MTV just launched their latest effort to engage (or exploit, depending on who you ask) fandom. Described by Mashable as “a new virtual clubhouse”, The Collective is “a curated space for ‘Teen Wolf’ fans to share and be recognised for their unique content”. While some of the fandom were excited by MTV’s continued effort to engage with its audience, there were just as many (if not more) fans that are skeptical about the site. Panic and misinformation spread like wildfire in fandom so it’s worth while taking a closer look at The Collective to find out what it’s all about.
Figuring out what The Collective is all about is actually a surprisingly difficult task and MTV might have avoided much of the backlash if there was at least some easily accessible information. The Collective was launched via a Mashable article, and the title of that article certainly didn’t help fans warm to the idea. Mashable tells fans they “can stop Scouring Tumblr for Fan Art” because obviously that’s a horrible task that no one would take any pleasure in. Tumblr has got it’s issues but they basically just insulted fandom’s home. It’s not the best way to convince fans that The Collective is for “fans, not visitors”.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with scouring tumblr for fanart. On tumblr, we have full control our fandom and our works. We don’t need your help, MTV, and we certainly don’t need to be a part of your profit machine.” – allthislonging
“What this is actually saying to me: ‘Don’t bother going to tumblr or other open, fan-oriented sites (which in my experience/neck of the woods have been growing increasingly critical of the show)!! We have all your fandom needs right here in a sterile, manipulated package!! And by God, we’re going to make money off of our fans in as many ways as we can. Because…uh, we love them so much!'” – mech-bull
“I think what I hate the most about the collective is that the title for it is ‘You can stop scouring Tumblr for Fan Art Which basically means, the only good fanart will be on our website, don’t go looking for it on some social blog, we know what you want and it can only be on our website. Well, guest what, I’m not an artist but for me, the best thing about tumblr (well beside meeting other fan) it’s all the amazing fanart and artist I found there. I know artist can do whatever they want with their art but I’m totally against this website, especially since they’ll probably choose what is good and don’t put all the ship in it, because you know, slash is evil and everything.” – justagirl-fangirling-around
Actually, MTV’s biggest mistake was trying to sell this site as a fandom space, because it’s not and fans know that. Not that it doesn’t have anything to offer because a safe space for creators to interact with their audience without having to enter established fan spaces is actually something that could be useful as we continue to negotiate the crumbling fourth wall. But fans are not stupid; they know that The Collective is in MTV’s control. This is not a fandom space, this is an official space where fans are allowed to be. The Collective is not the new Tumblr, and trying to present it that way just causes a whole lot of confusion.
The Collective features content from official sources as well as fans; including pics and info from the production team. At the moment the post production team – who already run a fantastic Tumblr – each have cute introductory interviews and there’s a great picture of Jeff Davis drawing what would become the Berserkers in Season 4. There’s also some fan art, a couple of quizzes and a bunch of articles that would be at home on the MTV remote control blog. It’s inoffensive and not particularly exciting. Basically the sort of thing you would expect from an official fan club newsletter or something like that.
As indicated above, The Collective has potential as controlled environment for creators to interact with fans but as a fandom space it’s not particularly enticing. The fans that are skeptical about this site are mostly concerned with the potential for censorship due to the fact that control is taken out of fandom’s hands.
