(Just kidding This simulation’s graphic’s are super real >.<)
So, it’s the end of another semester spent traversing the weird, wild web, huh? Time definitely flew by this semester! It feels like just yesterday we were talking about the terrors of online data tracking… or maybe I’m just having flashbacks of Zuckerberg testifying before Congress >.>
This semester was definitely wild. I can honestly say I was not expecting to do as much work as I managed to pull off this semester. Check it:
Makes (And I did all these??? And only made it to 4th place -_-…sensing a pattern)
That is a lot of work. Time-consuming work. I don’t know about everyone else this semester, but it takes me a minimum of one day to write up a blog post and another to edit. That’s not to mention how long it takes to complete the week’s actual digital activities. For example, my Audacity post, my Audacity Interview post, and my posts on both Neo-Dadaism and Selfies took significantly longer time to complete. This is because 1) I am still very unfamiliar with working with audio and 2) some subjects require much more research in order to write a thoughtful/insightful post about them. The post on selfies was, after all, done in conjunction with a Twitter chat I ran on selfies as art as well (which I reflected about in another post). All this is to say that I did put a lot of effort and time and thought into my work every week. Nothing was ever hastily thrown together and I always tried to be thoughtful in my reflections.
On Twitter, too, I tried to participate regularly throughout the semester. I tweeted out @netnarr every time I posted on my blog and used #netnarr as well. I always did at least 2 DDAs a week, as well. (And, I think I tried to approach both creatively–using imaginative titles and images.) More towards the beginning of the semester, I also used the #netnarrlinks to share some interesting articles/videos I found on topics I thought relevant to the course. (Or, just interesting to me ^.^) While I’m not sure if all this activity counts as “robust use” of the platform, I would definitely say it demonstrates diligence.
As you can see, I definitely increased my activity on the platform and began posting more regularly to Twitter. More, my posting seems to have become more organized–I have more regular times of activity as well as more regular usage of hashtags and links. Retweets are still my most popular form of Twitter usage but I have certainly upped my game overall on the platform this semester.
More than all that, though, I’ve become a part of a community on Twitter. Not just my activity itself on the platform increased but my level of engagement with the platform. Before getting involved with this course and the digital humanities, I never thought of Twitter has a place capable of fostering community. But, it really is. I learned so many tips and tricks from fellow users online.
Which brings me to another point: collaboration. Twitter makes collaborating with other people so very easy. For example, one of the extra projects I participated in this semester was largely facilitated through Twitter. The NetNarr Alchemy Lab is a collaborative work, put together by so many very talented digital alchemists. Essentially, it’s an online interactive storytelling project in which I was invited to participate. You can read all about my own contribution here and the ins n’ outs of working on it but I just want to say that this was one of my most favourite activities I participated in this semester (though it wasn’t part of the course proper). Also, I want to thank everyone who reached out to me on Twitter and helped me with this project. Again, without the online community, I’m not sure how any of this would have been accomplished. Not easily, for sure.
Additionally, I did try to use my Hypothes.is as well towards the start of the semester. We kind of bailed on it as a class, though, so I hope my lack of “robust” usage of the tool will not count against me. Interestingly enough, though, I did end up using the annotating tool for another course this semester–a course on research and theory (I made 96 annotations for just that course). So, though I did not get to use my Hypothes.is know-how in this course, know it did still come in handy elsewhere~
Honestly, I’m fairly proud of all the work I accomplished in this course. My favourite assignments have to be the ones related to selfies, to memes, and to gifs. I think my Make on the #SelfieUnselfie project is one of my most meaningful, digital works to date. And, my Make on “Gifing” digital life still makes me actually laugh out loud. More, discussing memes as art objects inspired me focus my thesis on researching Neo-Dadaism in new digital media (specifically on researching the emergence of the Internet meme as a resurgence of Dada idealism). So, our discussions on these topics in class, specifically on digital art, definitely inspired me to think more deeply about the content.
That isn’t too say there weren’t subjects I found uninteresting. As mentioned before, I don’t enjoy working in audio. It’s more difficult than other mediums, yes, that’s part of why I don’t like working with audio but, also, there’s just my personal preferences. I’m a more visual person. I like art on canvas, words on the page. I like having something for my eyes to swallow, devour. Of course, I’m pleased enough with how my audio interview project turned out but, if given the choice, I would not want to repeat the project. Even having two weeks to do it, I found it to be just very complicated. More than endearing the medium to me, the project kind of turned me further off. Sorry. (I really wish my feelings were different but when I think of that project, I just remember frustration.)
Another aspect of the course I found it bit dull was the online gaming section of the course. Again, this might come down to an issue of personal preference. I just didn’t find the content to be too engaging or interesting. Also, I didn’t necessarily like looking at digital redlining as a kind of game because it’s really not. For future courses, I would like to suggest moving the issue into the area of Digital Life. (I did like my Make for this subject, though. The activity for the subject is very apt, I think. It conveys exactly what it is designed to. Also, I found the H5P tool to be fun to use. I would definitely recommend teaching future students how to use it.)
Enough with the critique!
Overall, I found this course to be fun and engaging. This semester has certainly had its ups and downs. While some activities in class came easier than others due to past experiences working with the medium, there were plenty of challenges presented by this course. This semester, I certainly had to learn how to use new tools as well as how to make peace with old rivals here’s looking at you Audacity >.>. For the most part, I think I made out pretty well. Not all of my work came out as polished as I would have liked but I still tried to do all of the work asked of me and I tried to do it well within the time constraints I had upon me. More, I tried to be creative with my work wherever I could–whether through word-play, memes, or some other insertion of my own personal panache, if you will.
Above all, I hope it comes through that I am proud of what I accomplished and of what I learned. This semester was tough but I’m tougher! I think I came out on top. But, what do you think?
This week, we’ve finally begun our much-anticipated exploration of Elit. (Perhaps, it’s only much-anticipated on my end though…?)
Delving into Elit
As I may have mentioned before, I’ve taken a few courses already on ELiterature and networked narratives. And so, I’ve already developed a bit of a soft spot for the genre. I find the experimentation and spontaneity and interactivity of Elit to be engaging in a way that is not better than traditional literature but that allows for more of my senses to be involved in the experience of the work. It’s different. Especially when it comes to poetry and prose shared in this genre, I find something special and almost magickal about the work.
I’ve often heard criticism that digital work–writing and art, particularly–are somehow less meaningful for their “digital-ness.” Like, because a work is made to be experienced through a digital interface, it is somehow inherently less capable of conveying meaning or initiating meaningful dialogue. Or, more simply, it’s just less.
That line of thinking couldn’t be farther from my own. More, it couldn’t be farther from the truth of my own experience of both interacting with works of Elit and with making my own work of Elit.
Two particular works of Elit that come to mind when I think of ones that have touched me are Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Dieand Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. I mentioned Nelson’s work earlier when discussing Dada in new digital media and have written at length about this particular work. Nelson’s work is a kind of kinetic poetry with a dash of generative fiction thrown in. As for Porpentine’s work, I went into great detail about my thoughts on this piece here. The “story” is a work of hypertext fiction created using Twine (a platform of which I’m not so much a fan myself but that seems to work amazingly for other people) and it is an absolutely beautiful work. I love everything about it from the diction used to the background sounds and the colours. Read my full review of it if you want but I found this work of Elit to be a particularly poignant articulation and exploration of experiencing trauma and moving on from it. (*Fun fact, this work was on display at the Whitney Museum’s 2017 Biennial exhibit and I got to see it~)
Revisiting EPoetry and Prose
For this week, I decided to explore another work of EPoetry/Prose from the 3rd volume of the Elit collection. The work I chose is Ask Me for the Moonby John David Zuern. It is a work of kinetic poetry. The lines of the poetry in the piece ebb and flow into each other likes waves on the shore of a beach.
*The work starts with one line of poetry that overlaps and fades until it becomes the horizon for a slowly increasing cityscape–that of Waikīkī, this work being set in Hawaii.
Once you enter the work–by clicking on the screen in order to “ask me for the moon”–there are also missing spaces in some of the lines and particular quoted phrases in some of the lines too. These differences in the lines are filled in by excerpts from related works once the poem finishes ebbing and flowing out and from the screen. The poem will fade into the background and either the quoted phrase or the blank space will be emphasized as an excerpt from another work fades in on the screen.
