Over the coursework of ENGL295, Literature in the “Wired World,” we have discussed how the Internet has begun to provide a venue by which, to quote Henry Jenkins, “the water cooler [can] g[o] digital” (Jenkins 26). Meaning that the former method of real life engagement with a text via primary orality, or discussion, has evolved in this modern “era of media convergence” to allows us “communal rather than individualistic modes of reception”  (Jenkins 26). The knowledge community of Star Wars exemplifies this ‘communal’ engagement through archiving, interpretive discussion, and refashioning of its text. The text, comprised in forms of secondary orality, (Ong 133), of SW is comprised of not only the franchise movies (Episodes I through VI), but the Extended Universe (EU) ranging from novels to comics to video games to cartoon series. The EU in particular demonstrates how the text has evolved towards further in its hypermediacy, and therefore immediacy, through its evolution into other manifestations of secondary orality. This is shown in particular in visual media depictions of SW that pay great attention to visual realism (special effects) to create a greater sense of immediacy, or realism. As Bolter and Grusin explain, from film to computer games to cartoons, the element of “’filmic’ realism” may exhibit “…our desire for immediacy”, but these forms of secondary orality “mak[e] us aware of the medium or media"  (Bolter 34). Thus these hypermedic works take “multiple acts of representation,” like 2 and 3D computer graphics, dialogue, music, lighting, ect., and creates a “heterogeneous space, in which representation is conceived not as a window…but rather as “windowed” itself . Such examples as the Cartoon Network series The Clone Wars and The Force Unleashed video game series are examples of “windowed [representation] itself” that strives to show “the real space that lies beyond mediation,” through the uniting of multiple forms of media to depict a fully actualized world  (Bolter 41).
The EU also exemplifies immedic (new word! immedic - immediacy as an adj) strides towards transparency of media, through new mediums like video games. For example in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) , the game presents a massively multiplayer online role playing game by which, through a keyboard, mouse, and screen, players are thrown into an online game community in which they play their own personalized character narratives, depending on classes which range from Sith Warrior to Rebel Smuggler. The game itself is lovingly interwoven with SW cannon from both franchise movies and EU; therefore, players are allowed to live ‘their place,’ so to speak, within the game world and thus also integrate not only an opportunity for players to refashion a private version of the text, but also “live” it as well. The game medium of the MMO provides a digital venue by which players may not only interact with the text of SW franchise movies, EU, and their own narrative, but compete, cooperate, and discuss within the game world as well. In a sense, the SW community of SWOTR forms its own knowledge community based around the game, which is reflected by the presence of its own forums and wikis . The MMO also facilitates the forming of guilds, which are essentially in-game clubs committed to role-playing their characters, community fun, or beating the latest content. This reflects the "water cooler" analogy of media discussion in knowledge communities, but also integrates game content, something to do, at the same time. The MMO, in terms of transparency, makes the greatest strides of all gaming mediums to integrate a “heterogenous space,” or one of multiple media forms, to create a virtual reality within the SW canon .
This wiki will focus on how the SW online community is in fact a knowledge community, refashionings by the community, and lifestyle, or how the fans have come to live out their fantasy world through cosplay. In defining how the knowledge community functions, I will also address the ways by which it facilitates discussion and solves issues in doing so (i.e. approaching the immensity of the cannon). My sources for defining the knowledge community of SW will come from class readings and has been researched in online venues such as wikis and forums. In addressing refashionings of SW, I will be presenting analysis of fan-generated fiction particularly at escapepod.com and showing why the knowledge community facilitates the desire to generate fanficition and deepens their commitment to the text. And finally, I will approach an analysis of the real life cosplaying community of star wars and the uniting elements of visual representation that bring these people together. My source for these lifestyle aspects, which will supplemented by the “real life” and "event" announcement subforums, are an interview with a convention-famous cosplaying model, Anna Von Winter, on her own experience at cons and my mine as well. Overall, I have found that the online medium of the wiki, often also associated with its own forum and subforums, serves to engage the audience’s drive to know and engage with all available knowledge within the online SW community and continue interacting with the text through other remediations and refashionings.
Analysis of the Star Wars Online Fanbase, as a "Knowledge Community"EditThe knowledge community of SW is, overall, concerned with creating an encyclopedic rendition of the entire SW cannon. This is a feat easier said than done. When approaching the entire text of SW, it is important to recognize that the longevity of the series has amassed a narrative that stretches back 25,793 years before the Battle of Yavin (destruction of the first death star) and 138 years after that battle . With this in mind, the community helps to address the immensity of the cannon through archiving its "shared knowledge," or "information that is believed to be true and held in common [by the entire community]"  (Jenkins 27). Through its users filling in gaps in archives, in the forms of wikis, to fill gaps in information, which must be cited and could be seen as "collective intelligence" in action, or "ad hoc" additions. The composition of said "collective intelligence," Jenkins claims is "disorderly, undisciplined, and unruly," but after hours of pour through wikis, as they are the primary venue by which this community establishes its 'bound text,' its hard to make that claim in application to the SW community. Taking the example of Wookieepdia, the site features not only detailed summaries of the entire narrative, people, places, technology, but also includes reference material like maps of the galaxy, planets, and buildings, as well as a complete historical time line .
