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"How is straight female interest in slash fiction like straight male interest in "shemale" models? And why in the world does this matter?"
September 6, 2009 5:29 AM   Subscribe

The curious case of the game show neuroscientists, or how NOT to research an online community. Two researchers wade into fanfic community without due consideration, create shitstorm. More here.
posted by chorltonmeateater (93 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's quite an interesting article, thanks. I especially liked this quote:

"Somewhere around there, people stopped arguing with him and started taking direct action. The academics started complaining to Boston University, the creatives started creating cat macros, the neuroscientists started writing long introductions to neuroscience and the specialists in gender identity just started screaming."
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:52 AM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I also loved that quote. I had a mental image of an old-timey newspaperman pulling a big lever on a printshop floor causing thousands of warez copies of Photoshop to start up in a sea of mechanical chunking noises.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:00 AM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I just love these little biology-is-destiny neuroscientists:

Well, slash is kind of the female equivalent of the straight male interest in transsexuals. That is, the opposite of what culture would predict. So it probably reflects a more direct subcortical effect.

*That's* your hypothesis?

Excuse me while I roll around on the floor laughing for the next half hour.
posted by mediareport at 6:00 AM on September 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


*shudder* I agree with the "more" link that none of this sounds even remotely vetted by an IRB (institutional review board).

this isn't the first time on metafilter I've felt the need to apologize for my (former) field on behalf of those who march under the Flag of Neuroscience/Biomedical Research.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:05 AM on September 6, 2009


His women : fanfic :: men : ts-girl!porn theory was perhaps the greatest trainwreck I have ever witnessed, making me long for the good old days of the companionable arguments on a circumcision/declawing/childhood vaccination post.

I am actually kind of outraged that this made MeFi before it made fandom_wank.
posted by elizardbits at 6:14 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


FT(S)A: I’m wondering why the researchers have not apologised[sic] far more abjectly for having blundered into a community so ill-prepared - and possibly having ignored basic legal requirements and professional ethical standards governing their research.

1) They depended on voluntary and unpaid participation in a (more-or-less) publicly posted "survey". IANAL, but I'd expect that the only real legal issue here involves trademark infringement of BU's logo, an extremely unlikely avenue for BU to pursue.

2) They had no ethical issues, because they had no real institutional affiliation.

3) They did apologize, profusely, as every story on this mentions. For two days they tried to placate their research subjects, and only after that so clearly failed did they get fed up and turn mean.

If anything, I'd say that with the sole exception of hiding their true intent (cheesy pop-psych book rather than serious academic research), these guys just sound naive (and their "theory", just laughable), not malicious. So kudos to the LJ'ers for rooting them out, but really, move along people. I've seen LJ "surveys" that would make a whore blush, and people just cheerfully spill their deepest darkest secrets to the world without a second thought.
posted by pla at 6:15 AM on September 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


This sounds less like a very crappy study and more like "I just want to use some credentials and make it look respectable while I get some data and a few juicy quotes for a book deal." Critiquing his methodology here is like noting that a kid who has hot-wired a car has failed to use his turn signal twice and has not yielded to pedestrians on four notable occasions — it's certainly true, but it misses the point.

This seems like a very clumsy attempt at a con by a newbie against the wrong mark.
posted by adipocere at 6:17 AM on September 6, 2009


For two days they tried to placate their research subjects

Um, not really. It's hard to placate when you're so totally clueless about the subject you're researching, and everything you say keeps making it worse, while the fundamental outline of the project you're working on is so full of holes it's ridiculous. Seriously, the closer you look at what they do the more absurd it gets.
posted by mediareport at 6:21 AM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


The writer in me sighs and says: 'And these are the people who get book deals.'
posted by koeselitz at 6:22 AM on September 6, 2009 [24 favorites]


Cognitive neuroscience is an incredibly bullshit-packed field. Almost as bad as its mother, Psychology.

I say this as a student in a Cog/Visual neuro program.
posted by fake at 6:28 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


"How is straight female interest in slash fiction like straight male interest in "shemale" models? And why in the world does this matter?"

I agree that it really doesn't matter, but fer pete's sake, the guy was all "It's unexpected that a straight female would want to read fanfic about two guys having sex, just like it's unexpected that a straight male would want to want to watch sex involving someone with both a penis and female breasts." Respectfully, if someone could explain why even positing that these two things are similar (not the same, not identical, but similar) is offensive beyond the pale, that would be cool, because from where I sit, they seem comparable to me, too.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:28 AM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've never really paid much attention to this fanfic stuff, and I'm kinda shocked by how broad it is. I mean, The Office? WTF?

