C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

Welcome to the first edition of the C3 Weekly Update for 2009.

In our first piece, entitled Mad Fen (Twitter, Marketers & Fan Culture) and Mad Fen 2, Comparative Media Studies First Year Graduate Student Madeline "Flourish" Klink offers her perspective on Twitter fandom and the AMC's series Mad Men - and the ensuing (somewhat predictable) controversy, along with a short interview with Bud Caddell, creator of @budmelman and We Are Sterling Cooper and author of “Becoming a Mad Man.”

In our second article we have Part Two of the Jason Mittell interview with the creative team behind the spreadable media YouTube phenomenon Vlad and Boris.

As always, we hope you enjoy these articles. This week's newsletter was compiled and edited by Daniel Pereira ( for the Convergence Culture Consortium. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any suggestions or comments.


In This Issue

Editor's Note

Opening Note: Madeline "Flourish" Klink on AMC's Mad Men, Twitter and Fandom

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Closing Note: Jason Mittell interview with Vlad & Boris (Part 2 of 2)


Opening Note

Mad Fen (Twitter, Marketers & Fan Culture)
and Mad Fen 2: The Interview

In August 2008, Don Draper started Twittering @dondraper. The problem is, the “Don Draper” on Twitter wasn’t created by anyone involved with AMC’s Mad Men. It was a lone fan, having fun. Soon other characters joined him: @peggyolson, @joanholloway, @Roger_Sterling. This emergence caused what might be termed “outrage” on the part of AMC and their digital advertising agency, Deep Focus. DMCA takedown notices ensued, although eventually the Twitter accounts were restored to their creators.

To anyone who’s spent time in media fandom, particularly sci-fi & fantasy fandom, this is a familiar story. Some of the details are different: the characters wrote on Twitter, not on LiveJournal or on a static page; as far as I can tell, none of the people involved thought of their behavior as “roleplaying” or as “writing fanfic.” But all in all: fans create fanworks, big media company sends a takedown notice, eventually big media company realizes that they’ve created a public relations disaster for themselves.

This story’s a bit different, though, precisely because it’s not about folks who normally would consider themselves members of fandom. It’s about ad men themselves. Madison Avenue folks use Twitter a lot (a lot); they love Mad Men; and a lot of the people playing characters from Mad Men on Twitter worked in advertising. One of those people is Bud Caddell, who created a Twittering Mad Man named Bud Melman ( @budmelman) and a website called We Are Sterling Cooper. After the kerfuffle had died down, he wrote a report entitled “Becoming a Mad Man,” sharing his experiences and views on what happened. (The link above goes to a .pdf of the report; the report is not published in any other format, as far as I know.)

As a factual document about what occurred over the course of the Mad Men/Twitter debacle, “Becoming a Mad Man” is undoubtedly valuable. The analysis and insights in it, unfortunately, will seem obvious to people who have participated in media fandom for more than a few months. If you, like me, trace your fannish lines of descent back to zines, to Usenet, to mailing lists both physical and virtual, you might find yourself thinking, “where have you been for the past forty years, when other people were exploring these same problems, these same issues?” Bud is hardly the first person to suggest that fandom can provide a way to keep viewers or readers interested between installments of canon; nor is he the first person to note that fans should not be perceived as passive consumers but rather almost as “brand hijackers,” engaged in remixing and recutting and re-shaping canon to their liking.

On the second look, however, “Becoming a Mad Man” describes the moment when one of Them (the Powers That Be, the marketers, the media people) became one of Us (the active, engaged fans). When you realize that Bud Caddell has only been involved with fans and fandom for six months or perhaps a year, and that this controversy was his point of entry into the fan world, it’s a bit more understandable that he reinvents the wheel a bit in his report. (Who didn’t, in their first piece of fan meta? Don’t we see the same topics come up again and again on Metafandom, regular as clockwork?) More important than any of his commentary about fans and fandom, more important even than the simple record of facts about the Mad Men/Twitter debacle, is the perspective that Bud can provide - and the perspective he will undoubtedly bring to his work in future. Not everyone can be Joss Whedon - but it sure ain’t bad for fans to have more folks like Bud Caddell around.

