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!!
For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of the NetNarr realm have started their own project and have invited us to participate as well. It’s an awesome opportunity to dabble with some digital alchemy~
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at first–or if I would have time to do anything–but, miraculously, I’m on it with the time management this weekend and I also had a burst of creative inspiration. I decided to remix-ish an old story I wrote about a year ago that was inspired by a random bot prompt.
Originally, I posted the story here on my blog. Then, I uploaded a reading of the story to Soundcloud that I created using Audacity, complete with some simple sound effects I created crunching tortilla chips or snapping vine charcoal.
Now, I decided to make a pseudo-ish ELit work using Google slides. I would prefer to make it more interactive but I’m kind of working with what I’ve got on hand. A while back, I made a pretty cool and interactive ELit piece using Microsoft Powerpoint which has a lot more features than Google slides and is a bit more user-friendly in that regard (one you get used to the interface and all its buttons, of course). The only problem with using Powerpoint is that it makes the work a download so every time someone wants to see the work, they have to download it to their computer which, really, gives them free license to edit and disrupt it as well
Anyway, I made do and I’m pretty happy with what I came up with. I had a lot of fun find images to play off my work and even more fun editing them as well as playing around with Google slides’ meager selection of animation. I think my text effects, though subtle, are the most powerful editions I made to the work. They play off the spirit of the piece, if you will.
But enough rambling on from me.
Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think~
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!
Whether it’s the Dada nonsense of Duchamp (i.e. his lovely Fountain) or the Neo-Dada digitized nonsense embodied in some works of ELit such as in Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Die, there will be critics and they will be harsh.
Digital art is the newest on the scene and so I believe that’s part of why there is so much skepticism surrounding it. Some people think it is inherently less because of its digital assistance. There’s something less real about it as if anything at all is really real. Also, I’ve noticed there’s this perception that it takes less skill to create digital work which somehow translates to less meaning and less thoughtfulness. As if one couldn’t possibly imbue a work made through a digital medium with even a modicum of meaning that oil on canvas can. These people have obviously never had to code a thing a day in their lives or never placed something on the WRONG layer in Photoshop >.<There’s this traditional idea of toil and suffering for one’s art, blood and sweat, that isn’t realized the same way in the creation of digital art that establishes this disconnect.
That said, from the tone of Tuesday’s night’s twitter chat, it seems attitudes are in the process of shifting. Most people, myself included, have not only experienced digital art and found something worthwhile in it but have contributed to its proliferation and propagation–We’ve spread it. We’ve createdit. We appreciate it.
At least, in some form.
Many of us have made memes or gifs or have learned how to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Microsoft Paint was “old hat” to some. DeviantArt (which makes me think of Degenerate Art and of how reclaiming language can have a profound and powerful affect) had a vocal advocate, too. It was very clear that, at least among our cohort, digital art isn’t the new Degenerate Art.
It’s our art.
We were sympathetic towards the issues of surrounding digital art. For example, it’s very easy to re-post art online without providing proper attribution to artists. To me, this contributes to that problem of digital art being perceived as cheaper because the work that goes into creating it is seen as less. This leads to a trickle-down devaluation of the medium in that it makes people unwilling to pay a fair commission price for digital work due to the perception that because it is so widely available, it must be a simple task to create. Which is simply not true.
Of course, questions of accessibility also arise. Most of us, perhaps because of the above situation, don’t see digital art as a commodity so much as we do an amenity of the internet. It’s decorative or it’s fun or funny, entertaining. And because it’s online and not in a museum, we feel more entitled to it, maybe? I felt an undercurrent of this feeling in our Twitter chat. I don’t think money came up at all which says a lot about how we think of digital art and work that exists in digital spaces to me.
And, while I’m all for allowing people to have access to beautiful and meaningful works, regardless of their economic status, sex, race, creed, etc., I don’t think the rampant, creditless re-posting and exploitation or artists’ work is a fair system. More, it pushes artists towards having to fund themselves through other means and on online platforms, that means ads~
Ultimately. the system devalues what it should be promoting.
Which is so unfortunate because I do believe there is a lot of potential to create beauty and meaning and even beautiful, meaningless nonsense through digital means.
What was interesting to me, though, was how many of us counted photography among our skills. This, I believe, relates to double-edged word: accessibility–all of us have phones that double as cameras now. We have ample opportunity to exercise this skill.
We had opportunities to exercise our photography skills this week.
First: A Photo Safari. 7 challenges/prompts. 15 minutes to respond with photos to as many of the prompts as possible. 1 freezing cold, Northeastern USA day and 1 dreadfully dull university campus. What could go wrong???
Tbh, nothing much.
