alias_sqbr: She's getting existential again. It's ok I have a super soaker. (existentialism)
[personal profile] alias_sqbr
There is a lot of fandom meta which says "We in fandom [do or think X]" even though huge swathes of fandom don't do or think X at all. In my experience, when pressed the author will say that what they actually meant is that there is a trend of X, or that their part of fandom does X, or that they personally think X and it seems obvious that everyone else does too from their behaviour, etc.

Since I find this kind of meta incredibly annoying I've tried to avoid it myself. This has been surprisingly difficult.

If I'm just summarising opinions found in other people's meta then I can refer to it as "common in the parts of fanfic fandom I hang out in" etc and know I'm not overgeneralising. But if I want to make an original point about an epiphany I've had about The Way Fandom Works then it's much harder to be specific about the group to which this epiphany applies.

In fact, until I get confirmation from other fans, the ONLY person I can say for sure it applies to is myself. But "this is how fandom works for me" feels much less worthy and interesting than "this is how fandom works for everyone", even if I focus on those parts of my experience which seem fairly universal and include other people's POVs where I can. Are my autobiographical ramblings really worthy of a long essay and being crossposted to [community profile] month_of_meta etc?(*) I usually ask my commenters if their experiences are similar, and they often agree (possibly with some caveats) but it still feels...weird.

Note that speculating on the motives of others or about large scale trends isn't without value, as long as it's labelled clearly as speculation and the author takes a moment to think about and mention possible counterexamples. Though I do think that anyone speculating about groups to which they do not belong needs to be very careful.

One reason I get so het up about this (beyond constantly falling through the cracks of other people's meta as a femslasher/cartoonist/video game fan etc) is my background in maths, where a single counterexample is enough to scrap an otherwise valid theory. I realise that my obsession with caveats makes my own meta long winded, and still cut out a bunch of "mostly"s and "I think"s for clarity. But while some fandom overgeneralisations are like "All primes are odd" (true modulo a caveat or two, arguably ok as a rule of thumb) others are like "All odd numbers are prime" (seems plausible based on a small local sample, actually VASTLY WRONG) The former rub me the wrong way but have merit, it's the latter I would like to see less of.

The post that finally got me to write this up was Meh, reading stuff about how “we” love Darcy which makes similar complaints (actual linked proof it isn't just me! :D)

I know other people find the kind of overgeneralising I'm talking about annoying. How do you avoid it yourself? Do you think it would be better for people to admit when they're talking about personal experience and make more of an effort at gathering evidence before generalising? How do we best make the jump from personal anecdata to broader trends without doing a massive fandom wide survey? (Not that there's anything wrong with fandom-wide surveys, but not everyone has the time or energy when they just want to write a bit of meta)

I feel like this MUST be a topic of discussion in, like, Rhetoric or Methods of Social Science or some other humanities subject. Especially since it feels to me like a lot of the problem is people trying to write Serious Sociological Essays without the academic rigour and sources an actual academic essay would require (not that Actual Academic Essays on fandom are immune from the problem, the few attempts I've made at reading TWC were very disappointing and made me wish I was up to writing Serious Sociological Essays myself. But since I'm not, you have this. THE END)

(*)As you can see I got over this angst to some extent ;) I didn't realise I was going to be right at the start of month_of_meta when I wrote this but I guess meta on how to meta makes for an appropriate starting topic!

EDIT: Since at least one person hurt their brain trying to figure it out: The non-odd prime number is two :) Some examples of non-prime odd numbers are 9, 15, 35 etc. SORRY FORT THE MATHS IT'S LIKE A SICKNESS WITH ME.
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