For several years, I have been a member of the comic book site, Comic Vine, which is the largest comic wiki in the world and also hosts a variety of discussion forums.
I don’t do anything different from anyone else on the site. Comic Vine contains hundreds of thousands of wiki entries, including descriptions of individual issues, characters, and their creators. It is entirely written by comics fans worldwide, who volunteer their time out of a pure love for the medium. These wiki sections have strict guidelines, are written in intricate detail, and are aimed at creating a professional-style encyclopedia on comics. The site also has many forums. Contrary to the stereotype of online conversations, Comic Vine discussions are often highly intellectual and thoughtful, and there are large sections in which the users practice very evolved versions of debate and in-depth logical analysis.
I engage in depth in both writing for the wiki and doing comic battle debating–basically arguing over who would win, one character or another. This sounds simple, but it really requires close reading of images and text in the form of scans of comic pages, and the ability to present one’s argument clearly.
The reason I think of this as an art project is that I want to highlight this kind of activity as a worthwhile form of creative production, one that is grassroots and lowercase-d democratic. It is an art form, a form of social sculpture, that is accessible to everyone and is missing the gatekeepers that exist in the “art world.” I think the everyday users’ activities on this site are an enjoyable form of creative production that contributes to our overall culture in a way that is just as legitimate as traditional forms of cultural production (the “arts”), such as visual art, theater criticism, advertising, crochet, etc.
I am also interested in the site, and other fan-based social media, as a form of learning as art. When I first started, I had read a lot of comics, but it immediately became clear to me that there was an immense amount I didn’t know. I began devouring information on the site, learning and learning. At the same time, I engaged in battle debating, and slowly became better at that as well. As with some of my other projects, such as my paleontology work, I see this form of intentional learning as a form of art, a shaping of the self, a tooling of one’s own potential.
Of course, my practice on this site doesn’t only exist as an art project; it’s also an honest expression of my interest as a sincere comics fan! I love comics, I read a ton of comics, and I enjoy sharing that love with others. It has been my goal since the beginning to find ways to contribute to the site and become a useful and respected member. Over time, I’ve managed to realize that goal, both through my personal contributions, and through the various awards and positions I’ve been accorded by other users.
The way fans create their own forms of peer review of other fans is of interest to me as well; see Loki for more details.