In fact, I think we all showed off our photo-taking skills rather well. For myself, I was surprised at how many pictures I was able to capture–6 out of 7.
My favourites have to be these (in response to prompts 2, 3, & 7):
This is probably my favourite photo overall. I like how my shadow is replicated in the glass and how it is superimposed over the mask. If I had the means, I would’ve liked to have more of the “face part” of my shadow overlaying the mask. I think it would’ve created a more complex dissonance. What is my true face, you know?
I stand by my decision to put a black & white filter on the photo. It really emphasizes the shadowy parts of this composition and, to me, adds a sense of mystery or of foreboding.
As you can tell, I’m kind of a filter junkie. But, I think my filter choices resonate with the content of my photos. The filters emphasize a tone or help create a feeling. Of course, it’s always nice to incorporate those elements “naturally” and in the original composition if possible. But if you can’t, it’s nice to still have the opportunity to do it. Good example of access.
If memes and gifs are the sprinkles of the internet then filters are the sprinkles of photography~
Another opportunity we had to explore and build-upon our photography know-how was an “oldie-but-a-goodie” to me: 5 Card Flickr Roulette Story. (We accessed this activity through the new Make Bank portal.)
Essentially, you pick 5 photos–provided through Flickr–at random and try to compose a story from them. It’s a different way of looking at photography than in the first activity but, to me, it’s possibly the most important aspect of the art–creating story, narrative. Instilling meaning.
***Title for the 2nd work inspired by a line from Kendrick Lamar’s “XXX.”
I explained it more in my response on Make Bank but I believe images are moments and poetry is the art we extract from moments. More, poetry is how we refine experience and distill it into its most essential, truthful, and deeply human parts. We are all made up of experiences, after all. Don’t want to go off an abstract tangent though~
Exercises like these provide opportunities for us to explore the intersection between different medias and mediums as well as provide opportunities to explore and expound upon our own creativity. In the process, we learn new ways to express ourselves and to convey meaning. More, these activities highlight how story is not exclusive to writing. It can be visual. It can be digital. And, it can still have impact.
That’s really important.
Not Finding Meaning
All this said, there was an interesting point raised in the Twitter chat around digital art and meaning. For many, digital art is an outlet like any other creative venture. It’s something they do to relax or to think or to spend quality time with the self. It is not seen an act with any particular purpose or meaning assigned to it, in that way.
There was some push-back to this idea–that digital art could be inherently meaningless.
But, to me, this makes sense??? Maybe it’s because I lean towards the existential side of nihilism, but I believe there is no intrinsic meaning in anything. We give things meaning. We make meaning. We decide meaning. The things that have meaning to me reflect decisions I have made about their value. Don’t want to go off on a nihilistic tangent either though~ Art isn’t an exception.
Anyway, while I strongly believe there can be meaning in digital art and that it can be a powerful tool to convey meaning, that doesn’t mean it has to mean anything. I mean, most Dada artists and some Surrealists rejected any attempt to impose meaning on their work and some of those works are still highly regarded today. The Futurists were totally opposed to art being anything other than embodiment of mechanical and industrial concepts. De Stijl artists (like Piet Mondrian with his infamous squares) were also interested in removing the, well, personal expression from art. (Mondrian’s compositions of squares do strinkigly resemble the clean lines of skyscrapers and of city infrastructure. #themoreyouknow~) Photography was originally used as just a cataloging tool.
The point is digital art shouldn’t have to have an inherent meaning either to be important. That’s a really high standard as well as an arbitrary one. Especially is meaning is what we make it and nothing more.
An element to digital art that I always find interesting and that we touched upon a little in class tonight is that of preservation or conservation. With how quickly tech is advancing, how do we preserve the work created during such a transitional period? More, should we be blithely preserving all digital work or should we be more discerning? Also, should older works of digital art, such as some ELit pieces, be “updated” if they were made using now-obsolete means in order to preserve their original accessibility?
These kinds of questions fascinate me.
They arise in the traditional art world, as well. For example, Dieter Roth (sometimes called Dieter Rot) was an artist who worked in foodstuffs. He made sausages out of books (Literaturwurst) and other things in imitation of food before he began actually making paintings with yogurt and these famous busts out of chocolate. He even had an entire gallery exhibition that was just suitcases sitting in the gallery, filled with cheese. (It did not last long.)
Anyway, questions arise about preservation all the time with these kinds of works–is it going against the intent of the work and of the artist to preserve these pieces? A part of the art is that it was not made to last. It wouldn’t have been made out of food otherwise. Roth once said works of art, “should change like man himself, grow old and die.”
Many want to preserve art for posterity. It is a part of the human story and so it has value in that way. Some argue art is timeless as well and so should be preserved, for future experiences of it.
