further trails of sources

A follow-up to trail of sources, dealing with Henry Lowood’s Wikipedia, sources, machinima:

“But these questions do raise issues about research on “consumer-created content.” It seems we are dependent on consumer-created sources, as well.” In principle I wholeheartedly agree, but would like to try to grasp the issues at hand conceptually different.

First of all, when talking about gaming culture I shy away from the term “consumer”, as in my view it somewhat implies passive consumption, usage of artefacts as intended by the latters’ creators. With machinima and the practices of game modding this definitely is not the case. Seen from my vantage point we rather deal with active appropriation, with creativity running rampant and generating surprising and unexpected outcomes. Said practices usually are collectively shared and lived by the members of online communities. And here is where we are starting to hit the issues Henry has raised.

The mediating technologies based on the Internet-infrastructure give rise to synchronous and diachronous conceptual spaces, conceptual spaces for/of interaction and repositories of historical happenings, because within this conceptual spaces live interaction takes place, which immediately gets archived. For example an active forum both is a place of current interaction and a place of documentation of past interaction. The archived information indeed constitutes primary sources created by the people involved. In the case of gaming communities oftentimes another layer is put on top of all this, because members of the communities are reflecting on communal action, practices, and achievements, and themselves write summaries and commentaries of those, sometimes incorporating a decisive historical component. Are those texts “primary secondary sources”?

“But what to do when these trails [originating at Wikipedia] lead only to forums and fansites?” This question can not be answered wholesale, I guess. If this happens, e.g. you “end up” in a fan forum, then you have to scrutinize it. Meaning that you have to fathom the plausibility and reliability of its contents. That may be accomplished by cross-checking the information within the forum and in the light of other sources, or by contacting the people involved and interviewing them, or even getting into the community in question and doing fieldwork there. Here again we are gradually slipping from the craft of the historian into the craft of the anthropologist.

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