Do they also have fanfic based on The Wire? Stringer Bell makes hot passionate love to McNulty type stuff?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:30 AM on September 6, 2009


It's unexpected that a straight female would want to read fanfic about two guys having sex, just like it's unexpected that a straight male would want to want to watch sex involving someone with both a penis and female breasts.

Why is either of those things "unexpected"? Serious question. Because one of the places you see the assumptions underlying this mess of a research project is right there, when you slowly start to unpack the "unexpectedness" of non-normative, strictly hetero desire.
posted by mediareport at 6:38 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, "non-strictly hetero" desire, I mean.
posted by mediareport at 6:40 AM on September 6, 2009


The great thing about fanfic is that someone out there has done it, for almost any conceivable value of "it." To prove a point to a friend, around 2002 I went looking for A-Team slashfic and I found it. A-Team. Not exactly a show which lent itself to deep character analysis of its "text," if you know what I'm getting at. However, someone felt like writing some coming out stories, and A-Team was the selected venue for this psychodrama. Was it picked out of a hat? Was it just a favorite childhood show of the writer, who was unfamiliar with nearly anything else? Did the writer see something, hallucinatory or actual, which was present that the rest of us did not? Was it selected for sheer perversity?

We will never know.
posted by adipocere at 6:40 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I want an apology for these guys being described as scientists.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2009


It's unexpected that a straight female would want to read fanfic about two guys having sex, just like it's unexpected that a straight male would want to want to watch sex involving someone with both a penis and female breasts.

Why is either of those things "unexpected"? Serious question. Because one of the places you see the assumptions underlying this mess of a research project is right there, when you slowly start to unpack the "unexpectedness" of non-normative, strictly hetero desire.


Are you saying that one can't expect anything based on knowing that someone is a straight female (or a straight male)? Or that one can't expect these two things listed above?
posted by 23skidoo at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2009


(not trying to argue my point, just trying to understand how other people think)
posted by 23skidoo at 6:53 AM on September 6, 2009


So, I started my PhD in biomedical neuroscience at BU 3 days ago.

*wince*

I promise you all: this is not what biomedical neuroscience research is, at BU or anywhere else. Not even remotely. It's not even science. And this is not what real scientists are like.
posted by Cygnet at 6:59 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


adipocere: around 2002 I went looking for A-Team slashfic

Gosh was it Hannibal & Mr T, or just one big orgy?
posted by sammyo at 7:13 AM on September 6, 2009


Are you saying that one can't expect anything based on knowing that someone is a straight female (or a straight male)?

But, you see, "straight female" and "straight male" are already such oversimplified terms that you're already on highly shaky ground. And that's even before you get to the part where you toss in your own "expectations" about what those categories should normally desire.

Seriously. Whatever they were trying to do, it was not even close to a scientific look at gender and desire.
posted by mediareport at 7:14 AM on September 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Do they also have fanfic based on The Wire? Stringer Bell makes hot passionate love to McNulty type stuff?

Clearly The Wire slashfic would involve Omar.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:24 AM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Is there slashfic that crosses show boundaries in sensible ways? Like, Aquaman / Troy McClure?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


23skidoo, I think there are a number of issues here. One is, that it's pretty well documented that human sexuality is pretty complicated, covering a very broad spectrum of behaviors, and so anyone purporting to be a scientist in the field ought to know better than to frame things as being categorized: hetero male, hetero female, other. The community in question, by its nature, is well aware of this fact.

Secondly, the approach was inept. No one, in any context, wants to hear from a "scientist" (scare quotes mandatory in this case, I think) telling them that science knows why they act the way they do, that it's because of the wiring in their brains, which the "scientists" understand. I'm a neuroscientist, and I would never say that (for starters, it's just not true).

Furthermore, this particular hypothesis purports to directly connect two apparently unrelated but marginalized sexual proclivities, the claim seemingly that they are different only because of the gender of those involved. This is tantamount to claiming that "we know you so well, we see connections in your behavior that you've totally missed". I could create an equivalent shit-storm here by claiming that Christians were just people whose daddy was mean to them. Such a statement is superficially neutral towards Christians and those who are abused, but the facile connection is insulting.

Finally, there's the epic dishonesty involved. These guys dissembled quite a bit, but in my mind the worst is having a book deal already set up, title included. This strongly implies: conclusion reached, now we just need to troll the 'net for data. The very opposite of science.
posted by Humanzee at 7:28 AM on September 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


so, if "women being hot for man on man action" is analogous to "men liking "shemale models"", what does that make "men being hot for woman on woman action" analogous to?

