For a long time now there has been much comment, speculation and hinting toward some form of formalized study of modern vampirism and the sub-culture. The predominant focus has been, until now, directed toward the Sanguinarian sectors and the necessity of discovering what makes Sang-vampires Sanguinarians.
A new project has just now been presented and promises to be a much “broader strokes” brush in examining a wide variety of influences, forces and factors that influence and shape the modern vampire society and sub-culture.
In developing the first, open access, academic approach project, the Current and Longitudinal Analyses of the Vampire-Identifying Subculture the coordinator of this effort, Gordon Smith, is seeking to develop an understanding of the sub-culture and its sociology so that we, the denizens of the sub-culture, can better understand and, hopefully, improve the overall situation within the subculture.
The first presentation by C.L.A.V.I.S has been posted at the organisation’s page and is entitled, “Boiling Blood”. Already receiving a strong level of appreciation and support, along with several requests to be shared throughout the community, we invited Gordon to join us and explain a bit more about himself and the C.L.A.V.I.S Project.
RVL: Good evening Gordon, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to RVL.
GS: Thank you! It’s a pleasure to be here.
RVL: It might seem as though the CLAVIS initiative has just suddenly sprung into being, how long have you actually been working on setting it up?
GS: The general idea of cultivating a space in the VC specifically designated for academic research on vampirism and the vampire subculture has been something I’ve been wanting to act on for about a year and a half now. Once I had the research and a first draft for Boiling Blood together, it was clearly time to formalize CLAVIS.
RVL: …and, as coordinator, would you mind sharing a little of your personal history with us?
GS: I’ve been active in the VC for over five years now, writing articles and participating in OVC groups. The no longer active Vampire Observer published a couple articles of mine (now available on my blog, http://praniphagite.tumblr.com/) and one article is featured in The Vampire Source. Most notably, I’m a member of VVC and a Dedicant of House of the Dreaming.
Over the course of my OVC participation, it didn’t take long to notice the frequent passionate debates that would arise and how often it seemed that no widely accepted resolution was ever reached regarding these disputes. Every once in a while someone would specifically complain about the lack of objective, scientific data on the subculture to test the validity of claims and determine what, if anything, really did qualify as characteristic of members of the subculture.
One belief that has never yet led me astray is that, if you want to see something in the world, the only sure-fire way to make it appear is to create it yourself. Thankfully, I tutored students in statistics for years and have ghost-written several academic papers on sociology, so the process of going about and presenting the sort of research the VC is largely lacking wasn’t foreign to me.
Thus the seed of CLAVIS was planted.
RVL: In your own mind, what is a real modern vampire? And, what attributes do you assign to a modern vampire?
GS: That’s a fiercely contested subject within the community–one I intend to explore with CLAVIS in the future, by the way–and in my experience there are as many answers as there are members of the community. Assuming that we’re restricting the scope of this question to those who identify as vampires and excluding those who merely identify with vampires (commonly referred to within the VC as “lifestylers”), the common foundation of the vampiric identity seems to be a need for something other than traditional sources of nourishment that nonetheless registers as just as fundamental and urgent as the need for food. For Sangs, that need is addressed with donor blood while for Psis it tends to be a need for certain patterns of interaction with other people or forces.
A need has to be fairly constant and intense to qualify as so basic a personal trait as to merit adopting an identity because of it, so it’s no surprise that there are an array of personal attributes that seem to regularly accompany the vampiric identity. Given the range of sources VC members have found to sustain themselves, these attributes naturally manifest differently from one vampire to the next. One that seems nearly universal, though, is the experience of generally undesirable consequences to not satisfying one’s needs regularly, not unlike hunger pangs.
RVL: …and may we ask, do you identify as a modern real vampire? And. If so, would you classify yourself as Psi or Sang?
GS: I do indeed. I Awakened in my early teens and have identified as a vampire for nearly two decades now. I’m very lucky to be able to sustain myself by an array of means, including both blood and more subtle donations. Given the added difficulty of acquiring regular blood, most of my donations come in the form of psi energy.
RVL: At this time are you running CLAVIS by yourself or do you have a team that you would like to introduce?
GS: I’m currently the only admin of the group, but I look forward to including research from additional contributors in the future and developing a team to refine and expedite upcoming projects. As far as Boiling Blood specifically, I owe a great deal to Merticus, of course, as there would be no VCN to analyze without him, and I can’t overlook the invaluable contribution of the community’s many trolls, curmudgeons, and drama-mongers who made this project both possible and necessary *laughs*
I’m very thankful to have some amazing friends and family in the community who offered their insight and feedback during the development process. As a Dedicant of House of the Dreaming, I have a strong support system including quite a few community members who host their own groups so I had no shortage of encouragement and knowledgeable advice.
RVL: Without wishing to play Devil’s Advocate, you will undoubtedly be aware that there will be commentators that will observe your work to be “interpretive” of the data you collect, how would you respond to that?