The contents of the introduced excerpts revolve around the colonization and industrialization of Hawaii. More, around the commodification of the islands’ themselves, their natural resources, and the natives’ culture. The seen vs. the unseen is also invoked by this piece as the images one clicks to engage with the poetry are of different kinds of labor and work–the line of these images cutting across a beach scene at night. In the editorial statement for this work, these decisions are described as such:
“John David Zuern’s Ask Me For the Moon is a digital poem created in Adobe Flash using juxtaposed images, words, and sounds, to create the feeling of the labor behind the scenes at a Hawaii resort. The images and colors (black, white, and turquoise dominate) paint a picture of Waikiki that is emphasized in Zuern’s notes on the piece, which observe that at the time the piece was made there was approximately one worker for every two and a half visitors to Waikiki. The text of the piece plays over the faded gray landscape of the island, while the moving pictures depict fragments of labor moving through like waves along the shore. The visual poetics serve as a poignant reminder of how much work is done at night, out of sight of the tourists who swarm the island.”
Zuern says of his own work, “I was looking for a way to bring concrete details of my experience of working in Waikīkī into some kind of dialogue with what I was learning about the history and politics of the tourism industry in Hawai‘i. I wanted the poetry to quote but also, in a sense, to inhabit and illuminate the writing of philosophers and critics, calling attention to their own deployment of image and metaphor. At the time, it seemed important to keep the file size as small as possible, and notions of compression and constraint wound up governing many of my formal considerations, including my decision to write in haiku, to employ a somewhat restricted vocabulary and palette, and to include small images with minimal animation.”
For his purposes, I think Zuern’s work becomes a compelling commentary. At first, I was thrown off by the constrained format and the minimal amount of direction/interactivity of the work but once I realized the scope of the content of the work, I began to appreciate the aesthetic and technical decisions of the work. It’s definitely more simple than many other contemporary works of Elit but I think that simplicity makes a statement about what is being lost. In that way, I think this work transcends itself.
What do you think, though? More, what do you feel when engaging with this work? Do you feel the loss, the longing for a return to something simpler? Or, do you feel something else?
On Making Our Own Elit
If we are making our own works of Elit, I’m definitely interested in making a work of EPoetry/Prose. So far, I’ve translated my poetry into metalworks (which is a process, let me tell you) but I would like to expand into Elit with it. The work of Elit I created before was one of prose and so I would definitely like to expand upon what I can do with Elit and the medium.
That said, I would like to express concern with the time-frame for creating this Elit piece–if we are. I had an entire semester to work on the other piece of Elit I made and during that semester I was learning how to use many different kinds of tools and whatnot to create my piece. It was a whole, long process. And, even then, it was still a struggle to create the work I did due to how long it takes to do anything/translate anything it seems into a digital format as well as how overall challenging and strenuous it can be. There were many, many ideas and drafts scrapped along the way.
Anyway, I guess I just want to both inform, maybe, expectations as well as ask for a clearer understanding of what will be expected of us if we are making a work of Elit.
This week, we talked about redlining–basically denying services either directly or indirectly to residents in certain areas of a city or town based upon the ethnic makeup of the residents. More specifically, we talked about the idea of digital redlining and how online algorithms can play a part in the contemporary implementation of redlining practices.
In order to learn more about digital redlining and how it works, we watched a fascinating talk led by Chris Gilliard:
Aside from this talk, Chris also contributed to this article about how digital redlining operates at the university level. Essentially, the appropriate use policies (AUPs) can become knowledge-blocks for many students at community institutions. Being that community colleges are typically populated by working-class individuals, many of whom come from a more ethnically diverse background, this problem becomes one of digital redlining.
Because online spaces are where an increasing number of people primarily get their information from, restrictions such as these become not just issues of inequality and accessibility but of ethics as well. If the flow of information is restricted, then people simply cannot make informed decisions about things that can greatly affect the quality of their lives. More, by restricting access of certain knowledge, power is given to those who are not restricted. A game in which certain players are given all the knowledge and all the power while others are left totally unawares is not much of a game. At least, it’s not a very fun game, to say the least.
What I find particularly awful about the whole issue is that those who are being most affected by digital redlining are the ones who would have no idea, who are not informed and have no means of becoming informed. That is the game. This is especially sickening considering how often technology and the Internet are lauded as being “great equalizers”. The truth that so few have access those is that both could not be any farther from. You might even consider digital redlining the 2.0 version of the original–now new and improved.
Painting Newark, NJ Red
In order to learn just how close to home the issue of redlining is, this week in class we investigated possible instances of it occurring in nearby Newark, NJ. The activity asked us first to review this map charting inequality in the city and then to choose from a variety of other services to see if the locations of those services were possibly affected by the inequality of wealth revealed in the initial map.
In researching whether or not a kind of redlining is still present in Essex County, specifically in Newark, NJ, I noticed a possible correlation between LPR camera locations and the location of Newark’s poorer areas.
According to the LPR map, there is a cluster of LPR cameras located in the center of Newark, sandwiched between 2 areas (Third Ward and the Ironbound) identified by the inequality tracking map as “hazardous” zones. Now, this cluster could be related to the close proximity of Newark Penn Station–a major travel hub–but upon inspection of other large, travel hubs in the area, like the nearby Paterson rail station, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, there’s only 1 LPR location remotely near the Paterson rail station compared to the 5 LPR locations within a few blocks of each other near Newark Penn Station.
So, perhaps the cluster of LPR locations in Newark relates more to the “hazardous” designation of the overall area? What do you think?
Personally, I was quite surprised to notice a possible correlation even though I, myself, having grown up nearby, know there areas of Newark I want to avoid, especially at certain times. Driving into Newark this weekend, actually, for a concert, I found myself thinking more deeply about the issue of potholes on 21–the main drag through the city. 21 stretches across Essex county and into Bergen county–where I now reside. There is a clear distinction between the amount of potholes encountered, though, between the two counties. More specifically, between the city limits of Newark and the surrounding areas. Seems potholes on 21 are more worth filling outside of the city >.>
Returning to Sound
In contrast to the rather depressing topic of redlining and its digital counterpart, this week also had us finishing up our work on interacting with empathy games. (I think an empathy game about digital redlining could be pretty good, yeah?)
Anyway, this other activity had us recording questions about empathy games designed by students in Prof. Maha Bali’s class in Cairo, Egypt. Prof. Bali’s students would then record and upload their responses to the shared padlet. Once all the audio components were available, we had to download them and use them to create a new, cohesive whole–an “interview” of sorts in Audacity.
Now, I don’t really like working with audio myself but I think my project turned out pretty well. There are some rough patches in it and, of course, there’s how awful I think I sound recorded but, other than those *minor* issues, I am pleasantly surprised with how my interview turned out. But, don’t take my word for it.
Have a listen yourself:
Mainly, I think my intonation is off in some places and conflicts with prior recordings which makes it obvious that this was not recorded all at once. Also, for some reason, I think I sound more condescending in places where I didn’t intend to and I don’t know why???? Audio is weird.
But, again, what do you think?
I was going for this being like a podcast of sorts–hence the jazzy intro and outro~ Does that vibe come through or nah? What’s your impression of this work?
Anyway, this week we covered an almost confusing number of different subjects. So, please bear with me as I try to get wandering, wondering thoughts together ^.^
Empathy or Lack Thereof
One of this week’s topics was that of “empathy games”. According to this article by Eric Bartelson, empathy games are ones that confront players with “real human issues…things like depression, bullying, terminal illness, or suicide”. Through playing these games and “experiencing” these issues “first-hand”, players, ideally, develop a more complex understanding of the issue and so are able thereto forth to empathize better with people going though similar issues IRL.
At least, that’s theory.
Many game designers themselves are skeptical/critical of the idea that empathy can be developed to such an extent via game-play. More, many game designers seem that empathy is a skill every game should be striving to develop and so labeling any specific set of games as “empathy games” is redundant. In this way, and as Bartelson states, the divide seems to be over whether or not empathy is “a genre or a game mechanic”. Which, to me, is an interesting division and, to be honest, since I’m not someone who plays very many games, I’m not sure what side of the divide I fall on.
Certainly, I believe that a game alone cannot develop or refine one’s own empathy. That’s the reverse of the “video games incite violence” argument–spoiler they don’t and a government bogging down discussions about any particular reforms to even entertain the notion is grossly irresponsible and tbfh stalling but I digress…>.>. Like I mentioned in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night, you can have the best message in the world in your game but if players can’t connect that message to something on the outside, if there’s no transfer then I’m not sure how it helps facilitate genuine empathy.