I CANNOT FOLLOW YOUR CRAZY PRECONCEPTIONS. YOU CONFUSE ME, STRANGE FAUX NEUROSCIENTISTS.

also, yes, there is fanfic (of all sorts, not just the smutty stuff) about *everything*, and there is slash fanfic about *everything*.

my girlfriend (who is enamored of harry potter fanfic) informs me that, apparently as a challenge, someone has written a slash fanfic featuring the pairing of dobby the house elf and the sorting hat.

rule 34, baby. whatever it is, it's out there.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:38 AM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


This doesn't really have anything to do with anything, but several years ago I somehow found some Dukes of Hazzard slashfiction where as a teenager Bo Duke (or was it Luke?) had an affair with Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.
posted by cropshy at 7:56 AM on September 6, 2009


This would be a good time to whip out Amy Bruckman's guide to online research ethics.

These issues have popped up on Ask MeFi before.

Also, having done some ethno with a very sensitive community in Second Life four years ago, I have to say that Linden Lab had developed a kickass set of policies and guidelines for researchers. We were required to sign and fax in a (quite reasonable) agreement before we were allowed to talk to a single person, under pain of lawsuit.
posted by xthlc at 8:02 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, my favorite quote:

From beginning to end, Ogi Ogas maintained that he wasn’t doing social research, he was just collecting data.

head->desk
posted by xthlc at 8:09 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


You bastards better start linking your weird fanfic examples because so help me god I'm not searching for them.
posted by graventy at 8:11 AM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Their proposed book title is hilarious: Rule 34: What Netporn Teaches Us About The Brain.
posted by Kattullus at 8:15 AM on September 6, 2009


This is why i work in molecular biology, and why I don't allow my tumour samples to have LiveJournal accounts. The last thing I want is flask #11 going all emo while flasks #5-9 critique my research methodology and the weird contaminent in flask #2 starts uploading photos of me to icanhazcheesburger. Science is hard enough already.
posted by metaBugs at 8:17 AM on September 6, 2009 [22 favorites]


Fascinating. And also LOL. Thanks for the post, chorltonmeateater.

There are a ton of links in there, but I was especially liked the "magnificent brush-off" response from one of the groups approached by the "scientists." Zing!

Also, here is the response from the Boston University Institutional Review Board. (It's among the links in the second link; I'm just highlighting it here.)

ProjectFail, for sure, but it is especially telling to me that the guys have now deleted their pages, and deleted all their comments in the related threads. Not only do they misunderstand their target group or subject, they don't seem to understand communities and the internet generally.

Most damning is the quote from Sai Gaddam's BU page (now removed) from the Roughtheory link (scroll to the bottom of the post):

My research interests have evolved over the years I have spent in the Ph.D program, but my derision for my subjects remains a constant. Well, not really, but this quote does make me smile.

The individual I chose as my principal subject for the experiments … was an old toothless man, with a thin face, whose features, without being absolutely ugly, approached ordinary triviality, and whose facial expression was in perfect agreement with his inoffensive character and his restricted intelligence.

The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression — Guillaume de Boulogne


Ugh.
posted by taz at 8:19 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh yes, because in a thread about clueless men without any fannish experience using the Internet to fetishize and Otherize primarily-female fanfic readers, and asking those women to do work for them to support the men's pre-existing conceptions, we need to dig up "weird fanfic examples" for you, who is unacquainted with the genre and the community, so you can mock it.

The willfully clueless are not all in academia...
posted by Asparagirl at 8:25 AM on September 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


Thanks, chorltonmeateater, this is a great story, very revealing and significant, and very well told by Alison Macleod.
Great post.
posted by bru at 8:39 AM on September 6, 2009


Two men with PhDs who are writing a book about pornography on the Internet, using a title scraped from 4chan, decide they're going to petition LiveJournal in order to learn scientific data about a specific internet fan-fiction culture, slapping a generic label easily confusing it for all fan-fiction as a whole (a frightening enough thought in itself), and ask a list of personal questions that would qualify for political vetting for national office in a pinch. Top it all off with the fact that one of the guys is a big name on game shows.

I'm only surprised that there was no mention of furries, putting on one's robe and wizard hat, or Randall Munroe having arranged the entire debacle as a live-action XKCD feature.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Internet. Scientists who make asses of themselves trying to figure out why women like certain kinds of erotica.

I'm going back to bed.
posted by Saydur at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


You bastards better start linking your weird fanfic examples because so help me god I'm not searching for them.

