Tour of Archive of Our Own, JC for MALS 72200

The site I chose is Archive of Our Own (AO3) (, which is a branch of the non-profit Organization of Transformative Works (OTW) ( This site is an archive for pieces of transformative works created by fans; in short, it’s a collection of fanfics. Designed by and created for fans, it’s a non-corporate space for people to share their interest in a chosen piece of media. The user-generated content is “wrangled” by volunteers who connect character, rating, and subject tags, which results in a robust, organized structure and search function.


I chose this site because of its dedication to feminist core values. Its name was chosen specifically in homage to Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”: “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” A response to corporate entities infringing on fans’ (primarily authors of fanfic, who tend to be women) space online, AO3 was imagined and then developed to support an environment of communication, moderation, user power, sharing, and a separation of creativity from commodification.

Yeon Ju Oh’s “Is Your Space Safe? Cyberfeminist Movement for Space Online at Unnie” addresses a variety of salient points, but this part on page 249 really spoke to me: “From the view upon which the Western vision of invasion is focused, the multiplicities of individual human interactions online are ignored. Technological revolution at the macro-level, in complicity with corporate power, tends to reproduce the influence that Western invaders exercised on the new continent. The vision of telecommunication companies that seek to impose a tiered service model exemplifies the critical scholars’ concern that cyberspace may become a gold mine that resembles the economic structure offline and creates artificial scarcity.”

Cyberspace as a “gold mine” for companies – that’s exactly what happened, in my mind. And there’s a related – but opposite – part to that: companies destroy what isn’t profitable. To protect their IPs, Disney, Fox, George Lucas, shut down fans’ fanworks. Fanworks exist in strange place, both supporting the original media but also growing completely outside of it. I can be interested in an IP and even spend money on it without that IP owner being involved.

I’m fascinated by fanworks (fanfic in particular) and the history of them. In addition to be a library of fans and their works, the AO3 also functions as repository for fandom history and Internet history in general. It was founded as web 1.0 was being replaced with web 2.0. The tagging system results in a treasure trove of data that can easily be gathered and sorted.

RIght now I’m still figuring out what to do with AO3 and this assignment. I hope to delve deeper into AO3 and why it works, but that may change as I spend more time on the site.

Here’s a great article about AO3/OTW:

The front page for new visitors. The site gives visitors opportunities to learn about sharing or avoiding sharing. Consent’s a huge part of the site in general.

The front page after a visitor agrees to AO3’s terms. Pretty simple, with a minimal amount of content that is capable of changing (compared to Twitter, Facebook, etc).

Fanworks, with tags, warning icons, rating icons, and relationship icons.

Content tags that basically serve as subject headings. These are user created and then “wrangled” by volunteers.