But, that’s what’s going on with the traditional side of art. What about the digital side?
This week in class, we explored The Wayback Machine which is an archive of the internet. It preserves moments in time, what pages or sites looked like, well, way back. Along with Vanessa and Hailey, I explored the history of etoy which seems to be a work of ELit that was established in the 90s and is based on a real legal situation the creators had that they re-imagined as a kind of war. To be honest, it seemed very complicated and extremely meta. The current website seems to imply that etoy is a kind of commentary on current models of corporate structures??? The jobs page is a real delight to read–corporate jargon mixed with actual nonsense. It’s a very devoted piece of ELit.
Anyway, again, it’s interesting to see how people are going about preserving digital art and work. I know there’s also the ELit Libraries which are curated collections of ELiterature pieces. And, there’s the I EPoetry site as well created by Leonardo Flores (@Leornardo_UPRM). These are just some of the ways people are trying to preserve digital art and work. After all, there are no museums for this stuff, right?
It’ll be interesting to see if that changes or to see what initiatives if any are put in place to preserve digital work. And, how that may affect access.
I guess I’m left wondering about art and accessibility.
Particularly, I’m concerned about the new digital element and how it affects the intersection of art and accessibility. Obviously, it complicates some things. But, ultimately, I feel it offers more opportunities than it does problems. I think old ideas of what art should be and about what stories are detract from everything else working in a digital medium provides creators and innovators. Questions about preservation are relevant but about whether or not digital art is art??? No. Get out of here. Sounds elitist and woefully uniformed.
And, that’s how I feel.
If you feel differently, I’m all kinds of interested in why~
Vanessa’s Post about etoy (one of the weirdest, meta ELit pieces either Hailey or I have come across~ Seriously, researching this project was a trip)
*Stumbled across this article on the class site and I had to give my recommendation. It discusses some alternatives in the works to the internet. While these alternative options definitely appeal to my desire for privacy–which ties into safety, as this article made me realize–I found myself conflicted about what instituting some of these sites in practice would mean. It rose objections for me. More, it made me aware of what putting one of these alternative site that doesn’t store information centrally would mean. Highly recommend reading.
*An essay I wrote on nihilism and Neo-Dadaism in Jason Nelson’s This Is How You Will Die if you’re interested. Highly recommended checking out the actual piece, too.
*Speaking of poetry, a book I’ve been reading and would recommend is Depression & Other Magic Tricksby Sabrina Benaim. It explores depression and loss in a very human way. It’s quickly become a friend~
*One Dada manifesto in case you’re curious. (By Tzara, typically credited as a founder of Dada)
*A fun and interesting video that explores 2 different kinds of nihilism–existential and cosmic–through a philosophical exploration of 2 of my favourite animated shows: Rick & Morty and Bojack Horseman. Both fun and educational ^.^
*On Art: Meet my friend Drac~
(nickel sheet metal, nickel wire, silver solder, black acrylic, & black plastic thread)
*For those who don’t know, I make art out of metal as well as words. Drac is one of my latest projects and one of my biggest. I’m also no sure if he has any inherent meaning other than I like bats and the moon~ He is going to be in a student show coming up~
But, what if those tuning in don’t care so much to hear you as they do to extract information about you and exploit it? (That took a dark turn, huh?)
Compare, Contrast, & Conflict
Do Not Track, a mini-documentary series/interactive digital project directed by Brett Gaylor, discusses the very real ways our internet meandering is not only tracked but compiled and used for economic gains–not our own, of course. I’m only one episode in so far but the tone is clearly different from that of a work like the Network Effect which is another interactive digital work that allows users to, I would argue, see just how much personal information is not only out there in the interweb miasma but also easily accessible to anyone and everyone. That isn’t to say the Network Effect is trying to do anything nefarious–in fact, it seems their purpose is rather the opposite–but Do Not Track is clearly trying to make a different point about the internet’s ability to not only observe our actions but collect and compile them to use for purposes we as users of digital spaces are not always aware of or able to control.
To be honest though, I found the contrast between the purposes of the two projects to be most interesting. Perhaps it is because I am a child of the digital age and can only remember a small window of time living without tech being an integral part of how I interact with the world, but the idea that I’m constantly being watched and tracked through my devices is not shocking nor does it make me afraid. If it were all more Orwellian in nature, then maybe. As it stands, I think Big Brother has a more invested interest in selling me out to Big Business for bigger bottom lines all around than it has a desire in anything more sinister. Yet, at least. Greed, especially of the corporate kind, disgusts me, but, again, it’s expected. Would I prefer not to see Amazon adds of things I was just perusing popping up on my social media feeds? Yes. Would I prefer Google not storing a story of me in their vaults? Yes. It’s disconcerting at least and paranoia-inducing at worst. It makes me wonder how else I’m being exploited without my consent. It makes me want to rip the power cells out of all my devices and sign off for good.