Mad Fen 2: The Interview

Without further delay or ado, I’d like to bring you the second half of “Mad Fen” - a short interview with Bud Caddell, creator of @budmelman and We Are Sterling Cooper and author of “Becoming a Mad Man.”

What was your awareness of fan culture before you started Twittering as Bud Melman?

I had a friend in college that wrote erotic Harry Potter fan fic on LiveJournal… but who didn’t?

I had an understanding of the behaviors behind fan expression, but I hadn’t participated in something like this before. We were an outward facing group; because of Twitter, we weren’t writing merely for ourselves. The audience played a heavy role in creation, and in that way, my immersion into this world was the audience’s, too.

Did your experience Twittering as Bud, and dealing with AMC and Deep Focus, change any of your understandings of fan culture?

Lesson one for me is to never oversimplify the motivations behind fan creation. Of the nearly 100 characters from Mad Men twittering, the person behind each one (or many) had a very complex motivation that was easily misunderstood. Brands are used to throwing prizes or chances to win at consumers and getting back exactly what they ask for: coerced adulation. Fan communities won’t be toyed with because their participation goes beyond mere involvement.

In “Becoming a Mad Man,” you identify yourself as a fan, going so far as to defend that identity to Deep Focus, Mad Men’s digital marketing agency. How would you define that identity, “fan”?

I define a fan simply as someone whose enjoyment of something becomes part of their expressed identity.

I’m loathe to think of myself as a marketer first, or even a consumer first. It’s too convenient a trap to fall in to. Deep Focus didn’t know how else to treat me beyond the accusatory; but even your last post identified me as a marketer. In the digital space, I’m hired to help people think more like human beings; to rid themselves of the artifice of the Madison Avenue castle. Oversimplification is why we all feel insulted these days.

You’ve got a Madison Avenue style job yourself: how important do you think it is that marketers take fans - or, perhaps more accurately, super-fans - into account when they create their strategies?

I think brands shouldn’t spend a dime outside of their fans in 2009. But they’ve got to do more than make noise. They have to connect in a human way and understand those fans before they interrupt them. That’s the daunting bit for brands. Fan communities are incredibly rich clusters of human beings, with their own established behaviors and norms. Even for a new fan, jumping into the fray can be overwhelming; so as ‘outsiders’ we have an obligation to sit outside the circle and watch before jumping in.
Super fans have an obviously complex relationship with brands. For one thing, I don’t think most super fans care if some ad agency is planning on working with them; they’ll keep expressing themselves regardless. And J.K. Rowling probably isn’t interested in helping my old college friend with her erotic fan-fic. Rowling’s only obligation is to keep churning out good work and to refrain from punishing her super fans for their efforts, even if it makes her squeamish.

In “Becoming a Mad Man,” you frequently refer to the fact that none of the Twitter characters were interested in deviating from Mad Men canon - do you think that this is an important consideration in whether or not media producers are able to deal with fanworks and fan authors?

Absolutely not. But you’d have to imagine to a weary media producer that fans that do keep strictly to the canon would seem less risky to engage. Fan creation is like any other act of creativity; all work lies on a spectrum of improvisation. I have no qualms with creators splashing around in the shallow end of the pool before they’re ready to commit to the cannon ball.

Another concern you list in “Becoming a Mad Man” is that multiple fan authors vied for control of the same character. Do you see this as a weakness in the story that the Twittering characters began telling? If AMC had chosen to try and reach out to the Twittering fans and “legitimize” their tweets, how do you think they should have dealt with these competing characters?

The internet is big enough for a few Don Drapers. But is Twitter? I don’t know. It’s up to the fans and followers to decide. For a while there the battle of Betty Drapers was pretty engaging. (the public facing side of it was, the private side was knock out drag down silliness) AMC has the right to work with only those characters it wishes, but they would be wise to go with those accounts that fans and followers have rewarded most with their attention.

Do you have any suggestions for how AMC might have better dealt with the situation? Do you have any suggestions for how they should deal with other fanworks, including the Mad Men fanfic that’s recently been becoming more popular?