Exactly. Design might not be able to account for all variables but it can be selective so that they create a clear message to be learned #NetNarr
My line of thinking seems to fall in line with Simon Parkin’s thoughts in this article in which the disconnect between creator intent and game design is discussed. Basically, Parkin reiterates what I just said: a game with a good idea but a bad follow-through is kind of a problem. More, that equation can create a problem. Parkin references a study in which the game Spent–an online game about surviving poverty–and its effects are researched. What the study found was that it actually made people, even those who sympathized with the poor prior to playing the game, empathize less with poor people. Essentially, the game made people believe poof people had more choices than they actually do in reality. Colleen Macklin, a game designer cited in this article, summarizes the phenomenon, “In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice. If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”
When creating a game you hope will instill a deeper sense of empathy, intent doesn’t seem to be enough. More, you have to be careful you’re not “game-ifying” a real situation too much or else you may alter the reality of it and so muddle/not accurately portray your message.
That said, a game I think “game-ified” an IRL situation just right is Bad News. I freakin’ loved this game.
In Bad News, players become the propagators and perpetuators of “fake news” online. “Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate” the game encourages. The goal of this game is to gain as main “followers” as you can through establishing fake credibility online (mostly via Twitter). The other goal, in my opinion, is to be as obnoxious as you possibly can i.e channel Trump >.>...
I had a blast:
I’ll admit, at first I was trying to be a good person and pick the “ethical” choices but once I realized that was losing me followers (and not the object of the game) I just went full on obnoxious. Spread an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory??? Sure. Smear a legit news agency cause they had the audacity to report on something bad I actually did??? Why the hell not??
What can I say?
I got into it.
Anyway, fun aside, I do think this game illustrates the point it’s trying to make pretty clearly. Though, if you don’t have the cultural context–say you live in a 1-party state or your country doesn’t have access to much technology or internet–I don’t know how well the message would stick because it’s social commentary, in a way, right? I get that this game is trying to make a point of how fake news is made and propagated but I also think it’s trying to show just how easy it is to slip into that mindset/head-space where you’re more interested in sensationalizing issues, “making headlines”, and in gaining followers than in making ethical or responsible decisions. Even if that wasn’t an objective by design, this game did a damn fine job of bringing it to attention.
But, what do you think? More, after playing a so-called “empathy game”, how do you feel?
Amping Things Up
Switching gears this week, we also began discussing sound as a means for storytelling.
Now, I have to admit I’m not super enthused for this shift in focus. Sound is not really my medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love my podcasts–listening to them while I’m doing my make-up in the morning–and I’d probably kill someone if I couldn’t listen to my music in the car but I’m not really into or interested in playing around with sound myself. The thought just doesn’t inspire the same excitement as talking about art or Elit.
That said, I’m open to learning more about how to use sound to tell a good story. I’m so used to it being background noise, I think it’ll be cool to explore it as its own kind of art and story.
For this week’s Make, I did attempt to explore sound as a means for telling a story. Check it:
It’s not my best work but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I’m a lot more rusty with Audacity than I thought I’d be but this video helped me out a lot. (I also totally forgot how to upload from Audacity to Soundcloud.)
Anyway, technical issues aside, the idea behind my little story here was inspired by the incessant clacking of my own keyboard. Once I decided I wanted that to be my background sound, I was able to establish the rest of the story.
I added some notes in the margins once I found the sounds I wanted on freesound~
Really, my story is just a snippet of what it’s like to live online–closing yourself away to open up elsewhere, the incessant typing that gets increasing more frustrated as your message notifications keeps pinging, and the frustrated sigh that another annoying ping swallows up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life digital means affords me but it can be freakin’ annoying sometimes~
*I love this throwback DDA ^.^ The book spine poetry was one of my face DDAs from the first time around. I enjoy combining my love of books with my burgeoning love of new new digital media. This DDA also gets me to “remix” real life, removing the context from my books and placing them in a new one. I love it~
*As for this DDA, I decided to take a close-up shot of my fave pinky highlighter (J. Cat Beauty’s You Glow Girl highlighter in the shade Bella Rose for any fellow make-up junkies ^.^). It looks like a cotton-candy floss universe, doesn’t it?
*I chose to look at the game our friends in Egypt, Ayah and Manar, are currently in the process of developing. Their game is designed to teach/inform players about illiteracy and how it affects the everyday lives of people and the choices they are able to make. Ayah and Manar talk about their game here and have a prototype you can play here. So far, I really like the project and thinks it’s shaping up to be a real learning tool. I talk more about what I think is effective so far in my comments on the posts so I highly recommend you check those out and, of course, the good work Ayah and Manar are doing!!
This week, we said до свидания to digital art and began our exploration of games and gaming. To be honest, not a big topic of interest to me. Shocking, I know.
Anyway, to start off our discussion on the topic in class, Marissa led a round robin where each of us described a game, digital if we could or not, we liked to the class. We went in a circle and the person who followed you in the circle would tweet out the game the person ahead of them described along with an interesting detail about it if they could. I was behind Patrice and ahead of Vanessa~
Patrice doesn’t really play many games so she didn’t have much to share about them, but here’s what I tweeted out about what she did say:
Like many of us, Patrice has a game on her phone (Candy Crush) she’ll play when she’s bored (sometimes get sucked into for too long if she lets herself something all of us seem guilty of….) but other than that, she’s more familiar with traditional board games like Trouble.
Again, this seems to be the rule not the exception for almost all of us. I don’t play games on my phone as much as I used to but I was pretty competitive and sucked into them at the height of my interaction. My poisons of choice were called Bookworm, Neko Atsume and High School Story (later Hollywood University when the creators expanded their enterprise). The first game was a wordplay game where you would get a random assortment of letters and have to create words from them in order to gain points. But, some of the letters were “on fire” and if they reached the bottom of the screen before you were able to make a word, the “library” would burn and you’d lose.
As for the other games, they had longer term objectives. You had to collect fish in Neko Atsume which would be left by cats after you fed them or gave them a toy to play with. These fish were used to pay for better food and toys which would attract more cats who would leave more fish and also mementos (which you couldn’t actually do anything with so I’m not sure why they mattered now???) And in the school games, you essentially created a little high school or university that you could populate with different kinds of students (jocks, nerds, preps, slackers, skaters, goths, cheerleaders, etc). There was a main cast of characters that moved the game’s objectives (main quests and side quests) along and, usually, at the completion of a quest you’d get to add one of those characters to your school. There were also exclusive outfits and buildings and decorations you could “win” or buy. It was kind of like a really low-key version of Sims (which was an online game many, like myself, are pretty familiar with).
All this said, the game I actually chose to describe was a card game perhaps most known for its infamy: Cards Against Humanity. Vanessa captured how I summed the game up pretty well:
@helterskelliter Kelli just got very passionate for Cards Against Humanity. She just taught the class about the game and in minimal words its the same concept as Apples to Apples but for adults. The game is so much fun and you don’t even care if you win in the end pic.twitter.com/ACAklPdPiL
Basically, Cards Against Humanity is Apples to Apples for adults~
I’m realizing, now, though this description does nothing for anyone who doesn’t know what Apples to Apples is. So, let me break it down a bit more.
Cards Against Humanity is a card game in which you get a set of topic cards with prompts (coloured black with white writing) and another set of cards with a wide array of captions on them that could be used to respond to/answer the prompt cards (these are coloured white with black type). Usually, you play this game in a group of 3-4 or more. Minimum 3 players. Every player gets 7 white cards. The first player to get 7 black cards wins. Though, arguably, the real objective of this game is to get the biggest laugh or to garner the largest reaction with your card combo.
See, these cards don’t have your usual array of prompts or responses. No. At best, you could describe them as outlandish or odd and at worst, horribly, terribly offensive. If you have a delicate system or if your sensibilities are easily offended, this is most decidedly not the game for you. My friends and I love it.
If you’re curious about exactly what kind of subject matter Cards Against Humanity dabbles with, I’d suggest playing a few rounds online. As far as I know, all the cards you play with online are actually in one of the many decks. (In case you didn’t know, the game has many decks and many more expansion packs with all different kinds of themes and nonsense. For example, my friends and I usually play with the bigger, blacker deck ^.^
There are even unofficial expansion packs like Crabs Adjust Humidity which are pretty great as well and the main company doesn’t care that these exist. Another great thing about this game is the company itself which has the same sense of humor expressed in the game. Like, one year they sold literal b*llshit on Black Friday. Arguably, stunts like that along with the creators’ general nihilistic and apathetic attitude–which appeals greatly to its disillusioned young adult audience–have helped propel this game into popularity.)
So, yeah, I just went off on a tangent.
Anyway, let’s see if I can get back to the subject at hand….
While, surprisingly to me, not everyone knew about Cards Against Humanity, most of the class was familiar enough with it. Many of us have played it before or seen it online. Stephanie even referred to it a drinking game…
Anyway, other than more traditional board games like Trouble or card games like Cards Against Humanity, the only other kind of game most of us seemed familiar with was Sims.
