AI and Fandom
Due in part to well-publicised advancements in generative AI technologies such as GPT-4, there has been a recent explosion of interest in – and hype around – Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. Whether this hype cycle continues to grow or fades away, AI is anticipated to have significant repercussions for fandom (Lamerichs 2018), and is already inspiring polarised reactions. Fan artists have been candid about using creative AI tools like Midjourney and DALL-E to generate fan art, while fanfiction writers have been using ChatGPT to generate stories and share them online (there are 470 works citing the use of these tools on AO3 and 20 on FanFiction.net at the time of writing). It is likely the case that even greater numbers of fans are using such tools discreetly, to the consternation of those for whom this is a disruption of the norms and values of fan production and wider artistic creation (Cain 2023; shealwaysreads 2023). AI technology is being used to dub movies with matching visual mouth movements after filming has been completed (Contreras 2022), to analyse audience responses in real-time (Pringle 2017), to holographically revive deceased performers (Andrews 2022; Contreras 2023), to build chatbots where users can interact with a synthesised version of celebrities and fictional characters (Rosenberg 2023), to synthesise celebrities’ voices (Kang et al. 2022; Nyce 2023), and for translation services for transnational fandoms (Kim 2021).
Despite the multiple ways in which AI is being introduced for practical implementations, the term remains a contested one. Lindley et al (2020) consider “how AI simultaneously refers to the grand vision of creating a machine with human-level general intelligence as well as describing a range of real technologies which are in widespread use today” (2) and suggest that this so called ‘definitional dualism’ can obscure the ubiquity of current implementations while stoking concerns about far-future speculations based on media portrayals. AI is touted as being at least as world-changing as the mass adoption of the internet and, regardless of whether it proves to be such a paradigm shift, the strong emotions it generates make it a productive site of intervention into long-held debates about: relationships between technology and art, what it means to create, what it means to be human, and the legislative and ethical frameworks that seek to determine these relationships.
This special issue seeks to address the rapidly accelerating topic of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning (ML) systems (including, but not limited to Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), Large Language Models (LLMs), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and speech, image and audio recognition and generation), and their relationship to and implications for fans and fan studies. We are interested in how fans are using AI tools in novel ways as well as how fans feel about the use of these tools. From media production and marketing perspectives we are interested in how AI tools are being used to study fans, and to create new media artefacts that attract fan attention. The use of AI to generate transformative works challenges ideas around creativity, originality and authorship (Clarke 2022; Miller 2019; Ploin et al. 2022), debates that are prevalent in fan studies and beyond. AI-generated transformative works may present challenges to existing legal frameworks, such as copyright, as well as to ethical frameworks and fan gift economy norms. For example, OpenAI scraped large swathes of the internet to train its models – most likely including fan works (Leishman 2022). This is in addition to larger issues with AI, such as the potential discrimination and bias that can arise from the use of ‘normalised’ (exclusionary) training data (Noble 2018). We are also interested in fan engagement with fictional or speculative AI in literature, media and culture.
We welcome contributions from scholars who are familiar with AI technologies as well as from scholars who seek to understand its repercussions for fans, fan works, fan communities and fan studies. We anticipate submissions from those working in disparate disciplines as well as interdisciplinary research that operates across multiple fields.
The following are some suggested topics that submissions might consider:
- The use of generative AI by fans to create new forms of transformative work (for example, replicating actors’ voices to ‘read’ podfic)
- Fan responses to the development and use of AI including Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT (for example, concerns that AO3 may be part of the data scraped for training models)
- Explorations of copyright, ownership and authorship in the age of AI-generated material and transformative works
- Studies that examine fandoms centring on speculative AI and androids, (e.g. Her, Isaac Asimov, WestWorld, Star Trek)
- Methods for fan studies research that use AI and ML
- The use of AI in audience research and content development by media producers and studios
- Lessons that scholars of AI and its development can learn from fan studies and vice versa
- Ethics of AI in a fan context, for example deepfakes and the spread of misinformation
Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC, http://journal.transformativeworks.org/) is an international peer-reviewed online Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works, copyrighted under a Creative Commons License. TWC aims to provide a publishing outlet that welcomes fan-related topics and promotes dialogue between academic and fan communities. TWC accommodates academic articles of varying scope as well as other forms, such as multimedia, that embrace the technical possibilities of the internet and test the limits of the genre of academic writing.
Submit final papers directly to Transformative Works and Cultures by January 1, 2024.
Articles: Peer review. Maximum 8,000 words.
Symposium: Editorial review. Maximum 4,000 words.
Contact—Contact guest editors Suzanne Black and Naomi Jacobs with any questions before or after the due date at AIandFandomTWC@gmail.com.
Due date—Jan 1, 2024, for March 2025 publication.