ToplessRobot.com finds the odder ones and publishes one every Friday. The latest is Merry/Pippin/Treebeard. I suspect those aren't typical, though.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2009


By the way, great post, great topic. Just way too ridiculous to pass up a round mocking of the entire situation. G'nite everybody!
posted by Saydur at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2009


If someone wants to start writing slashfic featuring Mefi posters, I'd definitely read that.

Is that fannish enough for you?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: If someone wants to start writing slashfic featuring Mefi posters, I'd definitely read that.

I believe you just managed to locate the last bit of untarnished soul I had and beat it to death with some sort of elaborate leather gadget. Oh internet, you have left me a shattered hulk of a human being.
posted by Kattullus at 8:52 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I suspect they are already getting a fair bit of mocking inside the social neuroscience community. I'm more familiar with more intrapersonal and more biological cognitive neuroscience research myself, so I haven't heard much about this in the broader neuroscience community.

This is the first I've heard of someone in my general field doing research on this kind of thing with the methodology sucking this badly.

I see that the researchers are also from a different culture than the people they're researching, so presumably, there are some intercultural problems .
posted by kldickson at 8:55 AM on September 6, 2009


I am deeply worried about exactly this kind of thing happening to me: one boneheaded move and you are on the internet wall of shame forever.* this shows once again that it doesn't even have to be in a place your professional peers frequent. it uses to be that mistakes were forgotten. that has become much more difficult, especially for those with unique name combinations.

these two researches are properfucked. as in "you might as well change your name" fucked. wasn't it pogue who said every kid should have the ability to change their names at age 21 and start over now that google caches everything?

*=I am thinking i.e. about a certain WWF ad DDB brazil did that turned out to be fake, offensive and has lead to the firing and shaming of the kids who dreamed that turd up. it's the one olbermann was ranting about a few days ago. thing is: we all have ideas that suck and youth used to be the chance to get them out of our systems.
posted by krautland at 9:13 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree that it really doesn't matter, but fer pete's sake, the guy was all "It's unexpected that a straight female would want to read fanfic about two guys having sex, just like it's unexpected that a straight male would want to want to watch sex involving someone with both a penis and female breasts." Respectfully, if someone could explain why even positing that these two things are similar (not the same, not identical, but similar) is offensive beyond the pale, that would be cool, because from where I sit, they seem comparable to me, too.

It's unexpected that someone would barf into a barf bag on an airplane while the plane was on the ground rather than when it is in the air. It's also unexpected that a soda can would explode if you didn't shake it.

Therefore, puking on an non-moving airplane is similar to a soda can exploding when it hasn't been shaking. So we can safely say that if someone pukes on a non-moving plane, it must somehow involve carbonation or caramel coloring, or possibly aluminum. We still need to study this more.

Unexpectedness does not imply causality. Hell, it doesn't even imply correlation, for pete's sake.

Also, not to spoil the surprise here, but people who like slash or people who like trans depictions do so simply because it's kinky and they happen to resonate with that kink. I couldn't tell you why certain things turn me on and certain things don't, and frankly I don't think neuroscience or cognitive psychology is going to do that great of a job explaining it.

It's offensive because:
  1. even when it's true people don't like being told why they think the way they do or like the things they like
  2. there's a certain amount of cultural superiority going on here: the "unexpected" nature of the preferences implies that somehow it's more appropriate as a focus of study than "mainstream preferences". Not to get into too many details, but I think if you look at it as a detached observer, a lot of what shows up in standard mainstream erotic content is just as weird from an outside perspective. I mean, you could make a pretty strong argument that the fact that male porn stars are generally expected to be remarkably well hung speaks volumes.
  3. It's conflating and oversimplifying some really nuanced and sensitive issues. There is a huge difference between male homosexuality and trans identity. Sure, they all fall under the "queer" rubric but that's about as far as it goes.
  4. following up on that point, I imagine that someone who is trans would be less interested in any implications of whatever this study was trying to prove, and interpret this statement as simply a rejection of their self-identity and experiences. Indeed a number of trans people appear to be really upset by these guys.
  5. At the root of it, these researchers are saying, "Isn't this all so weird and entertaining?" and the community is responding, "No. This is who we are."
posted by Deathalicious at 9:44 AM on September 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


We've talked about fanfic before on the blue. If you really want information about it you can run a search. I can't remember super clearly, but Matt posted something that I and a couple of other members who are fannish dropped a lot of info type links about the subject. IIRC, headspace was the other linker.

Basically the fanfic subculture of any fandom is a women driven space where women of all ages explore their sexuality and the dynamics of relationships in the safety of community and sometimes anonymity. Some of it is eye-bleedingly bad, and some of it is good enough that the authors go onto write professionally. Sometimes professionals are the ones writing the fic.