Wookieepdia is by far the best balance of most accessible and most detailed of all the wikis that I've viewed. The encyclopedia provided by starwars.com is simply incomplete and only includes the movie and cartoon elements, although it is more accessible through better design <ref="generic"> "Star Wars Official Site." www.starwars.com </ref>. The editing community of Wookieepedia maintains the fun spirit of the knowledge community by supplying a nearly entirely open addition venue, meaning anyone can add or edit a page with a Wikia account . There are account administrators and guidelines outline on their "Welcome, newcomers" page. The aforementioned page serves encourage contribution as well as establish the rules of citation and "historical" objectivity in the presentation of information. The wiki, in its attention to historical archival style, is striving for immediacy with the text through stylistic realism. The site does leave room for more analysis and presentation of real world influences on topics under the page heading, "Behind the Scenes," but by and large discourages this analytical element. Due to the sheer volume worldwide of individuals that enjoy star wars it is logical that one would expect to see a great deal of star wars themed vandalism, but this is simply not a defining case for Wookiepedia. Of their 634 topic pages only 200 are kept on the "semi-protected articles" page.
Authority within the post are largely maintained through sourcing and the objectivity of the writing in wikis. I noted a general lack of a reporting, flagging, or like/dislike system . If an article on Wookieepdia does not have its sourcing guidelines met, the article is automatically flagged with a dialogue box at the beginning of the article saying, "Help me, [your username here]! You're my only hope!" This system of flags creates a further dialogue in the community and asks for the collective intelligence of its community to contribute on a situational basis. It is also important to note that there are no real "braintrusts" within the SW community as there is not really any secret information to be revealed about the narrative, like that in a spoiling community. (Note: attempts were made to find braintrusts of users 'info dumping' regarding rumor on epVII). Yet while there are no braintrusts within this particular community, there is, in this sense, a gateway process by which articles earn their "authority" in their refashioning of the text into an archival wiki post. This would further suggest that the SW fanbase is 'pure', in the sense that is is free from the aspect of spoiling, and is more focused around the construction of a practical text to use in things like escapepod.net's  Escape Pod Fanfiction Site. escapepod.net </ref> forum thread roleplaying.
Refashionings: Remediation of Star WarsEditRefashionings in the SW knowledge community involve the remediation of past characters, places, technology, and everything in between, from the purely invented (within the confines of technology and universe) to cannonical. The pure variety of refashionings is simply too vast to approach here, but I will attempt to make highlights of both traditional fanfiction (novel style, flash fiction, short story) to interactive fanfiction. Very rarely, EU authors will include characters from Escapepod.net, a hub for discussion, event announcements, and general news, hosts the most unique, non-professional refashioning I’ve seen before: forum thread roleplaying. It reflects interactive fiction; in that, it asks users to respond to text scenarios with text, but in this case there are no programmed ‘walls,’ limiting what one can say. What I mean by this these threads, often monitored by the thread founder, present a text scenario for one or more characters--the setting, conflict, and other characters involved--and asks any who wish to join the scenario to respond, in text, with another portion of equal length writing to depict what their character would do . This presents the possibility of anyone hopping in and spinning the narrative in any direction, however it is expressly not the goal of the role-playing, and is meant to spark "interaction," or collaboration, not separation between writers .
The narratives themselves, when posts conflict, also give rise to interpretive disputes and sometimes halt narratives completely, or result in backtracking before a disruptive post. Here we see a narrative back and forth between users that manufacture unique narratives that remediate the laws of the universe (light v dark, sides of the force) technology (space travel, armor, blasters, lightsabers, worldships, organic-tech of the Yuuzhan Vong, ect.), canonical characters, and places .
In a more fixed approach to fanfiction, as the aforementioned forum thread rpg’s allow for nearly any conceivable narrative manipulation from everything to sexual orientation to characters, theforce.net  hosts one of the few, SW focused purely fanfiction venues. fanfiction.com  certaintly has a plethroa more, but includes a vast variety outside of the knowledge community of SW’s text and will be left out as not to pollute or undervalue the mentioned SW sites. theforce.net’s fanfiction page serves to foster the knowledge community of SW and their collective knowledge into fanfiction. The resources it provides to do so go above and beyond most fanfiction websites and parallel that of a writing workshop. Under the page, “Plot Bunnies,”  authors and any contributor are encouraged to list possible ideas for stories to jumpstart and inspire other writers. It also facilitates the creation of fanfiction further by offering the services of “Beta-Reviewer,”  which read work before it is submitted for the purpose of critiquing a piece and ‘bans’ the beta-reviewer in a sense from reviewing the work if it is ever submitted. The existence of these pages support my theory that the SW knowledge community is engaged in refashioning for the shared, intellectual fun of it. It is also worth mentioning that fandom has made it into SW canon via an extended universe author naming a clone trooper batallion, the 501st Legion, after a real charity organization .