(For anyone who doesn’t know, Sims is a collection of simulated computer/console games that, well, simulate life. You can essentially live out an entire life through a simulated character or collection of characters. There are many version and expansions of this game along with a large community of creators who make mods you can download–with varying degrees of success and implementation–to use in the game.)
Almost all of us could say we lost hours of our lives playing Sims.
Many of us bought the expansion packs. Some of us played on our computers others on consoles. Most of us didn’t connect with any of the community features–we liked to play on our own. Some of us like myself used cheats in game #boolproptestingcheatsenabledtrueforlife~ Point is, this was a digital game many of us knew.
I think only about 2 of us were video gamers, though most of us knew some of the bigger games like World of Warcraft or League of Legends (my best friend made it to Platinum 3 in League maining Sora and sometimes Jinxx–and I actually know what this means because I wrote a short research paper on online gaming discourse a few years back which might now come in handy). It seemed like there was little interest amongst our group in participating too much with these games. Though, the topic of E-sports and competitive online gaming did draw some more intrigue.
My only knowledge of anything like an online gaming community comes from my participation with Neopets. I haven’t played in a while but I used to go on the site ever day and play games to earn Neocoins I could use to buy different items for my Neopets (of which there were many species and of which I only had 2) or for my “home”. Every year, there was also a site-wide gaming event called the Altador Cup. You chose to play for one of 16-17 teams which each represented one of the “world’s” many lands. I always played for the Darigan Citadel and did pretty well, usually earning enough points playing the soccer-style game to buy some top-tier prizes from the prize shop at the end of the month-long event. I even got an “All Star” trophy one year that would be displayed on my user look-up.
Anyway, that’s about the depth of my knowledge on online gaming~
So, being that not many of us are all that familiar with digital games, I think this unit will be an interesting and possibly enlightening learning experience for all of us~
Why Do We Play So Much???
What stemmed from our conversation on games was another discussion about the purpose of games. Many of us described using games, especially those on our phones, as a way to counteract or subvert boredom. Some of us described playing a game as just a way to pass time. For a few of us, playing games was more about winning them.
But, is there a greater purpose to playing games and to games themselves?
This is something explored by Radiolab in one of their podcasts about games. In the show, the hosts talk about games and their purposes from many different angles. Far too many to address in this one post. But, one of the most interesting parts of this discussion for me was when they began talking games as being a way to both explore/express the imagination–all that could be possible and a way to explore bigger ideas like fairness. I’ve never heard games described this way until now. Though, this idea does touch upon something I believe Katherine mentioned in class–that though we may describe games and our interactions with them as “mindless”, they aren’t really. We’re still engaging in a stimulating activity whether we acknowledge it or not. More, that stimulation is not stimulation for its own sake. Many games, especially, now provide these outlet for users to exercise creative thought processes they otherwise may not be able to. Theory holds that the skills developed in-game transfer over into other areas of life outside the game, improving skills such as multi-tasking or communication.
Another interesting topic the podcast touched on and that I had never heard of before was that of the “novelty” of games. No, not that novelty. But, this idea that whenever you play most games checkers excluded there comes a point in the game where you initiate an action or make a move that has never been made before. That is the novelty. In chess, this occurs once you leave the “book” which is an online archive of all the moves in chess games ever made which I have some thoughts on but that’s another story.... It’s the play that you decide to make that has never been decided in game in same circumstances. It’s the manifestation of your imagination but also the maneuver that shows you know the name of the game (or else it couldn’t be made). This phenomenon is not exclusive to chess, though perhaps with the existence of the “book”, it is easier to acknowledge and document.
To me, I guess, the novelty is the magic of games. It’s what games are all about. They give you these moments that will never occur again and ask you to make a choice, leave a mark. Do something different. Imagine. Create. Play. I think all games minus checkers have the potential to do this and that is why they are important.
As for this DDA, I wrote a little diddy that’s all very my style. To be honest, I clicked through hand after hand of cards the site dealt before I came across one that inspired me. Then, I added some slashing red and black lines in Paint and voila~
This was a really cool DDA and I kind of wish we went over this while we were talking about gifs. I think this would have been a really simple demonstration of early gifdom (i.e the really early precursor to online gifs).
*Speaking of games and fun alchemy, thiswas a really fun and cool game we played this week in class. I didn’t get to talk about it in the main body of this post but I did enjoy this game and found myself growing oddly competitive??? And, maybe it’s the Slytherin in me, but I actually looked up cheats (which, were surprising to me in that they even existed???) to make some of the things I wanted to in this little alchemy lab game. Judge me if you will but once I was able to find a way to make all the little objects I wanted to, I was having a lot of fun~
*As for fun podcasts that I love, I think how “fun” they are depends entirely upon your definition of the word. I’ve been a loyal Murderino for a while now so I have to recommend My Favorite Murder. It’s a podcast all about, you guessed it, murder–the hosts “favorite” murders that week. Each show explores two different murders and the circumstances around the crimes. And, despite the heavy subject matter, the hosts do a phenomenal job of adding tasteful brevity throughout the show. For any true crime fan like myself, it’s a must-listen.
Another great podcast is Last Podcast on the Left. Now, this is a highly inappropriate approach to discussing murders, true crime, and conspiracy theories but it is Great. The hosts have such a witty, conversational banter that almost seems entirely improv-ed because it comes so naturally. The one guy provides some hysterical voice acting as well. Highly recommend you listen to this show in a room away from anyone who would be offended by Cards Against Humanity. This show makes the game seem tame~
Tbh, I’m going to miss our discussions on digital art~
The Gif that Just Keeps on Giving
Before I get into my reflection on digital art, I want to talk about our last hurrah for the Make Bank.
This week, we used what we learned from last week’s experimentation with Giphy to make two different kinds of gifs which I pronounce with a soft g like in graphic image format fight me.
The first make asked us to gif a process. Of course, I chose to make a gif illustrating one of the many metalworking processes familiar to me. (For anyone who’s come to know me, I doubt that’s shocking~)
Anyway, here’s my gif-take on soldering:
***Please do not attempt at home or in any other place not properly ventilated***
So, soldering is the process by which pieces/sheets of metal can be joined. In order to solder, you must first have *drum roll* solder (of which there are 3 kinds–hard, medium, & soft). Typically, start with hard solder and work your way down (the designations don’t refer to the composition or sturdiness of the solder but the temperature at which it melts, hard solder taking the longest to melt and soft the least; so, you want to start with hard solder and work your way down because you don’t want your solder to re-melt and flow every time you attach a new piece of metal to your project–it’d be constantly falling apart, yeah?) Anyway, my gif starts with me placing my chips of hard solder down (technically I should have sweat soldered this but tbh I couldn’t be bothered~)
From there, I torch the piece (soldering temperature is around 850 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, once you see the solder flow and melt, you have to quick quench the piece in water and then in the Pickle–which is a cleaning solution. Metal gets very dirty once heated–it’s a chemical reaction. After letting your piece sit in the Pickle for a few minutes, you can take it out–with copper (absolutely no steel in the Pickle) tongs!!! Don’t touch a piece of metal with Pickle on it!! It can cause your skin to peel–and run it under some water and clean it with a brass-bristled brush.
Ta-dah~ My last image shows a (relatively) cleaned and soldered piece.
I found this activity to be rather fun and engaging, kind of like the Most Fascinating Subject in The World make. Perhaps that’s because both projects ask us to remix and create digital work (memes and gifs) of subject matter from our own lives. To me, projects like these illustrate how memes and gifs, while ubiquitous and rather universal, start off in the personal and individual. It takes one person to notice something or tilt their perspective just so to create them. More, these projects provide opportunities for participation in remix culture in ways we can relate to on a personal level. I mean, we’re remixing parts of our lives, right? Adjusting the lights and the angles and making magic~
I’ve noticed that a lot of our discussion in class and in our blog posts has revolved around whether or not digital art is “Art.” Pointless conversation to tbh but I digress~ So, I made a gif to represent my feelings on the matter–Art is what you make of it. It’s what I make of it. It’s what we make of it. Just the ideal that real art has to be on a pedestal and labelled probably has every artist from Van Gogh to Duchamp to Rauschenberg to Roth and then some rolling in their graves.
Honestly, get out of here with that elitist nonsense. Art is what you make of it but it’s also historically been about challenging preconceived notion and the status quo and about calling bullsh*t on bullsh*t. If selfies, memes, and, of course, gifs aren’t doing at least one of those things, then idk what is???
