It will most likely be your timeline; with its short textual messages reaching desperately towards the bottom of the screen.
Within this, a reply is relatively easy to spot, and its context easily understood by expanding the conversation. From time to time, however, one might see a reply that is not so average. A tweet, perhaps initially seeming a non sequitur and without the characteristic mention at the beginning, that is nevertheless a reply.
These fascinate me for a number of reasons. One of which is that they offer a glimpse of another’s timeline. A peek into another’s world.
Within the twittersphere, there is a vast number of accounts that one might decide to follow. With those eventually followed chosen according to one’s interests and connections, both online and in the real world. This may lead one to contemplate as to just how many users follow precisely the same people. When taking into consideration the sheer number of Twitter accounts, and the combination of interests and connections any one user might hold, this number might be argued practically insignificant.
For Twitter, one’s timeline is effectively the landscape beyond the kitchen window. From up in the gods, this landscape is an accumulation of all its members shouting into the abyss. Yet from behind each window, a different vista beyond may be found.
That which is apparently true for the whole, is similarly true for a specific subset of Twitter. Those accounts that focus on Japanese modern visual culture, and more specifically anime and manga, also appear to exhibit this behaviour. Certainly, the differences found between these accounts will be subtler than those between two accounts whose users’ interests are wildly different. Indeed, the level of ‘closeness’ amongst members of the anitwittersphere does help to foster much looser forms of communication between said members, such that allusions, and indirect replies begin to occur. Yet, as there are groups within the anitwittersphere itself, differences will nevertheless arise.
With an eclectic collection of forums, IRC channels, blogs and news sites, alongside those members found on Twitter, we find a great deal of reading material available for any one member of the anisphere. So much that any one member would find it difficult, perhaps impossible, to follow everything. As when one stands in the hallowed halls of Twitter, one must choose one’s timeline. It therefore leads one to question whether, as members of the anisphere, do we follow the same blogs, and inhabit the same areas? Again, we find similarities to Twitter in that the blogs followed, the mediums used, and the interests held, tend to be unique to each member.
It is from these observations that I derive the following suggestion: that whilst the anisphere might be objectively considered as the sum of its parts, it is rarely perceived that way. Rather, that the anisphere is a collection of fragments; how its member parts are perceived by each of its participants.
For the sake of simplicity and space, let us reduce this to the idea that each member has his own anisphere. To further explore this, let us look at two ideas; that of the definition of communities and echelons within the sphere, alongside how these affect members’ personal anisphere.
Perhaps the most obvious division in the community is that of membership itself. Those that know of the existence of the anisphere, and are not a part of it, are likely to hold a relatively simplistic view of the sphere. Irrespective of whether it positive, neutral, or decidedly less flattering, such an understanding is expected for any sphere of interest whether on- or offline. Whilst relatively simplistic, such a viewpoint may still hold influence over the sphere itself, and so should not be dismissed outright. Indeed, some spheres of interest find themselves overly concerned with how they are perceived by the common man; the game industry is arguably one such example.
Looking inwards, at the anisphere itself, one finds a diverse range of people. From different ages, backgrounds, and interests, we find multiple groups and acquaintances arise.
Different age groups might congregate in different areas, make use of different means of communication, and have different interests and expectations from the sphere. Indeed, anime and manga are often categorised by the different demographics they target; with younger gentlemen finding themselves following the exploits of bold heroes, and young ladies enraptured by romantic escapades that they, themselves, might someday hope to experience. Age holds curious sway over minds and tastes, and only grows in influence as the weight of one’s experiences swell.
Moving onwards. Background is likely to affect the interests one holds, as well as the degree to which one finds oneself mired in the sphere. The expectations of one’s standing, and the views said standing and society holds both colour one’s views from an early age. Of course, with growth, one will make and travel one’s own path. Yet, one cannot agree that the culture, and the echelon, into which one is born holds absolutely no influence over said decisions and attitude.
Whereas interests, or perhaps in this case genres, are the most obvious in terms of where divisions might be drawn, a single member is unlikely to like, and religiously follow, but one genre alone. It might be said, therefore, that classification of the anisphere’s members has always been a most tricky prospect, akin perhaps, to counting the shifting sands of the Sahara.
Recently, the good gentlemen at Super Fanicom BS-X have offered an ‘analysis of fan affinities,’ suggesting a means of classifying members of the anisphere objectively through the openness and affinity towards anime said member feels. An interesting suggestion certainly, and one that appears to have some merit. It is perhaps also interesting to ponder whether these affinities would correspond with that of the outlook, or the anisphere, that each member holds.
