Andrea Horbinski is the Secretary of the OTW Board of Directors and a Ph.D. candidate in modern Japanese history with a designated emphasis in New Media at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2015 she was elected to the position of Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Ada Initiative, which was dedicated to increasing the participation of women in open technology and culture. She was previously a Fulbright Fellow to Japan and served as the chair of the OTW’s Internationalization & Outreach committee before being elected to the OTW Board in 2012. She joined online fandom in 1999 after writing her graduation speech on her love of Star Wars, and soon became involved in anime and manga fandom as an AMV editor and later a fan translator. She has discussed fandom, anime, manga, and Japanese history and folklore at conventions and conferences on five continents, and her articles and reviews have appeared in The WisCon Chronicles vol. 6, Mechademia, and Transformative Works and Cultures.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
I have acquired a wealth of practical experience through my service on the OTW Board of Directors and on the Board of Directors of the Ada Initiative, and I’m eager to continue to use my skills and expertise to strengthen the OTW and help to support its mission. Moreover, the Board has become a place where my skills and experience are not just valuable, but valued, which makes the choice to run for another term easy.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
The skills and experience I bring to the Board of Directors are a combined three and a half years’ service on Boards of Directors (a year and a half of which is as a Secretary), a total of seven years’ experience with the OTW in various roles, and a broad familiarity with other organizations working in the fields of open source and open culture. For instance, this year I served on the reviewers committee of the Inspire campaign, a Wikimedia Foundation effort to increase gender diversity on Wikipedia and its related projects through funding community-proposed efforts, and I’m also currently the Video Archivist for WisCon, working to digitize and make available the con’s rich history as a feminist science fiction convention. All these experiences have made me broadly familiar with several different organizational models as well as what sorts of policies, structures, and philosophies make for a well-run organization in general.
3. What goals would you like to achieve during your term?
I’m concerned that this question’s phrasing gives people an inaccurate idea of how the OTW Board (or any board) works! As directors, we’re responsible for the overall management and governance of the OTW, so the fundamental goal for any director’s service is to have executed their responsibilities to the best of their ability in order to best serve the organization and its mission. That said, the Board’s overall goal for the next three years is clear: to work to implement the OTW’s strategic plan by supporting Strategic Planning and VolCom in their work, by working with various committees to execute the goals identified in the plan that relate to them and their projects, and by doing the work to carry out the goals related to its own roles. So on one level, that’s the goal I want to work with the rest of the Board to achieve; but more broadly, in three years I want the OTW to be a non-profit organization with a growing budget that is well-positioned for long-term sustainability. To be clear, this is a challenge, but it’s one that we–the OTW as a whole–are completely capable of meeting.
4. What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work, and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.
As a member of the Board of Directors I’ve interacted with all of the committees responsible for these projects over the past three years, and in my personal and professional life outside the OTW I interact with all of them in various capacities: AO3 is the primary place where I consume fanfic at this point (though never as much as I’d like!); I’ve published a scholarly article with TWC and have cited the essays it publishes in my own academic work; Fanlore has explained to me many things about fandom(s) that I didn’t know; and the OTW’s legal advocacy work has been very important in working to defend and extend protections for my experience of the internet in various ways, not least among them its efforts to secure DMCA exemptions for vidding practices, since I am a vidder. Open Doors and its work have inspired me to think carefully and critically about archives, archiving, and the value of doing the same for non-digital fandom history, which helped me formulate my goals for my work as the Video Archivist for WisCon.
It’s an unfortunate reality of the OTW Board of Directors as it currently stands that executing our dual responsibilities of governance and management mean that we don’t really have much time to actively collaborate with the committees we’re overseeing. It’s far more often the pattern that committees come to us with proposals for various projects, which we then review: most of our collaboration consists of working with committees in this phase to address concerns they may have missed in their initial proposal(s), sometimes because those concerns involve aspects of organizational operations that they’re not familiar with because they fall under the Board’s purview. I look forward to continuing to work with these committees to grow the OTW’s projects!
5. Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?
One question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is sustainability. The topic first came up for me as part of the discussions about shutting down the Ada Initiative, and though that was the right choice for Ada, it’s obviously not for the OTW: so, what do we need to do to make sure that the OTW is sustainable over the long term, not just three but five or ten or twenty years down the line? There are still a lot of choke points in the OTW where we ask too much of individual volunteers or don’t have adequate provisions for the loss of key people (in a “hit by a bus” scenario, or for whatever reason), and dealing with those failure points is definitely a big part of making the OTW sustainable. Executing the strategic plan will help towards that sustainability as well, obviously, but it’s something I think we on the Board have only started to surface explicitly in our thinking, and we can and should do that more going forward.
Another question I’ve been thinking about is visibility. One thing that I sometimes find frustrating in my conversations with people around the world is that they haven’t heard of the OTW, or if they have, they only know about the AO3–and plenty of AO3 users have no idea that AO3 is a project of and supported by OTW! There’s clearly plenty of scope for the OTW to be more visible in the spaces of open culture and open source activism and to advocate in more visible ways for fandom and fanworks as legitimate activities outside the legal sphere, and doing so would be in service to our mission. That’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s another task that will ultimately strengthen the organization.
6. What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?
The key responsibilities of the Board of Directors are stated in the bylaws: the Board is responsible for the overall governance of the OTW in service to its mission, and since the Board has not delegated any of its responsibilities to a paid employee like an executive director or director of operations, that means the Board is also currently responsible for the OTW’s day-to-date management. As Secretary, one of my key responsibilities is to maintain the OTW’s bylaws; thanks to that, my service on the Board of Directors of the OTW and of the Ada Initiative, and my work with other organizations, I am very familiar with the legal requirements for a U.S. based non-profit.
7. How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?
I am not currently serving in any other OTW roles.
Elections Committee Note: on Sept. 14, a typo was fixed in the response to question 4 (first paragraph, last sentence) with the permission of the candidate.