In my first post exploring digital art, I compared it to a kind of neo-Dadaism, calling it Degenerate Art 2.0. In the rise of this new medium, I see traces of a desire to respond to the growing absurdity of the world and the action’s of world leaders >.> with absurdity and nonsense which is something Dada itself sought to do. In many ways, Dada the 1st was a response to the absurdity of WWI, to all of these countries typically regarded as pinnacles of culture and of society fighting over 50 feet of mud. How do you create art after that? Dada showed us how.
From there, I explored the place of the selfie in digital art. In my post breaking down the history of the selfie, I talk about whether or not the selfie even constitutes as work of art. Survey said: not only yes, but that it constitutes a whole new genre of art. For the first time in a long while, new digital media has lowered the boundary for entry into the art sphere as well as created a whole new genre for it. The selfie is the art of the people, created for us by us. More, it has created a whole new kind of communication between us as well as a new way to be introspective. For those of you who have reservations about that claim, I highly suggest you check out my post on the matter as well as check out the Selfie section of the Digital Art Referencium~
If you still have doubts, I suggest you explore the #SelfieUnselfie make. To me, this is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve participated in. I explain why in more detail in my post reflecting specifically on the project but, in short, I think this project captures the essence of what selfies could be while also emphasizing their limitations. If there’s one thing our segment on Digital Life revealed, it’s that’s it is very easy to get caught up in the innovation and the glitz and the glamour of new online spaces and forget that we’re all still people behind our screens with insecurities and agendas and flaws and faults and so many other aspects of ourselves that would look damning under a microscope. More, there are parts of ourselves to appreciate and that can be appreciated without the easy outside validation digital platforms can so easily provide. The internet allows us to be so much more than ourselves but that doesn’t mean who we are offline matters any less.
After discussing the seflie, came good ol’ memes and gifs or, as I like to refer to them, the sprinkles of the internet~
I discuss my thoughts more in depth about memes in this post and about gifs in this post but ultimately I believe that gifs and memes truly embody that neo-Dada essence I mentioned earlier. They tap into that seemingly universal acknowledgement that the world is a pretty absurd place and turn it into art. And though many corporations are beginning to use memes and gifs for advertising purposes (as mentioned by Amy whose style I love and Michael in our studio visit this week), they are fairly democratic medium, another form of art that is made by the people for the people. A culture of remix and reciprocity has really risen up around these mediums as well, memeing the meme a fun make but also popular practice these days.
Tide Pods, anyone??? Stranger things, huh??
Overall, I find digital art to be an emergent and exploratory new medium for creation and reimagining and remixing. There has been and will continue to be a lot of trial and error but I think it is coming into it’s own. I mean, look at how many gif artists there are now? You or I could be the next big thing~
*For those who don’t know, I also write poetry. This semester, I’m actually taking a course on poetry. In this image, you can see some of the poems I’m working on for my collection. For me, every poem is both a beginning and an ending–I live my poem, yes, but it’s also where my feelings end up. More than that, though, poetry is what life sounds like, yeah?
*So… dis my cat~ Her name’s Dove and she’s kind of dopey and likes to chew on plastic. #imhallingherout #sorrynotsorry (On a serious note, what’s Felix got against cats????!! Lol for real this time, I took a photo of Dove with my phone, uploaded it to my computer, and then edited it in Paint, of all things. It wasn’t very difficult at all. The shapes are pre-made and the text is easy to overlay. 10/10 would recommend~)
*I made a thing! For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of NetNarr have started a project we are all welcome to participate in as well. It’s a great opportunity to practice some digital alchemy~ I remixed an old story of dark, ravenous magic. Hope you enjoy ^.^
*CrashCourse on Youtube (an educational channel run in large part by John and Hank Green) has just started a new course on Media Literacy. I think it’s pretty relevant to our course and worth a watch. Maybe an episode or two will be good to watch for class?
*Artsy Gifs is really cool to follow on Twitter. They share art-inspired gifs that I think are beautiful editions to any feed~
*I’ve almost finished reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read. I highly recommend you check out this book. It’s so relevant to the reality of racism and police brutality in America right now and it’s told through the lens of a 16-year-old, Black girl. These kinds of books that explore this kind of subject matter areso important.
Despite this week’s many technical difficulties on campus, this is not what actually happened though I thought about it…. Myself along with the rest of the goody-2-shoes class that showed up this week did stay for a crash course in gifs and their creation~
The Gif of Gifs
(Okay, I’m done)
This week we explored the animated gif. Though we didn’t spend much time discussing the creative form in the classroom, we did watch a short clip of a movie that is entirely made of gifs(?) It was pretty trippy to watch. Marissa and I likened the experience of watching the video to that of having a fever dream or going on a bad acid trip. Check it out:
(How long did it take you to realize the start of the vid was a montage of loading screens/ modules???)
Many of the gif forms shown are definitely unfamiliar to me and, I think, not as popular online. According to this article though, many of the animations popularity attributed as gifs are not actually gifs. They’re short video clips played on a loop which is, come to find, out, not what a gif is. Mind-blowing, right? I don’t want to butcher the actual def of a gif so I highly recommend checking out the article linked on it~
Anyway, aside from that fever dream of an induction to gifs, we checked out The Digital Materiality of Gifs–prepare for a MySpace flashback. If the Popular Mechanics article on the history of gifs gets too overwhelming and techy, I think this project does a fairly well job of explaining the history of the gif in laymen’s terms.
What I find most meaningful about the project’s breakdown is it’s final thought: “Gifs are a dumb, limited file format, and in the end this why they are important: They do not belong to anyone. Because of their constraints, they become a design material, to be played with, challenged, and explored. To try and domesticate them would be missing the point.” This, I believe, articulates the idea that gifs (along with memes and other new digital media created for and in online spaces) are the people’s art, their creation and burgeoning language. When you try to commercialize the medium and remove it from that kind of freedom and remix-ability, you remove the essence of the medium that allows it to function and to have power, to have agency.
Essentially, part of the gif’s power is that anyone can make one and use one. When you begin to chip away at that, you chip away at the ideology, at least, that makes a gif a gif.
Same as for memes, it’s difficult for me to imagine the internet without gifs. More, without the free and ubiquitous use of gifs. I may not understand every iteration or evolution of the form but I still believe their home is online and freely accessible. Like I said, gifs are a new facet of our language. They are tools for communication and they, in many cases, allow for smoother communication than could occur without them. Like memes, they are complex cultural and social messages in compact form. They streamline communication, especially in online spaces where space can be at a premium (think Twitter’s character limit >.>).
What do you think the internet and communicating online would be like without the gif?
Making & Wrapping Those Gifs
(I lied ^.^)
In addition to discussing the gif and its function, particularly in online spaces, this week, we were also tasked with creating and exploring the power of the form for ourselves. In the Make Bank, we had two activities we could do to practice our prowess at creating gifs. Both activities asked us to familiarize ourselves with Giphy. (An old friend of mine~) For those of you who don’t know, Giphy is a simple and easy way to create gifs from snippets of video or whatnot which are apparently not technically gifs but whatver.
Anyway, the first activity allowed us to practice making both a gif with text overlaid and a gif without text by providing a short clip from a western film and asking us what verbal and non-verbal message we could communicate by giffing it.
Here’s what I came up with:
My first gif is meant to be a reaction to the situation captioned. Meaning, when the wifi is down, I’m out–a sentiment I imagine many of agree with. If there’ not wifi, don’t invite me, right??? What am I supposed to do??? Talk to other people and not play on my phone???
(This gif was inspired by the aforementioned technical difficulties occurring on campus this week. First, there was no wifi and then the power went out on half of campus *sigh* I felt like I was living in a commune >.>)
My second gif connects to my first gif. The first guy is the one who left when the wifi first went down and the guy gaining on him is joining him on his search for wifi. Though, I imagine this gif could be used as a reaction to any initial action that spurs a second agreeable action.
The second activity this week asked us to gif our own content. The only catch was that we had to find a way to make it relate to a topic we’ve discussed thus far about digital life and digital art. Not too much of a catch.
I definitely had some fun with this one
Big Brother’s got to know my angles, right???
My gif here plays off the idea that out online activity is always being monitored. Specifically, I’m referencing the ongoing joke online (since the Snowden thing???) that not only are all American citizens being constantly monitored, but they have an NSA/FBI agent assigned to watch them. (Few cultural/social levels you’re going to need for context, huh?)
I used a clip from the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (which is great if you haven’t seen it yourself~ Amazon Prime recently added it I think?) in which one of the human characters is trying to teach 3 ancient vampires how to use modern tech and social media. Thought it was pretty relevant~
(I was also kind of inspired, aesthetically and stylistically, by a digital gif artist mentioned in this Buzzfeed article–Dain Fagerholm. He combines his ink drawings with the digital medium, creating these really trippy works. Here’s one:
As for my other gif, I continued to play off the idea of the selfie.