Messrs Rainbowsphere and Pontifus note that a member of the anisphere is not only unlikely to be one of the extremes but also that there is a certain degree of fluidity in where a member is placed on their graph at any one time. The member is unlikely to remain fixed in a single position. This is perhaps best attributed to one’s ever shifting mood, the way in which one approaches a series, and the number of genres one enjoys. Leading to the possibility that the ansiphere said member constructs is also relatively fluid.
Yet, one finds oneself reluctant to simply assume a direct mapping between a single member’s anisphere, and his affinity with anime itself. Whilst affinity might suggest a certain viewpoint, this does not necessarily overlap with a perspective of the anisphere as a whole. Indeed, there is a temptation to suggest that the way in which one sees the anisphere is more stable than one’s affinity to anime itself.
More so when one takes into consideration those that choose to follow currently airing anime. Depending on the season one finds oneself in, and how that season compares to those in years past, expectations, affinity, and openness are all appropriately affected. To take an example of this, one might find that the autumn season bears the burden of a greater weight of expectation than that of summer’s offering.
Furthermore, one might also look to the ways in which one changes one’s view on certain anime depending on the time of viewing and, again, one’s mood, as an illustration as to the fickleness of this viewpoint. Conversely, it can be noted that one’s understanding of the anisphere is built over a longer period of time, making it less fickle, and arguably, the sum of all these affinities and experiences.
Let us briefly return to the idea of genre; tying into the ideas expressed by the aforementioned fellows, we find that people who hold similar interests are more likely to congregate, and we might also say that one’s affinity for the genre in question might further bring such people together. Those, for instance, with a greater affinity for a particular genre will likely know more people who have a similar interest in said genre, than is otherwise expected. Furthermore, that corner of the sphere will likely represent a greater proportion of what makes his personal anisphere.
Yet the opposite might occur with regard to one’s openness to new genres; where one is more open, genre will likely have a diminished effect on one’s anisphere. Conversely, the more closed one is to new anime, and different genres, the more likely it is that it will hold greater weight.
The above is chiefly vertical in execution, generally affecting one’s anisphere regardless of the degree, and type, of involvement with the sphere. The horizontal aspects, such as whether one is a lurker, commenter, or blogger, might also be considered. Whilst these three echelons could be argued inaccurate across the entire anisphere, more so with the advent of newer social networking sites such as Twitter, they are nevertheless useful when one is required to broadly sort members into neat little boxes.
Similar to the degree of openness above, one might find that one’s location in the strata helps to define one’s anisphere. The blogger is more involved, and thus a greater degree of complexity is lent to his sphere. The lurker, being the most fleeting and ephemeral, is likely to have a shallower anisphere than his more involved peers.
Related to this are the tools one uses to interact with the sphere, for if the degree of interaction holds influence, then so too must the way this interaction is shaped. This might be in the form of one hundred and forty characters. Alternatively it might be in the form of posts on a forum, or messages in an IRC channel, with their formal hierarchies and moderation both. Whether these are alone, or are a part of a series of means of interaction, shaping the way one uses these individual services will lend different lenses through which one’s interactions are viewed and the inherent distortion each lens provides. Again, we find some influence exerted upon the manner in which one views and constructs one’s anisphere.
Let us pause in our journey down the rabbit hole for a moment, and take a brief look at what we’ve passed along the way. First we considered the difference between those within and without the anisphere, acknowledging that though simpler, those without do indeed hold influence over the way the anisphere is perceived. Likewise, for those within the sphere we find a number of factors that contribute to each member’s anisphere. These come in the form of standard demographic, and genre related factors. We then questioned whether the idea of the affinity and openness towards anime has an effect, or whether it is equal to that of one’s anisphere, coming to the tentative conclusion that it has influence over it, but there exists no direct mapping between the two. That one’s anisphere is more stable than one’s affinity, and is itself, an amalgamation of experiences, acquaintances, and affinities. This was followed by the conjecture that the degree to which one is involved, and the mediums through which one chooses to interact with the sphere, holds influence over one’s personal anisphere.
It should of course be noted that these areas have only been briefly touched upon, and that each could be considered with greater depth, involvement, and rigidity of method. There are almost certainly other areas that might be explored in a similar manner as to the influences they hold over the anisphere we each construct. Yet I fear this exercise has continued for long enough.
So to close, can it be said with any reasonable sense of confidence that the anisphere, in the every day sense, is merely the sum of each member’s perspective? When considering the subjectivity of media of any kind, and the choices open to those who view it, one might come to the conclusion that this is inevitable.
That the landscape beyond the kitchen window, whether be they terraces, rolling fields, or belching factories, is shaped by he who views it, and in turn, where his window resides. The anisphere, like many other spheres of interest, could be effectively argued to hold this property. Perhaps even each person’s very reality too, but that is another discussion, for another time.