Once upon a time, the internet was supposed to be a great homogenizer. With common information, in common places, we were all supposed to become one mass audience. But technology actually empowers us to refine our identity to much smaller niche groups – larp’ers in the woods, for example. Brands have to stop talking to everyone as a mass audience and spend their time getting their feet wet in these crowds and communities. With that in mind, AMC should be asking Mad Men fan communities what they need and how they can help fans keep that participation rich and rewarding. Sustaining fan involvement should be AMC’s first priority.

Madeline Flourish Klink co-founded one of the largest Harry Potter fan fiction sites,, a project which was nominated for a Webby in 2004 and a Prix Ars Electronica award in 2005. She was one of the young fan fiction writers interviewed for Convergence Culture, already identified as a key writer and editor while still in high school. Her undergraduate career focused on the classics and religion, interests that she learned to combine with her growing fascination with digital media and fan culture. She earned a BA in religion from Reed College in 2008, where her undergraduate thesis explored the question: Can one have a Catholic religious experience in virtual reality? The project ultimately centered on religious communities within Second Life. At MIT, Klink looks forward to returning to her long-standing interests in education and fan culture. Her personal website is at Mad Fen (Twitter, Marketers & Fan Culture) and Mad Fen 2: The Interview first appeared as blog posts at

Glancing at the C3 Blog


Surplus Global Audiences and How to Court a Community: Insight from

Boxee Unboxed

Time to boogie!

Global Media and Niche Audiences: Introducing

The Future of Entertainment is... Paper?


Follow the Blog

Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.

Closing Note

Interview with Vlad & Boris - Part 2

On October 14, a YouTube video appeared on a new account entitled "vlad and friend boris presents 'Song for Sarah' for mrs. Palin" ( It bore no identifying markers of its creation beyond the names Vlad and Boris. A music video attesting a Russian crush on Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, it slowly began spreading via email, Facebook, and blog links. Within a week, it had surpassed 100,000 views, and appeared on television newscasts in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Soon top political blogs like Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan, and Talking Points Memo were linking to it; as of Election Day, it received over 430k views, over 600 YouTube comments, and maintains a perfect 5 star rating.

I was fortunate to be an early adopter of Vlad and Boris, having received the link from one of my former students. I've been tracking the video's spreadability, and have been impressed both by the quality of the piece (it's really re-watchable, which accounts for a good number of those views) and the dissemination with little effort by the producers. Certainly much of this success is due to how central YouTube has been to the 2008 election, as it's hard to imagine a video on any other topic making as big a splash so quickly. But I think much of its success is also tied to the underlying mystery surrounding the piece - is it really produced by a couple of Russians? Was it "professionally done"? (I've seen sites that suggest it was a stealth SNL piece.) What would it mean to the election if a VP candidate were the subject of sincere affection and/or mockery by Russian videomakers?

The truth is a bit more mundane, but still quite impressive. The creators of the video are four recent graduates of Middlebury College (three majoring in my department of Film and Media Culture) living in New York City. They told me about the video upon its release, and I've enjoyed monitoring its success. And I realized that the world of online video tends to be fairly anonymous, especially as videos are spreading. So I figured I would take advantage of the happenstance of my connection with Vlad and Boris to interview the creators and explore how they see their own practices and culture circulation.

Interview - Part Two

JM: What were your expectations for the video's dissemination? And what constitutes success in getting it seen?

LK: It was incredibly fun to make. Ideally, for me, it's a launching pad for other projects, a chance to leave a sort of minor mark on this crazy, insane election season that we were all very passionate about in general, and a very immediate piece of work to potentially show "important" people of something funny and popular that we did all by ourselves in an apartment one Saturday afternoon. I'd hope that at the very least it will convince us to make more videos together.

AvAA: Since the making of the video basically happened within a matter of hours (Lucas wrote the song in a night, we filmed during a day and Perry edited during a night), I had not really thought about where it would go... When we started seeing comments on the Youtube thread referring to the video being aired on national television in England, New Zealand, Australia and MSNBC in the States, I frankly laughed out loud. ..I also love the discussion it has spurred around the origins of the boys. To me, the spectacularly funny comment threads in conjunction with the video all over the web are the true markers of success. And if Joe and Lucas make it onto SNL thanks to this, that would be swell too.

PB: I'm just very excited…It feels like a new kind of short form movie making, and the rules haven't been written yet.