This time, I used another clip (titled “Dead but Delicious”–please check it out) from the same mockumentary to create a gif that somewhat shows the history/evolution of the selfie??? In a way, I also think it shows how much work our phones actually save us from having to do. (Of course, since the main characters are vampires, they don’t have reflections so this is their only option…. till they find out about contemporary tech and have a field day~)
Overall, I think gifs, like memes, are the sprinkles of the internet. They don’t always need to be there but they certainly add colour and vibrancy and life when they are.
More, I think that gifs are fast becoming a means of communication. They aren’t just accessories anymore. They convey meaning and can be used as reactions to situations which can streamline communication for all familiar or fluent in the gifs being used.
*Clash allows you to input a phrase and then it finds the words it can in different songs and plays you back your phrase with the snippets of song it found–which is really f*cking cool, in my opinion. I’ve never heard of something like this before and I think it would be really interesting to find out how to do something like this. (I might actually enjoy this kind of audio work ha-ha)
I’ve already said much about selfies myself but I was interested to hear what my peers had to say about the emerging genre of digital art & creation. More, I was interested in what people thought of the idea of selfies being a form of communication.
To many, that seemed readily apparent.
Selfies contain messages. They are messages.
A2: I definitely agree with this. I don’t think people really take pictures as much for memory, as they do to send a message. #netnarr
Can selfies be keepsakes? Or, must they always be public in order to have a dialogue? Does the selfie’s communication matter as much when it’s only communicating with you? In my opinion, that kind of communication is the most important and speaks to that level of self-reflection Jerry Saltz seemed to be getting at in his article on the art history of the selfie.
Still, what was perhaps of even more interest than all of this was some comments made earlier on about the “illusion” of life selfies seem to reference or comment on:
Big question. Don’t we somewhat always put on some kind of face in public, not always what we are feeling? #netnarr
#netnarr A2 (contd) The proliferation of selfies could also be a sign that we have become so bored or disillusioned with the world that we feel the need to insert our own image into things as an attempt to assert that the world still means something, and we still have a say in it
When viewed in this light, selfies become ways to alter the perception of the self but also the perception of the world. More, they becomes a means to take back some control and also assert control. This, to me, speaks to the empowering nature of the selfie (something I discuss more in-depth in my prior post). Selfies and the acts of taking them are not just some new digital extensions of vanity. Dismissing them as such not only mis-characterizes them but ignores so much potential, so much information about what it is and means to be human.
Selfies are becoming the language of us. I mean, we’re using ourselves to convey the experience of life. Our experiences are in dialogue with each other with the advent of the selfies in ways they never were before.
That matters. That shouldn’t be dismissed.
Do You Look at Me Different Now? #SelfieUnselfie
The other idea I’ve been totally captured by this week is that of the unselfie. Perhaps the concept has been peddled before but, in light of my own findings on the subject of the selfie as of late, it’s such an arresting idea. It makes me pause, stop and think about not just how I present myself to the world but how I don’t.
Again, as I mentioned in my previous post on selfies, I believe selfies are not only a burgeoning language but a very vulnerable one. I mean, we’re putting our faces out there for people to interact with, yes, but also for them (our messages, too) to be critiqued. It’s an incredibly vulnerable thing to do, an aspect of the selfie I don’t believe is always appreciated.
Anyway, that said, are selfies really all that vulnerable when they are rather staged and selective? Would a picture of some other part of our lives–excluding our faces–convey the same messages abut us that our selfies do? Is that important?
The #SelfieUnselfie Project seeks to explore those very questions:
To be honest, for all my selfies I’ve taken over the years, I found this project difficult. I looked around the spaces I typically occupy–searching for myself–and wondered if I was anywhere to be found?
Then, I realized I was looking for the girl in my selfies. Not me. Not the person behind the selfie.
Don’t get me wrong–sometimes those two people meet in one. But, oft, they live separate lives. Similar, yes. But separate till they merge in the moment of the selfie. Till the experience and the act of the selfie synthesize them. (Does that make sense? Or, does anyone else feel that way? It’s not that my selfies aren’t me or aren’t truthful depictions of me but, well, the truth is more of spectrum.)
Anyway, what I kept returning to was the bedside table. My bedside table. Dr. Zamora mentioned possibly sharing her bedside table as her unselfie and I was and still am taken with that idea. On my bedside table are the items I obviously want closest to me when I first wake up and, again, when I finally lay my head down. To me, those items embodied, well, me. They’re the most integral parts of me not physically a part of me.
(I shared my #selfieunselfie post on Instagram but wasn’t able to fit everything I had to say about the topic there but it’s all here~)
I post many pictures of myself online and in digital spaces. This selfie is typical of the ones I usually share (in fact, I did post it here on the gram a few months back~). Face larger than life. Skin smooth like porcelain and glowing as if from within. Hint of pink. A light burning low in the background. Not a shiny hair out of place. My eyes staring at you but not–not really. They look through. They look more glass-like. More doll-like.
I look like a doll. Painted smile and all.
Always pretty. Always happy.
What you don’t see in any of the pictures I post are the dark circles from too many sleepless nights. You don’t see the anxiety usually alight in my eyes during the day. Don’t see the clock I always feel ticking away, just behind it all.
You can’t see my bedside table or you’d know me.
On my bedside table, you can see I keep a bottle of melatonin, a half-empty bottle of NyQuil, and an essential oil to induce sleep–my oil diffuser (glowing my favorite purple) just behind my shrine of offerings to sleep. On the wall behind, you can see the shadow of the dreamcatcher that hangs from my bedpost, its black feathers just in frame. Anything worth a shot and if good dreams come too, all the better~
Sleep has always been a problem for me, something I dread even during the day (if you have trouble sleeping, you get the stress). I never know if I’ll get to sleep that night. When paired with my anxiety about time and never having enough–for what? I don’t know–I think it’s easier to understand the other keepsakes. Along with my sleep aids, I have a ball of sticky tack, a fidget cube, and another stress-reliever shaped like a little white kitten to squish. Small stimulants and sensation-inducing toys to preoccupy my senses from otherwise overwhelming me. I’ll even worry the little, purple stone heart beside my clock–though it’s actually a gift from someone I love dearly and can’t be with the way I’d like right now. So, it’s more of a small piece of them to keep close to me.
Anyway, there’s a lot of my anxieties laid bare on my bedside table that you would never see reflected in my usual selfies. If you’re into close readings, you can even see hints of my forgetfulness (perhaps addled by lack of sleep >.>)–a pair of earrings, my bottom ones things I always forget to take out before I go to bed, and my birth control, just peeking out from behind my shrine of sleep aids, close on-hand so I don’t forget.
Selfies don’t usually share these parts of ourselves, despite them being integral to ourselves. (If my melatonin weren’t right there tonight, I’d be at a loss, you know?) Though, I’m not sure if it’s strictly because we want to hide these things from other people. I mean, I’m not ashamed of any of the items I keep on my bedside table. Nor, am I ashamed of my usual selfies. One’s just easier, maybe, to share? There are less questions to answer–if anyone even cares to ask any. Maybe one is more difficult to share, though, because it asks people to care more deeply and that’s not always an easy request to make or meet.
What do you think?
Can you see me in both images? More, do you see me differently now that you’ve seen the other?
(Want to find out more about the #SelfieUnselfie project and installation or find out how to post and share one of your own? Check out the Make Bank on the project.)
Unreflections on Unreflections
When I compare my selfie to my unselfie, I find myself looking for connections more than what disconnects one from the other. Like, I know both have hearts which were both gifts from people I love and miss dearly. (The heart necklace I’m wearing in the selfie was a gift from a therapist whose help and kindness really touched me and have made all the difference so many years later.)
I don’t believe the purpose of this project is to separate us from ourselves so much as unite us. Provide a clearer picture. Emphasize that no sum of parts is greater than the whole they create. Different but not so much as they seem~
But enough about me. Let me tell you, this selfie unit has made me tired of me lol
When you see your selfie and your unselfie beside each other, what do you find? What do you see? Are you really as different from yourself as you think?
*For #DDA156 (one I submitted), I chose to share a poem from a mentor book I’ve been reading for my advanced poetry writing course this semester. The book is Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim and I’ve recommended in on my blog before, in the Goodies section. I think the poem relates well to the subject of the #selfieunselfie. At least, it captures the idea of duality and of reconciling with our own duality in order to “let the light shine through”, if you will.
