This ongoing series looks at the various ways people get involved in fandom. This issue, we’re looking at vlogging.
As, perhaps, the most technophobic member of the Fandom Wanderers team, it came as a surprise to our beloved Editor [someone’s angling for a promotion… – Ed.] when I started enthusing about vlogs as a form of fandom. Granted, the vlog, also known more formally as the video blog, is a relative newcomer to fandom in comparison to other forms such as FanFiction. The rise of the vlog is undoubtedly linked to developments in technology such as the wider use of webcams and the growth of websites such as YouTube. But, if you set aside the scary technological stuff for a moment, (well, scary to me at least) the vlog is simply another means of self expression; only through the medium of video rather than the more traditional written word. Much like its written counterpart (the blog), a vlog can be about anything at all; your views on a particular development in a film franchise that you love, a review of a brilliant new book that you just read or a means of expressing your opinion on a topical issue in your fandom.
So, how did Fandom Wanderers’ self-appointed technophobe come across this new form of fandom? Well, as perhaps with the greatest discoveries, it was entirely by accident. There I was, casually trawling through YouTube as you do when you’re trying to find the trailer for that interesting film you saw advertised in the cinema, when I clicked on an interesting title quite by random. The video turned out to be a vlog; one part of a series of lectures conducted by a literature student who had decided to review a well-known international book and film franchise from a feminist perspective. Four hours later, I was still completely hooked on this vlogger’s videos. They were insightful, educational and witty. They challenged my previous perspective on the franchise and gave me some food for thought regarding similar books/television shows.
Since then, I have gained a deeper understanding of just how varied and creative vlogging can be. Vlogging doesn’t have to be just a person, against a white background, talking into a webcam, it can be pretty much whatever you want to make it. In fact, I would argue that with vlogging, there is more opportunity to include other forms of creativity. If you are tech savvy, you can use music, photos and animation to enhance your vlog. The right piece of music at a particular point in your vlog could add to the humorous point that you are trying to get across. Similarly, a video clip from the television show that you are discussing could back up your point of view on a particular issue. You could also incorporate other forms of fandom into your vlog, for example, you could use your own artwork to create an interesting background for the video.
‘Yes, yes,’ I hear you cry, ‘that’s all very well, Red, but what are we meant to say?’ Well, that’s the beauty of it; you can talk about anything you want! One of the funniest and most relevant vlogs, I have ever watched was by an aspiring author who decided to discuss the pitfalls of reading and writing FanFiction. The vlogger made some interesting points about the nature of fandom and shared some useful writing tips – mostly along the lines of what not to do! (They also sent me off on a literary mission to track down the so-called worst piece of FanFiction ever posted on the internet but that’s another story altogether.) Another vlogger produced a countdown of their top villains, ranging from films to manga, taking a few minutes for each character to explain exactly what it was about them that he liked or disliked. Others like to use their vlogs to theorise about future plot developments or share their reaction to the latest film trailer.
As with any form of fandom, there are some pitfalls to vlogging. Perhaps, the most obvious concern is that of anonymity. Vlogging doesn’t necessarily require you to expose your Clark Kent identity to the Internet. Many vloggers choose to use artwork or an icon instead of putting their face to the video. On the other hand, many vloggers do choose to show their face to their audience, although they are careful about giving out details such as their real name and address. Whatever form of vlogging you decide to undertake, you should think carefully about the consequences of uploading a video. Try to bear in mind that once a video has been uploaded onto the internet, it is very difficult to maintain control over who sees it and what they do with it. Even if you decide to take the video down, other users of the website may be able to copy and upload it again.
So, what do you do to produce an engaging vlog? Well, even for technophobes like me, good audio and video quality is essential. Shaky, handheld cameras may have been popular around the time of the Blair Witch Project but now they are simply distracting. You don’t have to use music or animation to make a good vlog, it’s the content that matters most. I would argue that just because the vlog is spoken doesn’t mean it should be any less well thought out and presented than a written blog. So think carefully about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. A well argued, concise and articulate vlog is going to have more of a positive impact than a vlog which goes off tangent halfway through and ends up not addressing the subject matter.
So, if you feel like doing something to express your opinion about your favourite film franchise announcing a prequel or you want to encourage others to watch that fabulous old television show that you have recently discovered then why not get the camera rolling?
This series is taking a break next issue for our Christmas Special, but it’ll be back in 2013 to look at even more forms of fandom.