It attracts a lot of scorn and academic interest because it's weird, it's sexy, it's community building, and it's transgressive. But mostly because the bulk of it is generated by women and some people are still subconsciously shocked that while we have vaginas, we also have brains and desires and enjoy having and using both to our own advantage.
posted by FunkyHelix at 9:52 AM on September 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


I also find it weird that this entire incident occurred on livejournal and the OP chose not to link to any of the link roundups about it hosted on livejournal nor any of the commentary or essays generated there.

At least there should have been a link to shaggirl, who stood at the nucleus for a time as the liaison between fandom and the scientists exploiting it.
posted by FunkyHelix at 9:55 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


They had no ethical issues, because they had no real institutional affiliation.

I agree that there are worse things that can be done in the name of science, but just because someone does research while unaffiliated from an institution doesn't mean that they are off the hook from any ethical issues. That would be like saying that a medical doctor who does surgical procedures in the back of his van doesn't need to worry about ethical issues because he's not affiliated with a hospital. Ethical concerns, such as how to do an explicit sexual survey online without getting responses from minors, are valid regardless of who is doing the research and in what circumstances.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:59 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


these two researches are properfucked. as in "you might as well change your name" fucked.

No, they're not. Almost all of this happened in the confines of LiveJournal and they can always just say, "Well, it was a learning experience. From the reactions I've encountered, I've now learned to..." It's not like they were convicted of some crime.

Data point: Holden Karnofsky is still a program officer at GiveWell. In the past year he's done interviews for PRI and still gets the occasional "poster boy" treatment. He lied, acted contrite, appears to have changed his behavior, and everyone has pretty much moved on. He'll be just fine.

And, to be fair, these researchers basically lied about their credentials. Imagine if they had done somewhat equivalent research pre-Internet. They'd gone to parents, say, presented themselves as researchers affiliated with BU, and then done questionaires on their children. What exactly do you think the reaction would be if and when it was discovered that they had been lying about their credentials and were putting their research into a pop-culture book?
posted by Deathalicious at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Could these two have been any more clueless in their attempts at "data-gathering"? This is bumbling and offensive on multiple levels, starting with what can be inferred of their view of what constitutes science, continuing through their views of women, transsexed individuals, fanfic writers, anyone who doesn't fit their narrow view of heterosexuality, LJ members, and, ultimately, their anticipated readers. They clearly hold all of them in contempt, and are convinced of their own superiority.

They might as well have asserted that Trekkies and child molesters are analogous because both groups make extensive use of online social networking opportunities. Two groups having a feature in common does not imply overall similarity, much less a common causality, and their "unexpected" as a feature is worthless on its face.
posted by notashroom at 10:11 AM on September 6, 2009


On the subject of the "weird and entertaining" vs. "who we are" debate, I long ago decided that we would all be better off coming to terms with the fact that when it comes to all things erotic, who we are is pretty much weird and entertaining. Pretending you are normal is a huge piece of baggage that you really don't need to carry, and is a huge burden to live with just for the small consolation of not being mocked.

It very well could be that I am enough of an extreme perv that everyone who I have known well enough to find out was a self selecting group of fellow pervs. But I am pretty sure I would have hooked up with a non weirdo at least once by now. So my theory, as flawed as it may be, is that a large number of sexual relationships consist of a pair of people each trying to hide from the other what a perv they are, out of a (possibly justified) fear of judgment. A tragedy on a massive scale, I weep for the non-pervs.
posted by idiopath at 10:14 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


the creatives started creating cat macros

If you're creating a cat macro, you're not very creative.
posted by delmoi at 10:22 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


graventy: "You bastards better start linking your weird fanfic examples because so help me god I'm not searching for them."

You had to ask.

Smurfing to a Different Beat - "does vanity's 'coming out of the closet' bode well with the other smurfs? Not if Hefty has anything to say about it."

Fall of the Colossus - "Wander finds himself embroiled in a tragiromcom with the sixteenth colossus. Will all of his dreams come true in this epic space saga set in a Japanese high school?"

Healing HAN-S - The crazy massage-bot from WALL-E comes to terms with what he is.

Philadelphia High: Class of 1776 - "John Adams is the same obnoxious and disliked character we all know and love... only now, he and his fellow congressmen are high school students. Based on the movie/musical 1776. Quick note to avoid any confusion- This is set in modern times, not 1776."

Twilight-Brady Bunch crossover - "Note: The continuity follows that of the Brady Bunch Movie, not the TV show."