GS: I would assure them that they are absolutely correct. I strive to minimize the impact of bias in my research by gathering as thorough a sample of quantitative data as possible and subjecting that data to objective statistical tests, but interpretation is necessary for data to become meaningful. Other interpretations of my results may be just as valid and I welcome reviews from my peers in the community with different perspectives. I include the data gathered and statistical tests performed through the course of my research as well as precisely how I interpreted each result in Appendices for any readers interested.
RVL: What led you to the decision to begin this project at this particular time, was there some catalyst that led you to act now?
GS: About a year and a half ago I was talking with a friend about some OVC thread or other that we had participated in that had totally degenerated into name-calling and mud-slinging until the original topic of the thread was all but forgotten. We wondered if OVC participants were more likely than others to engage in such online drama, and it occurred to me that that was a question I could answer with a little research. Diving in, I felt invigorated by the process more so than with non-VC research projects I’d been involved with in the past, and, by the time Boiling Blood was completed, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop with just one project. It’s because my friend and I happened to find ourselves in the midst of an OVC free-for-all one day that I discovered my passion for VC-focused research when I did.
RVL: …and in the long term, what is your ultimate goal for CLAVIS?
GS: I would love to see CLAVIS initiate constructive dialogues about the collective nature and goals of the VC. I believe a better understanding of what qualities we have in common and what subjects are most important to us as a whole can inspire more cooperation and fruitful action.
RVL: in the “About” statement at the CLAVIS homepage you note that, “Discussion and debate are absolutely welcome. Resorting, however, to blatant racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, or any other means of tapping into major structures of oppression to attack, demean, or even “joke” won’t be tolerated in this group.” You also make the consequences of such action quite clear, do you feel this something that can be entirely avoided in the modern VC/OVC or will you consider making the group a “closed” group if things do go down the wrong path?
GS: I was very pleased to find through the course of the Boiling Blood project that overt cases of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia were all but non-existent in VCN, so I’m hoping such behavior won’t arise in CLAVIS. I like to think that the members of our community at large are socially aware enough to avoid making unacceptable comments, but the truth is, distinct as our subculture is, it’s not immune to the influences of the rest of the world.
When the spread of information is overwhelmingly controlled by those in power, ignorance of the scope and nature of oppression is common among those not directly impacted by specific oppressive forces. Accordingly, I don’t see ignorance as an unforgivable act; honestly, I have plenty to learn myself. There is, however, a huge difference between ignorance and malice. Ignorance can be called out and corrected, but there is no place for oppressive malice in CLAVIS or, in my opinion, in the vampire subculture at all.
CLAVIS is still very young, so the future of the group could take on any number of forms. Ideally, I would like to see the Facebook group remain open to facilitate diverse and lively discussions but, if it becomes counterproductive, I’m not opposed to CLAVIS’s role shifting to merely offering the research while leaving the public debates to other groups in the community.
RVL: Do you have any other comments or observations about the project that you would like to share at this time?
GS: I’m very pleased by how well-received the Boiling Blood project has been so far, but I want to assure your readers that I have no intention of resting on my laurels. CLAVIS is just getting started.
RVL: We would like to thank you very much for sparing a little time for us today Gordon and we would like to keep in touch with you regarding the ongoing growth and development of the initiative as well as wishing you all the very best with CLAVIS.
GS: Thank you for having me! I look forward to having more exciting results to share very soon.
For the last 20 years, or more, the levels of conflict, “passionate debate” of subjects and, to quote our guest, other communications, “that had totally degenerated into name-calling and mud-slinging until the original topic of the thread was all but forgotten,” have plagued the sub-culture – not merely online but spilling out into the “nightside” life as well
One of the most difficult problems to overcome in discussing any subject within the VC/OVC is that we have so many different ideas, opinions, beliefs and natural bias’ that any discussion is bound to, in the main, turn into a battle of wills as each participant tries to “impose” their view on others.
Now, I wouldn’t dare to proclaim myself free of sin in this respect either but as a thinking person and modern living vampire, the value and the opportunity that Gordon is presenting us with; freely, could be the major step forward that we have all been looking for.
In my opening Crossroads editorial for this year I mentioned that there were initiatives that began in 2014 that failed to gain the proper support and backing from the sub-culture to make good ideas grow, take form and make improvements in the sub-culture and community. In CLAVIS we are being handed, virtually on a silver platter so to speak, a golden opportunity and it is something that we, as a sub-culture, need to get behind in order to make the VC/OVC a better place to be. Not just for us but for those who are just now arriving in the fold.
Gordon Smith is opening a door and inviting us to take a seat in a virtual auditorium of sharing, interaction and co-operation… are we going to let this opportunity slip by?
Copyright RVL & Gordon Smith – CLAVIS, 2015
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