JM: How engaged have you been with the comment threads about the video? Have you tried to engage in conversation as Vlad or Boris, or as the creators of the fiction?

AvAA: We've pretty much stayed out of the comment threads, but we've all read them with pleasure… they're by far the most enjoyable part of this process.

PB: The comments were fun... almost addicting. I read an article about email addiction, and it talked about how it plays into our hunter-gather nature, forever checking the trap to see if they're new stuff. It still seems totally unreal to me, all the comments coming from out of nowhere.

JM: Beyond the 400k+ views on YouTube, how else has the video spread? Have you been contacted by others for interviews, job offers, etc.? And whom do they think they're contacting?

JB: I know some talent agencies have reached out to Lucas. There hasn't been too much confusion by talent or media types. I think they know professional editing and camera work (hats off to Perry) when they see it.

AvAA: Like I mentioned before, the video has apparently been shown on television in several countries, including the United States. But this is nothing we officially know- only what we have gathered from the comment threads online. The video has also been featured on hundreds of blogs as well as more established media platforms, such as The Washington Post, the Guardian, the Daily Kos, Barely Political...One fantastic moment was when we were contacted (through Youtube) by Russia Today, the English language Russian news channel stationed in Moscow. They actually wrote us in Russian! We had to have it translated to read it. They wanted to know why Vlad and Boris, two pining countrymen, had taken an interest in American politics. JM: Perry - as someone studying to move into the more official & legitimate media world of filmmaking, how is this video regarded? At a place like NYU, is having a successfully-spread online video seen as an asset or a liability? Do your peers & professors know?

JM: Perry - as someone studying to move into the more official & legitimate media world of filmmaking, how is this video regarded? At a place like NYU, is having a successfully-spread online video seen as an asset or a liability? Do your peers & professors know?

PB:My sense is that the film industry is pretty set in its ways, and I think most of my professors, who haven't seen it, would regard it a fun trifle, potentially useful in landing subsequent work…My films school peers thought it was funny and praised some of the lighting and the editing work. I think there is a generally feeling of distaste in the film industry for viral videos, mixed, on occasion, with awe and confusion. I have no idea how helpful making viral videos is or will be for one's career, but its a fun experience, and I think my professors and everyone realizes that in this black hole of an industry, it can't hurt!

JM: What's next for each of you, and/or Vlad & Boris? Do you see this as a useful experience for your futures in the media world?

LK: Honestly, I'd love to get more work out of this. It was certainly tough for me -- as a marginal actor/writer type guy who has heard millions of lectures on "self-marketing" and "you are your own brand!" and all that jazz -- to not put my name on the project at all. I do think the few other websites and comedy blog type people that have seen it do know who we are, and I think it'll definitely be useful as a stepping stone for other things.

JB: Lucas and I have been talking about making movies for a while, but this is the first one that really got us motivated. It's been very inspirational as many of the youtube posters have asked for more materials, which has been really inspiring. Vlad & Boris now have a myspace page ( with another song and a remix. I think this can lead to good things in a future in the media and comedy worlds. When you create something that almost half-a-million people see, I think it gives you some kind of media credentials. I like how this process has really started to get all of us thinking about viral videos and how to create them.

PB: After working so hard within the film school confines of "Old Media," in this case, film, large crews, and long form movie making, I think it is wonderful to be able to branch out and work on stuff that feels more daring. As for a useful experience, I have no idea!

AvAA: I agree with Perry that there is something thrilling about breaking into a new frontier of film making. What role will the viral video play in the future, and what will its relationship be to more traditional film forums? Is the internet always a starting point, a place to be "discovered," or can it also be a successful end point? Let's see where it takes us. I'm game for this ride.

Jason Mittell is a consulting researcher with the Convergence Culture Consortium and an Assistant Professor of American Civilization and Film & Media Culture at Middlebury College. His book – Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture (Routledge, 2004) – offers a new approach to exploring television genres as cultural categories as utilized by television industries and audiences. He is currently writing a new book on contemporary developments in American television narratives and how they intersect with shifts in the television industry, media technology, and audience practices.

The Fine Print

Compiled and Edited by Daniel Pereira ( for the Convergence Culture Consortium.


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