Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blogging the future: The role of blogging and the fansub debate

So I've decided to take up the whole fansub issue one more time, or rather, I've been thinking a lot about it for the past couple months and I finally came to some conclusions. This discussion will come in three parts. First, it's necessary that we take a look at the role of blogs both in general and in the context of the fansub debate. Second, I'm going to try to end some of the useless arguments that have gone around the fansub community for the past three or so years. And lastly, I'm going to try to prove that Justin Seviakis' is right, while Arthur Smith is wrong.

Part One: Why am I even bothering to do this anyway?

About a month and a half ago, I came across Arthur Smith's interview on, which started my irratation with this topic. Now, I won't go into all of the details of why, but I'll leave it at that it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So I wrote about on this blog and I left it be.

When Justin Seviakis released his open letter, I participated in the debate over on the ANN forums, but only enough to say that he was right. In fact, I figured that this debate really didn't have much to do with me. I mean I did my part, didn't I? I bought all the DVDs I could afford. I've gone to the ADV site and clicked through on their ads. There simply wasn't any reason for me to say anything more on the subject. Mostly because Seviakis had said everything I'd wanted to say and said it a lot better and with more credibility than I could.

When Arthur Smith replied, I chose not to respond again. Because why bother? I'd already said my peace, and I don't think Smith handled himself any better this time than he did the last time. For reasons I'll get into later. But I still didn't respond on this blog because I figured it really wouldn't make any different. And I didn't have much to add to the argument.

So why am I writing about it now? Because after a month, I haven't seen any real reaction from the Japanese side of the industry and because I think blogs (and podcasts) hold a special position in this debate.

Shortly after Seviakis's letter, tj_han wrote this blog post about the blogging scene. Stating that most bloggers (including himself) are bandwagon hoppers, who come along after the "wise old men" have made their prognostications, and largely bandwagon hoppers, "don’t have the nous, life experience or wisdom to create an intelligent, original view. What they always think is their view, is actually the views of others whose works they have read. Read enough of others’ opinions and you’ll think it’s yours."

Perhaps he is correct. Perhaps debating this subject is merely rehashing old arguments made by people who are smarter than we are. And I do think he has a point that there are a lot of poorly constructed arguments that don't really get at the heart of the debate.

But, the debate is still important because of the nature of fansubs. Because fansubs are the one thing that we "the fans" control, any decision about the future of fansubs has to come from us, the fans. In fact, the point of Smith's bluster is not to simply convince us that fansubs are a problem, but that we need to do something about it.

Because let's face it, if the RIAA and the MPAA and Comcast can't stop BitTorrent and piracy, how does he think a few rinky-dink companies halfway across the world are going to.

So what role do blogs play in the fansub debate? First and foremost, they provide a forum for reasoned debate. In essence, they create Milton's "Marketplace of Ideas" in a way that Milton himself couldn't have imagined. Now some people might argue that the signal to noise ratio is too high to really provide a good sense of the debate. I would argue that the "noise" is also an important part of the debate mostly because those irrational and often stupid arguments are perhaps the most true. They may truely believe that they are right, or they might simply want to keep getting their anime for free. But even a bad argument adds to the debate.

Also blogs, in general, are different from forums because mostly forums attract a certain type of person. In fact, after viewing the homogenity of the ANN forums for more than three years, I can honestly say any debate in the forums is generally a bunch of people (who all agree with whatever one of the "wise old men" said) shouting down the one or two dissenters who happen to wander into the forums.

Even more than that, even that dissent happens in shades of gray. So you rarely see any truly radical voices wandering into the middle of those debates. In general, they may say something like "Oh, I like watching fansubs, but not after the series has been licensed in NA." They certainly don't say, "Dude, I'm not paying for that crap. And I want to know if it's crap before I buy it." Again because those forums attract like-minded individuals.

Not as much with blogs. Because of the nature of an attena like AnimeNano, I can see opinions that are scattered across the spectrum, from the radical to the extreme pro-industry.

Also the nature of forums, is to wait until the other person is done talking. In fact, those arguments tend to consist of people just waiting to flame someone else because they might of said something untoward, even if the said person didn't say what they're accused of saying in the first place.

Because blogs are one person speaking (at length) they avoid this pitfall. Now, I agree with tj_han's general idea, that there are wise old men, I disagree that the purpose of that second tier is to merely repeat the ramblings of those wise old men.

Yes, the wise old men tell us what we should be debating. But bloggers set the tone of the discussion. They say whether they agree or disagree with those wise old men. And because of the nature of the fansub debate, that could make all the difference in the world.

1 comment:

LytHka said...

Hrm, the forum homogeneity quickly disappears once you start visiting several forums. Maybe that was your mistake--to focus on a general outlook of a single forum--because what I've experienced by participating in post-Sevakis debates over at ANN, AnimeSuki, AnimeNation, and AnimeOnDVD, I can say there was anything but homogeneity.
Furthermore, if Sevakis' intention is to spark solutions from within the community, the "noise" portion of the discussion is completely useless. I was participating in this debate on a fansub-oriented forum where we had a perfectly intelligent debate with industry representatives. Noise was shut out of the debate, so to speak, because it's easy to crack. And the discussion continued. My point is, even the most biased forums offer a place for reasonable debate. ANN was no exception.

I admit that I'm more of a forum goer than a blogger (I'm trying to write one though), but much like yourself who sees a custom version of what forums have to offer, I see homogeneity even among the blogging community. The blogging community is even more orderly than any forum because there's a much clearer hierarchy placed on its structure, dictated by visitor numbers. Blogs that get linked everywhere and visited by everyone have the capacity to generate a gravity pull of their own. Just look at Sevakis' entry--not many have disagreed with him because he was posting on a major anime news site. On a much smaller scale and fit for the blogging "band", much the same can be said for us guys. The general outline created by popular blogs actually suggests bloggers in general are young and inexperienced, consequentially have no concrete idea of what they are talking about, that they prefer fansubs, and that they reject the thought of purchasing anime (figurines and manga > DVDs). While not every blogger feels that way, the most popular blogs do, and it's enough to generate a stereotype that gets thrown on the majority of all anime bloggers.