*Another DDA I complete this week involves me writing another short story to add to my unsettling Killing It Tag. If you like spooky or disturbing little story inspired by bot nonsense, I highly recommend checking it out ^.^ Also, this week’s story has to do with sight and vision which is also related to the selfie. Go figure~
Unsettling tales straight out of my head to yours~
(*This is an acrylic cut-out that is a part of a project I am working on it metals that you will hopefully get to see soon btw~)
*Cool and informative article on memes and their connection to Neo-Dadaism, for anyone interested on the topic like me. (Thanks @rissacandiloro)
*A series I’ve been reading that I’ve really been enjoying is V.E. Schwab’sShades of Magicseries. It’s her first adult fiction series and it’s excellent. It’s all about magic and travelling between worlds, finding the one that you fit into. The characters are distinct and enjoyable–both to root for and to hate. My favourite character is Holland, in case anyone wants to know~ (He’s kind of awful but I love him <3)
*Has anyone watched Altered Carbon on Netflix yet? I hear it’s good but I’d love a recommendation~
*Also, if you aren’t planning to see or if you haven’t watched Black Panther yet, why not? It was a great movie with some very compelling characters and I highly recommend seeing it if you haven’t yet. For anyone who’s hesitant or skeptical because of the hype, I want you to know I was too but the hype was real~ (Don’t let that sway you from checking out the flick)
What the Professors did not know when they turned the whole world into a glass eye is what would reflect back.
See, they made the eyes out of mirrored glass.
Covered spires and lampposts, windows and concrete with tiny, shiny eyes–always watching, always showing. Without pupils or irises, they seem to follow you, act out your life in their little sclera screens for you. Beads of silver beneath moonlight–darkness the only safe place, now.
Reflected back, we saw how small and easy we were to replicate to the world and we hid.
The Professors didn’t like that.
They said if we wouldn’t come out, then they’d come in. The eyes would go in and ours would go out. If we wouldn’t look, then they’d make us see.
For all their know-how, the Professors knew very little. For all their vision, saw very little.
To be fair, once we started to smash their mirror glass eyes, I suppose they couldn’t very well see much of anything.
Still, I doubt they foresaw us picking up the shards of their shattered world and jabbing them into our own eyes. Deep, deep until red gave way to blessed black. Merciful dark. Reflections of ourselves become shadow memory.
What the Professors should’ve known when they turned the whole world into a giant glass eye, is that we’d rather blind ourselves than meet its gaze. Our gaze.
They should’ve known.
You’d know, right? If the world’s mirror were facing you, you’d smash it to bits, right? To forget what you saw, you’d pick up the shards right? To un-know, you’d know what to do, right?
You’d do it too, right?
~Till next time ^.^~
*Check out some more killer stories here. From inside my head to yours ^.^ Sweet screams~
(I’ve rocked a few regrettable interesting looks, huh???)
Images are moments and if moments are experiences, then what experience does the “selfie” capture?
What is the selfie? What does it represent?
Well, that depends.
When it comes to social perceptions, the selfie, like most new digital media, typically gets a bad rep. What did you think society would say???
According to one article in Jezebel, by Erin Gloria Ryan, “Selfies aren’t empowering; they’re a high tech reflection of the f*cked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.” and “Selfies aren’t empowering little sources of pride, nor are they narcissistic exercises by silly, conceited b*tches. They’re a logical technically enabled response to being brought up to think that what really matters is if other people think you’re pretty.”Wow. Did you catch that double “not empowering”?
But, is this a fair assessment of the selfie? Is there nothing redeemable about this new digital form?
The article Ryan write hers in response to begs to differ. In “Selfies Are Good for Girls”, author Rachel Simmons says of selfies,“If you write off the endless stream of posts as image-conscious narcissism, you’ll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on when they negotiate for raises and promotions.” More, Simmons asserts, “The selfie suggests something in picture form—I think I look [beautiful] [happy] [funny] [sexy]. Do you?—that a girl could never get away with saying. It puts the gaze of the camera squarely in a girl’s hands, and along with it, the power to influence the photo’s interpretation.” This idea that the selfie can be a means of self-promotion and new form of communication otherwise unavailable on a personal scale is echoed in an interview conducted by NPR with digital artist, Molly Soda. Soda says, “I think a selfie is a really, really positive thing, whether or not its art, it’s super positive affirmation of self-love. And taking your photo and putting it on the Internet for the world to see is an act of positivity.” And, of the selfie’s particular dialogue, she says, “When I’m scrolling on my Instagram and I see a photo of a girl that she took of herself and I know she’s feeling really good that day about herself, that makes me feel good and that makes me want to photograph myself, and I think it’s a chain reaction.”
So, which is it?
Are selfies vain, self-centered, narcissistic, self-indulgent, and exploitative at best? Or, can they be these positive, celebrations of the self–especially for women?
More, are these even the right questions we should be asking? Are they detracting or distracting from what the selfie truly represents? Or, what it could represent? We could argue a moral imperative all semester and never reach any conclusions, in my mind. More, this kind of argument reduces the selfie to nothing more or less than an extension vanity or personal expression. This kind of discussion leads nowhere, to me, and fails to adequately recognize a new genre of digital media, of digital art: The Selfie.
Where’s the Art?
In Soda’s interview, she refers to selfies as “an exploratory art form” and, when discussing whether or not the selfie is art, she refers to “the selfie culture”. Not the phenomenon. Culture. To me, the intersection of culture and exploration finds you in the heart of art.
That said, as with social perceptions, perceptions in the art world typically leaned towards skeptical at best when discussing the selfie. (If we were playing “Sh*t People Say About Digital Media” bingo, I’d have “the decline of culture”, “global calamity”, “millennials”, &, to abbreviate, “tech bad” all marked off from reading some of the “less-credible” sources I came across~)
Anyway, attitudes seem to be shifting away from not even considering the selfie in the realm of art to giving it not only worthwhile consideration but even an exhibition this past year. For anyone who’s familiar with how the art world operates, that’s a huge shift. New genres–which are defined in the art world as forms that, “possess their own formal logic, with tropes and structural wisdom, and last a long time until all the problems they were created to address are addressed (different from style i.e Impressionism, Cubism, Dada)–arise very rarely and curators, art critics, art historians, and art enthusiasts tend to be lukewarm at best when it comes to new genres. (Some never warm up)
So, what’s the word on the selfie?
It seems that despite social perceptions or personal convictions, there is a “selfie-ness” that all selfies share and that is easily identifiable. We all know when we’re looking at a selfie, yeah? In “Selfies Are Art”, an article in The Atlantic that addresses both Ryan and Simmon’s articles, author Noah Berlatsky directly states, “The selfie may be good or it may be bad, but Simmons and Ryan agree that its essence is all one thing or all the other. Aberrations are to be explained away.” More, Berlastsky says, “The selfie is a deliberate, aesthetic expression—it’s a self-portrait, which is an artistic genre with an extremely long pedigree. There can be bad self-portraits and good self-portraits, but the self-portrait isn’t bad or good in itself. Like any art, it depends on what you do with it.”
In the article for the exhibition on selfies, curator Nigel Hurst, when asked if selfies are art is quoted as responding, “The simple answer to that is that everything can be art if it’s followed through by the maker with enough conviction and coherence, and also that enough people accept and believe that it’s art…We’re not saying that the slideshow of a teenager trying out various poses is as significant as a work by Rembrandt, but the art world cannot ignore this phenomenon.”
Now, it’s interesting that both Hurst and Berlatsky, unlike Simmons or Ryan, compare the selfie to a contemporary portraiture. That said, this is a fairly common comparison made. The excellent and enlightening Art Assignmentchannel on Youtube has a rather in-depth video on the subject, comparing self-portraits and self-taken photos to the contemporary selfie.
While a strong case is made for the selfie being an extension or an evolution of the self-portraiture genre and, certainly, being associated with such a prestigious genre with such a long history would be a boon, not everyone is of this mind–myself included.
In a Vulture article by Jerry Saltz, a case is made for why the selfie is its own distint genre, separate from traditional portraiture.
Saltz says, “These [Selfies] are not like the self-portraits we are used to. Setting aside the formal dissimilarities between these two forms—of framing, of technique—traditional photographic self-portraiture is far less spontaneous and casual than a selfie is. This new genre isn’t dominated by artists. When made by amateurs, traditional photographic self-portraiture didn’t become a distinct thing, didn’t have a codified look or transform into social dialogue and conversation. These pictures were not usually disseminated to strangers and were never made in such numbers by so many people. It’s possible that the selfie is the most prevalent popular genre ever.
Essentially, selfies are not portraits. At least, they aren’t just portraits.
(“If both your hands are in the picture and it’s not a mirror shot, technically, it’s not a selfie—it’s a portrait.”)
