Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Revised Entry #2: Polished Analysis

In my study of the IMDB Once Upon A Time discussion board, my area of focus has been people's emotional behaviors, specifically, what gets an emotional rise out of discussion board members and how they respond towards each other. As I collected data, I attempted to observe and analyze the emotional behaviors regarding how members interact as a community. This was interesting to do because people didn't necessarily behave the way I expected them to. I had previously visited the discussion board as a fan; returning as an ethnographer made me take more away from the actions of the other fans. With Once Upon A Time starting its 3rd season just as I started my project, the amount of material to comb through was endless. I narrowed my viewpoint to posts that pulled in other members of the community, as opposed to stand alone posts that received no comments.

One instance that illustrates how different members of the board can join together through mutual feelings regarding their community and what transpires there was a post that introduced the fan-invented "Season 3 Drinking Game". At the time of the posting, the first few episodes of Once Upon A Time Season 3 had recently aired, generating multiple posts from disappointed, complaining fans. Then came a new post: "Drink Up, me Hearties! The Season 3 Drinking Game".  The original poster, "ranguvar", doesn't provide any information as to her reasons behind coming up with this activity, she just starts listing off suggestions. Ranguvar provides a list of topics  that members had frequently complained about, with instructions regarding how many shots of alcohol should be taken for each one. I noticed that as the amount of alcohol ordered to be consumed increased, the topics became ones that were less frequently mentioned. For example: "Take one shot: Whenever someone makes a post about how Once isn't ethnically diverse" (at the time of the posting, there had been multiple discussions regarding that issue) whereas "Finish the bottle: When someone complains about the special effects" was regarding a topic that rarely earned posts. I inferred from this this she expects that people might take up her drinking game, and hence designed the game to avoid potential alcohol poisoning. Ranguvar's post is simple instructions, lacking any personal commentary from her, so her reasons for making this posts are open for interpretation. I concluded, however, that this was all fun and games for her. In the title alone, she addresses the community members as "Me Hearties", a quote from the show, complete with an exclamation point. Also, she concludes her post by inviting others to add more. This friendly offer and jovial introduction sets a tone for her post implying that she is not fed up with the community and all the complaining they'd been doing but rather accepts the complaining that takes place and wants to turn it into something fun. It is clear that ranguvar still considerers herself a devoted member of the community by her signature line: "Harlot of the Leather Pants Mrs. Rumplestilskin :)". Nearly all discussion board members have a signature line, but few use one that relates to the show. The bold print and smiley face emoticon stand out from the rest of her post in that they display clear signs of emotion (pleasure, appreciation for the show) and give her an identity, as a loving fan. I think it was that, her sustained love of Once Upon A Time, that allowed her to take something negative like a number of whiny posts and spin it into just another fun thing related to the show.

Ranguvar's post earned multiple comments that provided a number of emotions. Some applauded her, others continued to complain; the comment that stood out from the others was posted by "alismigyette". Unlike ranguvar, alismigyette's comment has no shortage of an emotional response. Her comment contextualizes excitement.  Not only does she use extra punctuation marks and emoticons, alismigyette thows her own opinions into the mix by providing a detailed list of more suggestions for the drinking game. Her excitement about the game is evident in her first sentence: "aww, yes!!! I so love this!!!!!!!! Hey who's Michael James?? Sorry, but that flew over my head!!!" Each fragment of that introductory sentence has a great deal more punctuation marks than necessary; "I so love this!!!!!!!" takes the lead with a grand total of seven exclamation points. Alismigyette then proceeds to list off suggestions for when to take a shot, expanding the game to include actual moments on the show instead of soley discussion board posts. Her instructions were also less formal, more playful than ranguvar's, and also are colored by her own opinions about the subject matter.  One such instruction is: "four shots when Emma makes that crazy face she always makes!!! lol :) too funny". That sentence alone includes three exclamation points, informal grammar (lol), an emoticon, and a personal comment (too funny).  Her level of detail displays her commitment to the activity and enthusiasm about all of it. Personal opinions continue to pop up in her comment, providing a level of color that illustrates her comfort and content with the game, e.g.: "Ok, Take three shots when someone is caught 'trolling'... idk if that was mentioned"; "Four shots when the postings are plain stupid and ridiculous; When someone posts on how much they 'hate' poor Henry". She wraps up stating "that's all I can think of.." although she had provided more suggestions than ranguvar.  And just as ranguvar does, alismigyette identifies herself as an avid member of the community, with her signature line: "*Officially Rumple's keeper of the dagger!! :)" Once again she displays her excitement with more exclamation points than necessary and a smiley face emoticon. I believe that alismigyette's excitement starts to boil over when she engages in these discussion board games, and using excess punctuation and emoticons are her way of venting that.