Almost 20,000 wrestling stories

24 Solitaire stories
88 Minesweeper stories
111 Pong stories (7 explicit Pong stories) (1 Pong-Twilight crossover story)
posted by Rhaomi at 10:23 AM on September 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


If anyone's curious to see how it unfolded on LJ, here is a post shaggirl made in a fanfiction community she moderates promoting the survey; here is a post with links to some of her correspondence with the researchers surveyors, including their first email to her; and here is a post apologising for having participated. There's lots of interesting reactions from members of fandom in the comments.
posted by bewilderbeast at 10:30 AM on September 6, 2009


Y'know I'm not a neuroscientist. And I'm quite willing to believe that like any discipline, many things which are instantly clear to an expert may be entirely opaque to me.

But I'm really just left scratching my head and wondering what on earth they thought that they could prove or demonstrate with an instrument as crude as this survey. What do they possibly hope to turn up beyond some surface correlations? It's a serious question, I'm not just being rhetorical here. Does anyone understand just what how they thought this was going to show anything much? I could understand it (though not support it, particularly) if it was just being tossed out as a preliminary driftnet to try and see what they found interesting, but if they have a book deal presumably they're past that stage, so I don't get what they're even trying to do, unless it's utterly a sham.

On the other hand, the ground that eruthros expicitly stakes out in the "brushoff" article that "We insiders are not interested in educating you outsiders. A project like this SHOULD NOT BE WRITTEN BY OUTSIDERS AT ALL, and we would encourage you to seriously reconsider exactly what right you think you have to tell the story of other people" would make me almost as uncomfortable as the survey, if it wasn't obvious that she was already getting heated at that point.
posted by tyllwin at 10:30 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm beginning to think the cornucopian supply of online stupid '09 has brought in is just some secret corporation's attempt to harness the energy behind mass facepalming as the next alternative energy source.
posted by Iosephus at 10:34 AM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I also find it weird that this entire incident occurred on livejournal and the OP chose not to link to any of the link roundups about it hosted on livejournal nor any of the commentary or essays generated there.

That's a weird complaint. Both of this post's summary roundups link tons of livejournal commentaries, including two good science takedowns. And seriously, given shaggirl's early, um, obtuseness (for which she's since apologized) and evolving positions, linking two sharp summaries (which just happen to be non-LJ) was probably a much way to organize this messy situation for us. But if you have LJ pages that are better roundups, feel free to post them.
posted by mediareport at 10:44 AM on September 6, 2009


Two men with PhDs who are writing a book about pornography on the Internet, using a title scraped from 4chan

the term "Rule 34" was coined by XKCD.

I am deeply worried about exactly this kind of thing happening to me: one boneheaded move and you are on the internet wall of shame forever.* this shows once again that it doesn't even have to be in a place your professional peers frequent.

Oh please. Everyone gets their 15 minutes of imfamy. Do you really think the wider research world is really going to care about the rage stirred up in the fanfic community? Their great crime was 1) A poorly designed research program for 2) A cheesy pop-sci book. They've angered a subculture, but it's not exactly a well respected in the outside world. In fact, Bord of Education chairwoman in S.C. had to resign her job just because she was thought to have written some totally run of the mill erotica. Granted, this woman was a hard-core fundamentalist and a champion of abstinence only education.

But the point is, a lot of people are not going to take the criticisms very seriously. It's not like what he did invalidated his PhD or the $500,000 he won on who wants to be a millionaire.
posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on September 6, 2009


a much way to organize this messy situation for us

a much better way to...
posted by mediareport at 10:57 AM on September 6, 2009


Do you really think the wider research world is really going to care about the rage stirred up in the fanfic community?

I imagine there is a lot of gossip going around BU and those connected to it...

Doesn't seem like these guys really want to be a part of the institutional research community, anyway.
posted by kathrineg at 11:04 AM on September 6, 2009


For those saying that this won't reverberate outside of fandom/the interenet

"I was forwarded a link to this mess because I teach social research methods - I'm not part of fandom, and so don't have any self-defensive axe to grind. However, this situation is such a dramatic example of bad research design that it was forwarded to me as an example of poor method. And I have to agree with the person who forwarded the link: what a trainwreck."

It is my fondest hope that they are used as an example of what NOT to do in countless research methods classes.
posted by kathrineg at 11:07 AM on September 6, 2009


FunkyHelix: "I also find it weird that this entire incident occurred on livejournal and the OP chose not to link to any of the link roundups about it hosted on livejournal nor any of the commentary or essays generated there."

