Thursday, 31 March 2011

[452] I R ON IRC

I've recently kick-started the preparation for my MA dissertation. As I said a few weeks back, it will mostly be focused on fansubbing - community-led subtitling projects that are most common, yet not restricted to, online anime fandom.

Every day brings a new revelation. In the years since anime slipped off my radar, the community has developed all kinds of new quirks. Did you know, for example, that 'karaoke subbing' is now a major part of the process? Both the opening and end credits of an episode are accompanied by quite elaborate 'hard' subtitles (ie burned onto the image, not superimposed via a synchronised text file), which offer kanji, transliterated Japanese and English versions of the songs' lyrics that bloom along with the vocal melody.

Likewise, the community is not only right up-to-the-minute in their consumption, with episodes appearing mere weeks after their transmission in Japan - before some series even have an 'official' English title - but they've also moved with the times when it comes to encoding. These people like their anime as crisp as possible - 1080p, please, and FLAC audio while you're at it. Individual files can be 500mb in size, for a 22 minute episode. It's all part of the astonishing passion with which they approach their hobby.

However, one thing hasn't changed, and that's the community's main method of communication: IRC. A friend asked me to describe this archaic platform, and I said: 'imagine if all innovations in social media from 1995 onwards - such as the streamlining of UI and functionality - had somehow been lost in transit'. After daily use of Twitter, Google Apps and Facebook, going to IRC is like opening up a time capsule, and being hit by a musty cloud of decomposed BBSes and newsgroups.

You boot it up, and you're hit by a choice of servers, then you're tasked with picking from the thousands of channels within those servers. These can range from economic discussion to wrestling, from MMORPGs to, erm, porn, but even when you're in a channel, most of the users can often seem happy to simply run through various scripts to get their fix of 'FML' anecdotes, or lottery-style games. Recently, I've found channels which are a little more chatty, but I'm still under the impression that most communication happens privately.

It's a different world, I tell you. A world where Linux won, perhaps. A place beyond the high tide of hashtags and memes.

IRC is a terrifying, fascinating place, and I must make it my home for the time being. Any help or guidance during this dark period would be greatly appreciated.

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