It has become commonplace for English-language studies about Japanese- and English-speaking fans of manga to mention that the Internet in general and social networking services (SNSs) in particular play a crucial role for the functioning of contemporary "transcultural" fan communities. DeviantART and pixiv, for instance, are two famous image-based SNSs that have become hubs for very active fan communities centered around the exchange of fannish visual media. Such services are not just convenient places to socialize and maintain fan communities, but also distribution systems whose functionality is geared exactly towards what fans want to do with the works they create: share them, and have them appreciated and talked about by other fans.
Several recent studies have focused on how fans use SNSs as communication hubs or as distribution platforms. However, it may be misleading to present these two functions as wholly separate, as no more than the “Internet versions” of pre-digital forms of communication and distribution. Research on the nature and effects of interactions around media on SNSs shows that the “digital conversations” that take place on SNSs have their own particular characteristics that influence what can be said, who can say it, and what the results of the conversation can be. These characteristics profoundly influence not just the interpretations of media distributed through these services, but also the very content of the media themselves.
In this chapter, I make a first attempt at clarifying the complex ways in which the particular nature of digital conversations (boyd and Heer 2006) works to influence fannish interactions on SNSs, with a special focus on how these digital conversations on SNSs help or hinder transcultural interactions between Japanese- and English-speaking fans of manga, comics and other media. I conduct a comparative case study of digital conversations around a particular kind of fanwork that is often distributed and discussed through SNSs: fan-created comics and manga (also called doujinshi). More specifically, I focus on "Harry Potter"-based fan-created comics and manga distributed via deviantART and pixiv.