“wow, the Teen Wolf collective website thing is a nice pile of exploitative, appropriative BS.” @anatsuno
“So let’s run down a couple of problematic terms with this. You forfeit the rights to your submission. – They can do whatever they want with it including alterations. You forfeit the right to be informed – They’re allowed to do whatever they want not only without your permission but without crediting you. You’re not welcome if you’re not a US citizen – If you are not a current resident you should discontinue using the site. Way to go Teen Wolf. This is definitely WAY better than tumblr.” – wolfchimes
“Are they really that desperate to monetize the fan community and all the for-free fanworks that the fandom makes?” – wook77
“Anyone have any idea what to make of this? I’m not sure if they want me to post actual content or to read their Teen wolf articles that are just barely separated from the rest of the stuff.” – apolloandellipses
“Perhaps I’m just being old and cynical, but does anyone else feel like we’re being herded into a corral where we can be counted and branded and controlled until they’re ready to sell us off for meat ad revenue?” – highway-to-purgatory
“This is basically centered around the assumption that we want our art and stuff all over the show, their stuff, while they get money and publicity for being connected to the fans, without so much as having them give credit. All the while policing the content to stuff they don’t have to go through tumblr for (If the stuff on not being critical is true).” – apolloandellipses
“So this would probably be a good way to get easy exposure for corrective or creative edits and maybe some fan art, but I don’t know how MTV thinks we’re going to trust them with our content edits (read: photomanipulations), our more controversial art, our meta, and our fic when the official media has been obnoxious about fandom in the past. I mean, honestly.” hoechlynns
“So basically the are filtering the fanworks. I think this is called ‘censorship’. Isn’t it? What basically is happening here that they are trying to move the fanworks to a site they have control over and so having control back over the fandom. *shrug*” – littlecofiegirl
“Fandom belongs to FANS and should not EVER be on a website that the powers that be create for their own purposes or in the control of a corporate sponsor (.mtv is not cute). Placing work on the website, ADMITTING to the desire to move fandom into an area where they have more control and removing the interaction fans have with each other to a space in which 1. you don’t hold the rights to your work and standards are set not by the community but the powers that be and 2. you’re removed from the traditions of fanspace is totally gross and inappropriate on their part.” – shieldsexual
As far as the reproduction of fan-produced content posted on the site, ef yeah copyright law said: “We’ve seen some people ask whether MTV could take fanart and other items posted to The Collective and sell them on shirts or postcards – or put them on the Official Show DVDs without asking the artist’s permission. Technically, they can’t because the ToU says, ‘Posting is for noncommercial purposes only.’ That should mean that MTV can’t make any commercial use of the content posted to The Collective without getting additional permission and rights from the artist. That’s how we hope it will be read.”
Fans have noted that the Mashable article that introduced this side featured a fan work, which was posted on The Collective, cited as being Courtesy of MTV without so much as link to the original artist. Tumblr user thesushifer posted a picture of the artwork and said: “this is pretty much what I’m expecting from ‘The Collective’… I will never even know WHO did it and what the art was called originally, because: ‘Courtesy of MTV’ and they can literally change the name, use it as a reference for their own works etc.” Now it’s actually pretty easy to find the artist at the moment as they are featured on the front page of The Collective (it’s lizswezey) but that’s a lot more effort than just clicking a direct link. And when that artwork disappears from the front page it will become a lot more difficult.
That said, the artist in question was excited about seeing her artwork appear in promotion of The Collective and she even urged fellow fans to check out the site. Other fans that had contributed were equally excited. It’s certainly a decent way to reach a large captive audience (at the moment anyway, we’ll have to wait and see how many fans continue to frequent the site after the initial curiosity has died down). This enthusiasm is understandable considering that many fans are happy for the things they make to be used in the promotion a show they love. As long as they know what they’re getting into, The Collective could be a fantastic way for fans to share their creations with the show that inspired them.
Look, MTV’s continued effort to find new and innovative ways to engage fandom should be applauded but the lack of information about the use and purpose/use of the user-content posted to The Collective is understandably concerning for fandom (please make an informed decision before posting). This is not a fandom space, it will never be a fandom space and trying to present it as a viable alternative to already established fan spaces like Tumblr doesn’t help anyone. Network manufactured fan communities vary rarely foster the same innovative creativity that make fandom so wonderful. If The Collective continues to be presented as a genuine alternative to more organic fan created communities it will fail.
It’s fairly obvious that this is MTV’s attempt to control the conversation and that’s fine. The Powers-That-Be have been trying to do that for as long as fandom has existed. It’s a valiant effort but it hasn’t worked yet and it’s not likely to work this time (especially considering the chilly response this site has received so far). This doesn’t mean that the site has no value though. As long as everyone involved takes it for what it is, The Collective has the potential be a regulated safe space for creators to interact with fans. But anyone expecting the kind of thriving fandom community you find on Tumblr (or livejournal before that) is just setting themselves up for disappointment because ultimately as @Emony tweeted: “The Collective is already here – it’s called fandom, and it’s ours”.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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