08 November 2011

scraps: "we con" panel notes - nekocon 2011

Below are the notes compiled for the panel discussion "We Con, Therefore We Are," given at 6 PM on Saturday, Nov 5th 2011, at Nekocon. This panel was a collaborative effort between myself and Joe Chen of Animechanics. As this is a scraps note, it only contains the outline of the discussion at hand, and not the full dialogue. That will come later.

History of the Con:
Sci Fi Origins: Anime as a subgroup of science-fiction fandom.
Yamatocon '85: Daytripping with cosplay and small vendor space.
Anime Con '91: First attempt at a dedicated anime convention (whereas Project A-Kon was more multifandom)
Anime Expo/Otakon: Born out of Anime Con, the West and East coast fandom celebrations of the early 1990s
Millennial Explosion: From 10 to 159 in under a decade. 
Why do you attend? 
-Originally small, intimate affairs: gather and watch anime.
-Dynamic has changed, and with it, the demographic. Discovery of new anime often marginalized in favor of social ties and community building.

Why anime culture is distinct. 
-Science Fiction shows end, expanded universe content generally a mix of canon and non-canon, and overtakes original content.
-Anime evolves. Shows, art styles, storytelling all changes in time. Anime is not a genre, it's a medium, and contains more content than any specific genre or show could.
Participation- Visibility and art. Anime artists have larger pool to choose from, and are more interested in adding to the "fandom pool"
Purists/Attendees: is this good? How does it impact the community at hand?
-Is it bad to attend without knowing much about anime?
-Is it bad to attend for purely social reasons?
-Is it counterproductive to enter the community with deliberately limited experience?
-Memes: now you can participate with little, if any, knowledge of the medium. Just shout out a phrase or word. ("Moe" in Japan, "The Game" in the US.)
-Is it possible to really "belong" to a fandom if you do not appreciate the distinctive characteristics of that culture? Is it possible if youre not aware that this distinctive traits even exist? 
Can you name a series that aired in Japan in the past 6 months?
Do people resist the idea of taking anime too seriously? Why? 
-Azuma forces fans to come to terms with the dark qualities of being a fan.
Fans and non-fans: If you don’t know much, how can you defend it? 
What do we owe ourselves to know about our fandom? Can we just be fans of being fans? Fandom for fandom’s sake? 
Open fandom vs closed fandom. 
-Analogy of anime fandom and christianity: All you need to do is accept/know one show and you can find acceptance.
 -Other fandoms are not so forgiving. 
Is this a good thing? Social acceptance for minimal knowledge? Is it the purest form of escapism? Is that counterproductive. 
-Are the avenues of growth bad? Capital-focused, number driven, quality poor. Sacrificing purism in favor of building better numbers, justification being ability to bring down bigger-name guests and industry. Is there a place for a balance- growth while still keeping everyone happy?
-Do people take anime seriously?
-Do people NEED to take it seriously, revisited. Should the community be alarmed, or is this just a "natural" course of action given the evolving dynamic of the convention experience? Purism giving way to community- often cited reason why people attend. Purists stick to the internet, everyone else attends the cons. 
Does the kind of social belonging you find in anime conventions actually facilitate developing healthy social skills in the real world?

If people desperate for social interaction and find that in anime conventions, wouldn't taking anime a bit more seriously facilitate their ability to socialize?

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