Below is a review of the Affective Economies panel that I organized for the conference Open Engagement.

Review by Krystal South.

Affective Economies

Left to Right: Helen Reed, Henry Jenkins (via Skype), Anna Snyder, Kara Helgren and Harrell Fletcher.

On Saturday, May 15, 2010 as part of the Open Engagement Conference in Portland, Oregon, five unlikely individuals met and spoke to these themes: the role of the fan and the connectivity of the internet in creating Affective Economies or “economies of love”. Led by Helen Reed, MFA student in the Art & Social Practice program at Portland State University, the other patricipants included educator and author Henry Jenkins, artist and head of the MFA in Art & Social Practice Program Harrell Fletcher and PDX Browncoats members Anna Snyder and Kara Helgren.

Jenkins gave a presentation on the role of the fan within the development of Web 2.0 and how convergence cultures centered around popular cultural references (think American Idol & Buffy) create affective economies in which an online community engages in cultural production in addition to their consumption. Within these social networks, often centered around science fiction programming, fans exist as experts and spread information regarding their topic widely across the web. This benefits television programs or film productions, but what compensation is provided to the fans for their help? Jenkins was extremely knowledgeable about these topics and had prepared a wonderfully nerdy presentation on nerds.

The PDX Browncoats use their mutual love of the Josh Wheaden/FOX television show Firefly (cancelled before the end of it’s first season and revived years later with a feature-length film) to raise money for Equality Now, which aims to end violence against women. Snyder and Helgren spoke of their initiation to Firefly, their inception into the world of fandom and the online community surrounding it, and their experience upon joining and becoming actice officers within the PDX Browncoats, and their charitable umbrella organization Serenity Now and The Signal, their self-produced (with assistance from online members all over the world!) podcast. It was evident that the community they are involved in utilizes the strength of their mutual love of a TV show to achieve greater good for both themselves and the beneficiaries of their charitable contributions.

Harrell Fletcher spoke about Learning to Love you More, a work begun in 2002 with Miranda July as an online project which assigned sentimental, insightful questions and assignments to the internet audience. The results were diverse, numerous and sweet–an archive of a “chain of empathy” that developed over time through the call and response of the artists and their audience. Fletcher spoke to the development of these kinds of ideas within his work, as well as the climate of a pre YouTube internet audience. The project culminated in 2009 with a book of the same name and the acquisition of the work in 2010 by SFMoma.

Questions from the audience connected themes between the presenters and  wrapped up a successful afternoon thinking about the role that fans and their technology play in our economies and societies.

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