I began my research by quietly lingering in the shadows of the discussion board watching other members interact. After doing this for some time, I decided to take a step in and see how members would react to contributions that I made myself. Since I was studying emotion, my goal was to provoke an emotional reaction. I wanted to study online "catfights", for lack of a better description, so I  made a post myself, asking members whether they preferred the character of Captain Hook or Rumplestilskin. Both characters were immensely popular, as proven by the large number of posts that each of them had previously gained; also I had already observed members making very impassioned posts regarding their favorite characters. I asked straight out in my post "Rumple or Hook?... Any reason why?", then sat back to watch the results unfold. This experiment of mine did not have the desired effect however. All those who responded were in favor of the same character, Rumplestilskin, so the comment section was catfight-free. I was provided though with some good data though, which I will discuss below, displaying how different discussion board members can form a thriving community over a shared affinity. Of the four groups of fans that I've observed in my study of the discussion board (the lusty fans, the trolls, the average folk, and the informants), the first three of those groups made their presence known in the comment section. I had suspected before I made this post that the majority of responses I would receive would be lust-infused, and I was correct about that part. The lusty fans rose beautifully to the occasion: "IMO, RUMPLE TAKES THE CAKE... HELL, THE WHOLE BAKERY!!!!!!! ;)"(That comment came from alismigyette, back again and as excited as ever. This time, extra exclamation point and one emoticon were not enough; alismigyette illustrated her excitement and enthusiasm with caps lock as well. The sentence displayed is only one bit of a long comment, indeed, the longest one I received, complete with five beaming emoticons and five instances where over half a dozen extra punctuation marks were used); "He has that commanding presence. *Gosh* I'm fangirling allover him"; (The stars around the word gosh indicate that the word is emphasized; this member displayed her appreciation for Rumplestilskin with those symbols, as well as stating outright that she was "fangirling" over him.) "And he does the leather thing better than Hook ^_~" (The member here gives a reason for why she likes Rumple, he wears leather, with a winky face to let us know that's a good thing in her book) . The average folk group, the ones who (for the most part) just make small posts/comments, usually to ask questions or give a brief opinion, also weighed in, keeping things short and to the point: "Rumple/Gold without question"; "Rumple, because he's far more complex than Hook" (This comment was made by ranguvar, who was once again just sticking with the basic information, with one exception: she updated her signature line; the smiley face emoticon now had hearts floating around it. I can infer that despite her being less vocal about her appreciation for the show than alismigyette, she still wants to show it, just in a subtler way.) Even a troll reared its head for this discussion: "Rumple. Because Hook sucks. All I see is a misogynist dick when I see Hook". (To be fair, that last post wasn't attacking anyone else, so labeling the poster as a troll might be a bit reaching, but his/her tone left the door open for a fight, had anyone dared to disagree with that comment.) What I have gleaned from observing and analyzing this data is that a number of very different people come to the Once Upon A Time discussion board, with different ways of expressing themselves, and yet they can all co-exist in harmony due to their mutual appreciation for a TV show.

Throughout my research I observed people's different responses to emotional stimuli and how different people were able to interact together. In an online community like this discussion board, emotion is a crucial part of sustaining the site. It is because of people's emotions regarding the show that they visit the board in this first place, it is because of emotions that they take the step of making posts and commenting on them. Without members have feelings about what they see on the show, and what they read on the discussion board, there would be no cause for interaction on the board at all.

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