Star Wars: a Lifestyle Edit
Because the SW universe is based around humanity and employs a blueprint for human society relatively close to our own, save the force, alien races, space travel, and other technology, the ways in which the focus text has come to be a part of everyday life is, like the cannon itself, nearly too large to approach. However, regarding the lifestyle modifications within a knowledge community, the manifestations are readily identifiable . Without listing the variety of memorabilia listed on such places as theforce.net's collectibles forum, common everyday objects are transformed to look like or bear the resemblance of symbols or characters from the cannon (i.e. my favorite, Darth Caedus pen).
After researching the online community's various gatherings, one sees that the text manifests itself in the primary form of cosplay, or costuming, in the lives of its fandom. Nearly every convention, gathering, or event listed involves some level of costuming. The most prestigious of these gatherings, Star Wars Celebration also awards prizes based on costumes, adding the additional motivator of a prize to notoriety for a good costume . This augmentation of the self shows an integration of the inherently artificial, fiction text into how one may wish to see themselves, for a time or perhaps more. Cosplay is the community term for costuming in this sense. It largely involves conventions, like Celebration, the main Star Wars convention that tours worldwide with the franchise movie actors and EU media writers, or other types of gatherings in which the knowledge community, or fanbase, comes together in costume (although not required, as it is considered part of the fun). A unique manifestation of the text in the lives of its fanbase would be the 501st Legion , a charity organization that comes together both to assist the community and cosplay as pristine, alabaster storm troopers.
It is unclear if they actually perform community service in storm trooper armor. Organizations possess such a large number of members that they require an Empire, SW themed titling of positions and actual election for Legion Commander, the head honcho, Garison Commander, a regional organizer, Outpost Commander, a local commander, to name a few . Joining the Legion is actually quite simple. One must be at least 18 and possess a high quality (parameters normally indicated by detachment) Empire or "'bad-guy'" costume . Their costuming events are all ages or family inclusive as the 06 gathering picture indicates.
The 501st and Star Wars Celebration are not the only gatherings which the knowledge community flock to. Conventions like Comic Con do however include the SW text as well. This brings me to my final example of how star wars has found its way into the lifestyle of its fanbase--a case analysis of how SW has become a fixture in the life of Anna Von Winter, a “con-famous” cosplayer and model. She was so gracious as to answer my inquiries regarding this project and some of her answers are transcribed here. In her words, "Star Wars dictates my life. I have [R]ebel and [I]mperial symbols and a death star sticker on my car. I have a Boba Fett 'gypsy style' tattoo on my ribcage. Even my dish-wear is Star Wars....Its pretty much ingrained in my DNA now." Anna is not an isolated case of obsession where the text has come not only to characterize personal visual compostion (clothing/costuming/tattoos), but actual habits as well (e.g. 'dishwear'). Even the language of this statement, "...dictates my life," indicates a complete integration of the text into personal perspective of its audience. Anna, while bald or not, bears a striking resemblance to the Sith Asajj Ventress, apprentice of Count Dooku before the clone wars, who dies prior to franchise movie depiction. This is important to note as she is most known for cosplaying this character, but because of her identification with this character one sees further how the text comes to affect self. Anna readily confirmed my notion for her commitment to that character: "Its times like when we attended Star Wars Celebration in Florida that I remember why I love costuming. I was in my Ventress costume, taking photos with my boyfriend, who was dressed as a Mandalorian, and this little girl who had to have been 3 or 4 tugged on the back of my dress and said, 'Asajj, you're my favorite,' then proceeded to give me the biggest little hug I'd ever had. She wouldn't stop watching as she and her mom walked away. To that little girl, I WAS Asajj Ventress. I can't really explain how moving that is to me." It is consumption of the character's presence through costuming that shows an aspect full integration of a text into its audience's lifestyle.
Further Information Edit
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. Course Readings, ENGL295. 25-57.
- ↑ Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the World. Course Readings, ENGL295. 130-33.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Course Readings, ENGL295. 1-50.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Star Wars: The Old Republic. www.swtor.com
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "Wookiepedia." http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page
- ↑ Wookieepdia Newcomers Page.http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Wookieepedia:Welcome,_newcomers
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
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- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Escape Pod RP Story Archive. http://forums.escapepod.net/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?category=4
- ↑ Escape Pod Site RP'ing Policy Thread. http://forums.escapepod.net/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=22&t=000295
- ↑ TheForce.net. theforce.net
- ↑ FanFiction.net Site, Star Wars Archive. http://www.fanfiction.net/movie/Star-Wars/
- ↑ TheForce's Plot Bunnies. http://fanfic.theforce.net/plotbunnies.asp
- ↑ TheForce's Beta-Reviewer Page. http://fanfic.theforce.net/betareader.asp?action=index
- ↑ Wookiepedia. http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Fanon
- ↑ Star Wars Official Memorabilia page. http://starwars.com/shop/lifestyle/
- ↑ Star Wars Celebration Day Two Costume Contest Vid. http://starwars.com/watch/celebration-v_daytwo.html
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 Wookieepedia's 501st Fan Organization Page. http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/501st_Legion_(fan_organization)