the study investigator and his/her research associates, the Indiana University Institutional Review Board or its designees, and (as allowed by law) state or federal agencies, specifically the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP).

Payment

You will not receive payment for taking part in this study.

Contacts for Questions or Problems

For questions about the study, contact the researchers Kurt Baer and Jason R. Nguyen at [email protected] and [email protected] or use the contact form.

For questions about your rights as a research participant or to discuss problems, complaints or concerns about a research study, or to obtain information, or offer input, contact the IU Human Subjects Office at (812) 856-4242 or (800) 696-2949.

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5 thoughts on “Study Information

  1. “By posting, you agree to be a part of this study and acknowledge that you are at least 18 years old.” I understand the need to cover yourself, but I don’t really see how it’s going to work in practice. No way on Earth is everyone going to read these T&C before commenting on the main posts, and I’m certain that if RiM takes off you’re going to get a lot of responses from under-18s. What do you do if (when) that happens?

    1. Those are some good insights. We’re going to try to make sure that the age restrictions are listed in a few other places. It’s a problem on any site that needs to have an age restriction — i.e. “isn’t it weird that everyone registering on such-and-such site was born on January 1, 1900?”.

      More importantly, we do need to make it clear that, unless people are really okay with it, that they engage with the site using pseudonyms for usernames. We’re also not listing your email addresses and we will not be collecting any other information, so your pseudonym is your identity for this study.

      It’s a great point though, and we’ve spent more hours agonizing over ethics in this medium than you probably care to know. In fact, one of the posts I’ll be putting up soon deals directly with this issue.

  2. Age 25, US – California
    I would say the sense of community comes largely from how interconnected the digital community is with the cartoon itself. I receive enjoyment from watching Friendship is Magic through the story, jokes and presentation and I feel connected to the community when those same feelings, visuals and creativity are displayed on the internet. It is like having shared an experience or holding a club meeting with other people without those people physically being there. While I very rarely post or contribute to the community, viewing what other people are saying and doing about the same stuff I appreciate provides the sense of connection. The ability to understand a joke, fan conspiracy theory or know an answer because I discovered the answer online creates a bridge between me and the internet. Furthermore when I share the “stuff” I find or experience through the internet with my family and friends I feel connected to the community at large (each shared experience also reminds me how involved or deep I am in the community compared to others). There was a time when I felt very connected to the community.

    The time I felt very connected to the online community was when I created a college campus brony club. I have since lost most of the enhanced connection since I graduated and moved away from the college but I still interact with the club via facebook. During my time as president of the new club I was responsible for just about everything. Beginning the club was rough as I had to learn how to attract members, conduct the club meeting and keep the meetings enjoyable enough for people to willingly return. I searched the internet for data about bronies and other clubs. My findings helped me direct the club and enhanced the connection I had to the online community. While online I found activities and implemented those activities into club meetings such as cutie mark creation, papercraft and a short story creation activity. Implementing the data and findings into my real life experiences made the online community feel more connected to me. I felt further connected when I posted the club activities online and received responses from members and other people around the globe who subscribed to the club web-page.

    The sense of community I have through the internet has been strong since Friendship is Magic was pointed out to me during Season 1. Being able to relate to people on the internet has enhanced the bond I have for the show and community. Researching into how other people feel about the show and reading collected data has helped me understand how interconnected the community truly is even through a physical barrier. The internet has provided ways for me to express, learn and experience my brony-ism online and offline. Without the internet community I would not be as strong of a brony as I am today.

    1. What you are talking about is definitely one of the reasons this study is this study, so to speak. Some of the academic literature that has come out dealing with television, the internet, etc. seems to be taking a really weird (to me) stance that overplays the differences between “face-to-face” and other forms of “mediated” interactions, which devalues the types of communities that spring up on the internet or around television/movies/etc. While many people have argued against this body of over-romanticized literature, the internet is still a strange place for a lot of academics and there is still a tendency to devalue (or place very strange values on) the types of interactions that take place on it.

      As a case in point, since I just read it a little while ago, Philip Auslander’s book Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (2008 [1999]) does a great job arguing against ideas that live and “mediatized” (electronically or digitally mediated—in this case, primarily televised) performances are somehow fundamentally different on some sort of metaphysical level—which is a point that I certainly agree with. However, even while making this argument, he draws very strange and strong distinctions between mediatization and other sorts of mediation that still suggest some sort of fundamental and irreversible change for the worse (check out the book’s conclusion if you want a good summary and an example of this tone that I am talking about).

      One of our hopes is that this blog can begin to tease apart the ways in which people use the internet and other “mediatized” forms to create communities and continue to assert that, at their core, these communities are still people interacting and forming bonds with other people.

      I hope that wasn’t too longwinded. I ultimately just wanted to say that the kind of community creation that you are talking about—one that forms around the show but manifests itself on- and off-line—is one of many reasons we thought that our little slice of academia needs a bit more brony in it.

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