These two articles seemed to sum up the whole thing nicely, and they include lots of relevant links to LiveJournal and elsewhere. It seemed pointless for me to try and sum up the whole incident again, especially as I would have probably have done a worse job of it than the two linked blog posts.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 11:14 AM on September 6, 2009


Or, what mediareport said.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 11:17 AM on September 6, 2009


While it's easy to go "Oh, look, it's just fandom", the big issue is that these guys:

a) Aren't following any procedures for dealing with human research
b) Aren't screening for minors
c) Were claiming to have university backing without actually having it
d) Have a profit motive

What makes it worse is that this "data" will probably be used to push the usual bad science crap that we've seen in the past - made up reasons to "prove" the status quo assumptions are A-OK. ("Hey, look, these kids have lower test scores, which has nothing to do with the schools they're in, social treatment they receive or social-economic status. Obviously it's skin color! SCIENCE PROVED, BACK OF BUS YOU GO.")
posted by yeloson at 11:29 AM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Note: The continuity follows that of the Brady Bunch Movie, not the TV show."

This probably speaks volumes about me, but this is perhaps my favorite thing ever and makes this whole ridiculousness feel worth it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:29 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Two words:

Skinnerotica
posted by cardamine at 11:42 AM on September 6, 2009


I am actually kind of outraged that this made MeFi before it made fandom_wank.
Wanks involving "unfunny" issues (sexism, racism, etc) are generally frowned upon in FW these days. That's why this whole fiasco was posted at unfunnybusiness.
posted by kmz at 11:43 AM on September 6, 2009


I agree that it really doesn't matter, but fer pete's sake, the guy was all "It's unexpected that a straight female would want to read fanfic about two guys having sex, just like it's unexpected that a straight male would want to want to watch sex involving someone with both a penis and female breasts." Respectfully, if someone could explain why even positing that these two things are similar (not the same, not identical, but similar) is offensive beyond the pale, that would be cool, because from where I sit, they seem comparable to me, too.

Who exactly do you think 99% of lesbian porn is aimed at?
posted by kmz at 11:49 AM on September 6, 2009


If someone wants to start writing slashfic featuring Mefi posters, I'd definitely read that.

MeFi burst into the room, his brow deeply furrowed, eyes swimming in unfallen tears, mind consumed by desperation. He collapsed to the floor, pressing his palms to the sides of his head. Lightheaded with fury and exhaustion, he forced itself into slow, deep breaths.

A green figure rose from the desk opposite the door. He rushed across the room. "There, there," he said, placing an arm around Filter's broad shoulder.

"I can't take it anymore," MeFi whispered between exasperated breaths. "He's just such a fucking psycho." His gaze rose from the floor, bringing his eyes to meet those of his comforter. He paused, entranced. There was something in his friend's eyes -- an honest, imploring concern, begging to "Ask me. Ask me for anything." Filter gulped, shifting his glance to the far wall. "Every day with him, it's always 'Hey, let's meet up!' or 'Why don't we have pictures, anymore?' or 'Remember that thing I was talking about last week? Well, here's what's happening now.'" Beginning to relax, he seated himself on the floor, resting his back against the wall. "And don't even get me started on his constant complaints."

AskMe sat down opposite MeFi, his hand drifting from MeFi's shoulder down his bicep, across the forearm, finally to grasp MeFi's hand in his own. He gave a light squeeze. "You shouldn't put up with him, anymore. He doesn't understand you." He placed an open palm on MeFi's chest. "You've got so much more inside."

Feeling the warmth of AskMe's palm, MeFi closed his eyes, and sighed. "You're right. You're right."

"We can't keep letting him do this to us." AskMe leaned in, planting a gentle kiss on MeFi's forehead.

Reaching out his arm, MeFi grasped AskMe's shoulder. "This isn't right, AskMe. He's too much a part of me," he whispered, but his quivering lips and weakening grasp said otherwise. His pulse raced as his lips met AskMe's. A limp hand dropped to the floor. He sighed again. His professional white attire felt too right, too constricting, just as MeTa suffocated his thoughts and emotions. As he started to unbutton his shirt, baring the deep blue form within, a feeling of hope began to grow in his mind. There wouldn't be any JRun errors this time. This was a Brand New Day.


(I didn't think it's be appropriate to write about actual posters.)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2009 [46 favorites]


(Also, not really slashfic. Yet.)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:04 PM on September 6, 2009


A green figure rose from the desk opposite the door

For a second there I thought you were slashing MeFi with LGF...
posted by fatehunter at 12:13 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know what would really baffle them?

GIANT-SQUID-ON-HOGWARTS-BUILDING
FANFICTION.

Reason that, science!
posted by mmmleaf at 12:56 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and as a teaser:

“This is incredible,” Hogwarts breathed.

“This isn’t even the best part.” He held up his two longest tentacles. “These can reach farther than a room; they can go into your hallways.”