Aside from technical differences–that the camera is in the hands of the photographer, always within arm’s length (making a hint of the arm a feature of most), off-center subjects, distorted or exaggerated features due to the camera lenses of most phones,–selfies convey a different meaning than a traditional self portrait or photograph.
Selfies are almost always present, too. Traditional portraiture and photography was simply incapable of that immediacy. Even if the selfie shared is from a few years back or is used in a #ThrowbackThursday post on Instagram, there is still this sense of the original posting, this sense of a moment captured to be instantly shared. Selfies are experiences meant, almost always, to be shared, whether with a small audience or a large one. This also means most selfies are not accidental. Of this, Saltz states, “Whether carefully staged or completely casual, any selfie that you see had to be approved by the sender before being embedded into a network. This implies control as well as the presence of performing, self-criticality, and irony. The distributor of a selfie made it to be looked at by us, right now, and when we look at it, we know that. (And the maker knows we know that.)”
In this way, I do find selfies to be empowering, especially to women who have been subjected to the male gaze and all that applies for all of history. Being able to control the perception of yourself, even in such a small way, is an assertion of power. Despite what Ryan says in her article, that element of control is in and of itself what makes the selfie an empowering art form. That selfies can only be responses to a societal standard already in play or that selfies can never be anything other than an extension of this need for validation from others seems like an over-generalization, to me. And, that stance does not allow for the selfie to be looked at as an art form.
In fact, as the genre has come into its own, “selfie culture” seems to be more about subverting expectations. Or, it’s about questioning expectations. Asking people to see more than is usually expected.
Selfies become more that self-portraits, then. They become invitations to a dialogue, a conversation in which we all participate.
Now, you may say, “Kelli” or “Heltsekffkkfj” whatever the f*ck, right? (idk how you refer to me in your head, if you do) “I don’t even take selfies. How can I be a part of this ‘conversation’ you speak of??? What even kind of conversation is being carried out through selfies?”
I’m glad you asked~
See, whether or not you’ve personally taken a selfie, you’ve seen them, you know people who take them, you’ve seen people take them. Point is, you know what they are. Selfies are almost as pervasive as they are controversial. Or, controversial as they are pervasive?? Think those 2 things go hand in hand. More to the point, you’ve interacted with selfies. You’ve read them or you read them, so to speak, almost daily. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m pretty good at telling a “show-off” shot from a “I’m feeling nice today” one. There’s a different feeling a Kim K. selfie gives off than one of my co-worker Christina, staring straight into the camera with slight smile, yeah? However you categorize selfies–and I bet you do–you know there are differences, differences conveyed only in that slight smile, eyes half looking at the camera, half at some point above it, only in that superior tilt of one’s chin, that glimmer in their eye, that hint of a curvaceous figure in the mirror.
Selfies have a language and we are all fast becoming fluent in it.
Saltz says, “Selfies are our letters to the world. They are little visual diaries that magnify, reduce, dramatize—that say, ‘I’m here; look at me.'” He continues on to speak about what some of his favorite kinds of selfies are: “Everyone has their own idea of what makes a good selfie. I like the ones that metamorphose into what might be called selfies-plus—pictures that begin to speak in unintended tongues, that carry surpluses of meaning that the maker may not have known were there. Barthes wrote that such images produce what he called ‘a third meaning,’ which passes ‘from language to significance.'” Saltz likes selfies that tell stories. That speak of things beyond the literal, beyond just the self in the selfie. Things that are not spoon-fed to readers but that are still present, just below the surface. And, if you care to look, you can see them. “I’m talking about more unstable, obstinate meanings that come to the fore: fictions, paranoia, fantasies, voyeurism, exhibitionism, confessions—things that take us to a place where we become the author of another story. That’s thrilling. And something like art.”
But it’s more than art. It’s all of those meanings just below the surface coming into conversation with themselves and with us. We interpret. We imagine. We investigate. We create. Then, we share.
In this article, Saltz shares a selfie a man took on a trip to Auschwitz. What do you see? More, what do you feel?
It’s not just a selfie, right? There are so many associations culminating in this one imagine that create story that is more than its selfie parts. Maybe you’re horrified that this kid thought it was okay to make a “joke” out of Auschwitz. Maybe you’re not surprised. Maybe you feel something else. Point it, you feel something. You’re reacting to something conveyed. Something was said and you have a response. You are in dialogue with this selfie.
Not all selfies ask us new questions. Some confirm what we knew. Maybe this one confirmed you lack of faith in humanity…. Some ask us just to bask in a moment with the taker of the selfie, to share it with them. To imagine the experience of something. Like this one by astronaut Aki Hoshide :
This selfie, I would say, veers into one of the many categories Saltz identified in his article, the category of “selfie thinking” that he describes only as, “It’s the invisible thought balloon over the subjects. ‘It is totally incomprehensible, even to us, to be us,’ they [selfies] are saying, ‘or to be us, being here.'” In this way, selfies become confirmations of the self and then confirmations of the experience as we bear witness to it. More, as you bear witness to it. Selfies are a documentation of the experience of yourself experiencing something. Selfies transcend questions of vanity and of narcissism when they are allowed to enter this realm.
In this way, selfies capture the experience of the self. More, they capture our experience of ourselves, new digital media allowing them to enter into dialogue with themselves and with the world without.
A Note on Personal Responsibility
All this said, that doesn’t mean the genre is without its faults. It’s new and burgeoning and exploratory and experimental which leaves it open to making a lot of mistakes.
Also, that selfie of the guy at Auschwitz is not a stand-out. In fact, it’s becoming a disturbing trend. While I’m not sure the rise of the selfie itself is solely to blame for this trend, I do agree that it’s facilitating this kind of disrespect and dissociation from reality, from the gravity of one’s actions that social media at large is taking heat for. As mentioned in the article, there’s this growing disaffection and, really, inability to appreciate moments themselves without commemorating them via digital means. Like, things don’t mater or can’t unless they’re shared and validated through that act of sharing. Again, I don’t think the selfie should be wholly held accountable for this. Remember, there is a person behind the selfie.
Anyway, selfies are my go-to photo. Over the years, I’ve taken more selfies than I care to admit. Before I had a smartphone, I was taking selfies with my digital camera and uploading them to my computer like a savage~
Now, all it takes is the right angle and a click.
That said, I’ve always found selfies to be introspective. Especially when you can view many of them in concert with each other, you hear a story. Or, they tell a story–the story of you. I can see how I’ve changed–or haven’t. I can look at myself from many angles~
I can see which parts of my story hit, too. For instance, this is the latest piece of my story:
I know what the caption beneath says but what does it tell you? Even without the caption, would you still get a sense of my message?
I may be biased but I think so.
There’s about that far-off look that’s almost contemplative, thoughtful. Though the camera is angled below me, my head is still tilted, to the side so that my hair angles downward. The camera may be pointed up but I’m being dragged down. There’s the straight line of my mouth. The glow of my painted face that is at odds with the flat look in my eyes. Then, of course, there’s all the deep, black Xs slashed around my head, creating a disconcerting halo that also conflicts with the overall glow of my face. Even without saying anything, I think it’s clear that I’m experiencing a conflict of emotions. Maybe I’m battling something? I think the question is there and that is the power of the selfie in action, the art of it. T
his selfie is the story of me in this moment, performed by me–maybe–but definitely lived by me. It is the embodiment of an experience. One that I wanted to share–not because I can’t appreciate what I feel and the moment I live in or because I need someone to validate it for it to be real but because I do appreciate my moments and believe there is something worthwhile in allowing them to be shared experiences. So many people are afraid to be vulnerable and I think the only way to overcome that is to show that everyone feels it.
Selfies are vulnerable.
They are our faces. What’s that expression, “save face”? Selfies literally do not allow you to spare any part of your face, let alone save it. It’s you, for all the world to see. It’s what you want to say about yourself for all the world to hear. That’s such a vulnerable position to put yourself in. I think we need to appreciate that more. We can by not dismissing selfies outright and reducing them to only one thing and instead by trying to listen and to read between the frames and to always understand there is a person behind at the heart of?every selfie~
*Missing a collection of pics of people taking selfies? Here you go. I didn’t cover it in my post but this a big thing people do now–take photos of people taking photos. I suppose some people think it’s meta. Others just like being assh*les–which is, granted, fun sometimes. Some might fancy they’re making social commentary. What’s your stance?
*Selfiecity is a project that’s investigating the selfies of 5 different cities, using a mix of theoretic, artistic, and quantitative methods. It seems like the project is interested in what implications of the selfie can be applied to a larger context, such as a city. It’s a very informative site and the essays seem well-researched and contrived. I wish I had more time to explore the site for my work but I highly recommend checking this site out!
~Till Next Time~
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s 2017 Electronic Literature course.