“I want them in me.”

“Are you sure? They’re quite large.”
posted by mmmleaf at 12:56 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I will say, in looking through this, that I really miss being able to post images to metafilter.
posted by filmgeek at 1:04 PM on September 6, 2009


the term "Rule 34" was coined by XKCD.

This is incorrect [NSFW].
posted by mayhap at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Data point: Holden Karnofsky is still a program officer at GiveWell. In the past year he's done interviews for PRI and still gets the occasional "poster boy" treatment. He lied, acted contrite, appears to have changed his behavior, and everyone has pretty much moved on. He'll be just fine.

I think the difference is that Holden Karnofsky preys on the ill-informed who don't use google themselves. his wellbeing depends on people who can reasonably be assumed to not bother looking up his name and finding his past mistakes. the same is not true for researchers.
posted by krautland at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2009


“This isn’t even the best part.” He held up his two longest tentacles. “These can reach farther than a room; they can go into your hallways.”

Oh?

Well, I suppose it's time for me to be wrapped in cling film, again.
posted by loquacious at 1:38 PM on September 6, 2009


Haha! I just saw this:

NOBODY EXPECTS THE FANNISH INQUISITION! *
posted by taz at 1:55 PM on September 6, 2009


Just a quick theory, and one the article visits briefly: trolling research in neuroscience. You could claim that responses to trolling are an interesting neuroscience subject, and one you could infer from data mining a community. Take something likely to offend the target, like say "slash fiction fans enjoy rape" and examine the flow of offense through a community, the language used in response, and the content within. I wonder if such a thing would pass an ethics board review.

I wonder what the far right-wing version will imply. Closet gays?
posted by pwnguin at 1:58 PM on September 6, 2009


If it exists, there is porn steamy fan fiction of it.

And no, I'm not sharing my collection of steamy MeFi fanfic with any of you...
posted by Avelwood at 2:29 PM on September 6, 2009


As to whether or not these two will suffer any professional repercussions:

Perhaps not. It depends on their future career path. I think it's pretty unlikely that they will ever get a first- or second-tier academic job, thanks their newfound Google fame. Human-subjects liability issues aside, I think that overall their behavior demonstrates a cavalier attitude towards validity of results that would be a huge red flag for a search committee.
posted by xthlc at 2:50 PM on September 6, 2009


MeFi ... his brow deeply furrowed, eyes swimming in unfallen tears

AskMe and MeFi at Tanagra?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:15 PM on September 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


Here's hoping it's actually a book on the neuroscience of trolling. Laughing at trolls has needed to become highbrow for some time.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:16 PM on September 6, 2009


MeTa, his arms open.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:35 PM on September 6, 2009


MeFi, his pants dropped, his schlong upraised.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:25 PM on September 6, 2009


MeTa, when the walls fell.
posted by whitearrow at 6:29 PM on September 6, 2009


All these posts about terrible fanfic and no link to My Immortal?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:31 PM on September 6, 2009


MeTa and AskMe, on the blue ocean.
posted by Kattullus at 6:32 PM on September 6, 2009


"Otherize".

I hate jargon.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:21 PM on September 6, 2009


If someone wants to start writing slashfic featuring Mefi posters, I'd definitely read that.

How many pages of angry fucking are you ready for?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:06 AM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


As far as reputations go, they've been namechecked twice on the Neuroanthropology blog, both times with withering critiques of their methodology. That can't be good for your ongoing career.
posted by JonquilS at 8:59 AM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Otherize".

I hate jargon.


Sometimes the only thing you can do when describing a new concept is make a new word.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:57 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes. Words like alienate, dated to as far back as 1509 in my dictionary.
posted by pwnguin at 2:21 PM on September 7, 2009


we don't need your fancy schmancy postdiluvean stuckup elitist 1509 words
posted by kathrineg at 2:54 PM on September 7, 2009


Alienate and Otherize aren't the same thing. They mean similar things, but there's shades of meaning between them.

To Alienate is to separate someone- to create distance between the person and someone else, be it family, friends, coworkers, or whatever.

Otherize is part of the jargon surrounding the concept of Othering, which deals with tribalism and dehumanization. To Otherize someone isn't just to alienate them, it's to reduce them to essentially subhuman status.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:34 PM on September 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Wow, JonquilS' two links to the Neuroanthropology blog's critiques are marvelous - thoughtful and withering examinations of the scientific issues involved. The 2nd one is particularly good and includes a gentler but still sharp look at some of the sloppier thinking among the survey's understandably outraged critics.
posted by mediareport at 9:11 PM on September 7, 2009


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