But, I can’t.
Again, this is the digital age. If you live in modern society with most of the rest of the world, you simply can’t disconnect. You wouldn’t be able to function in the world. Maybe I’m not so much anesthetized to being surveilled by microwaves even!as I am resigned to its being an inevitability of digital life. It’s the trade-off. (That continual debate of safety vs. freedom.)
That isn’t to say that some of this collective information or story can’t be used for good. The Network Effect is a primary example of how the internet’s ability to track people and their actions can be used to unify instead of to divide. I think now more than ever we all need to be reminded that, yes, while we may be unique individuals with unique stories, we also share a vast array of similar experiences that connect us. That can.
In a post I made a year ago on my first experience of the Network Effect, I focused on the action GRIEVE and on how the amount of people tweeting about grieving tended to pique at 7am & later at 7pm.
There’s something grounding and uniquely human about the timing. Or maybe it’s just the confirmation that we all experience loss and have so few words to capture it the 140 character rule never seems to be a problem~
First, this statistic made me wonder why. Because grief is most poignant upon first waking and then at dinner, a time typically spent with family or friends? Because first waking is the first moment a loss is remembered again? Because sitting at a table with an empty chair that wasn’t always empty is so unbearable it makes you want to scream into the void? Don’t I know it. None of the above? All this wondering (an act which I believe has merit inherent unto itself) led me to my second realization which is this: there are individuals that make up every bit of this data I’m viewing. More, this data isn’t just a static chart on a page. It’s video and tweets in live time. It isn’t just percentages–it’s story. It’s lives. Big Brother and Big Business may forget that but when it’s presented in such a way as it is through the Network Effect, I think that reality is undeniable and that is what makes this project powerful.
What’s Louder? Our Stories or Our Silence?
Ultimately, I feel conflicted about internet tracking/surveillance. While I agree with Do Not Track’s position that undisclosed or unwarranted tracking “dis-empowers” me and robs me of agency in that it makes choices for me about what content I’ll see on my internet journeys, I also believe or want to believe that there can be a benefit to having a digital collective or archive of the human experience like the Network Effect.
Not everyone who is tuning in to us is doing it with good intentions but I believe it is important and it is progress that we have a platform where we can all tune into each other.
“The people’s chant must be everything the people can’t be~”–I think the internet does a spectacular job of showing us all where we are as a people and how far we still have to go. It gives us a starting place, at the very least. It can. In recent years, yes, the internet and its many platforms have become weaponized and increasingly capitalized upon, creating horrible echo chambers in too many cases, but I think it’s important to remember all the possibility still inherent to the idea (think the Arab Spring or the Women’s Marches or the #MeToo movement which were all conceived of in internet spaces and then actualized). Allowing our stories to be digital can create stories that can exist beyond digital boundaries. And, to me, everything is story. It can be. In the digital age especially, there are so many opportunities to tell stories. We may not always be able to control who is listening to them or how they are received but I don’t think that should silence us. Should stop us from tuning in to each other. From trying to cut through the chaos and static.
*Twit 1 & Twit 2 (I meant to use only one this time around but I’ve already mixed it up Silly so here’s both~)
*If you’re interested in short stories based off of Twitter bot nonsense, I recommend checking out my Killing It tag. I’m toying with the idea of reviving it~
*I posted this vid by Al Jazeera in the #netnarr tag about media literacy in the wake of fake news’ popularity on Twitter and then it was retweeted with the #netnarrlinks tag (for anyone who also wants to share cool content on Twitter).
*For anyone who was disappointed by season 4 of Black Mirror, I highly recommend checking out Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. It’s an Amazon original series based off of works by Philip K. Dick (the title of the show is a play on the title of one of his more famous works Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which is a classical dystopian I actually enjoy ^.^). and it’s free if you have prime. Like Black Mirror, it’s an anthology series that bridges sci-fi and the psychological through explorations of the intersection of life and tech.
*See The Post if you haven’t already! It is phenomenal and relevant to current events >.>
***I didn’t think about it till after but the Soundcloud link I shared to a Chance the Rapper song is oddly appropriate in that Chance is an artist without a label who rose to popularity and eventually mainstream prominence through the internet and digital media. People shared and promoted his music online and through apps like Spotify. Would definitely recommend checking him out if you’re looking for some good music. He’s more poet than rapper to me in some ways.
“World building” is somehow a difficult concept to attribute to the world–proper, so to speak. Actually, it’s kind of a hard term to think of the world in/with because the world is built, isn’t it? All around us, there are these constructed and contrived places. Infrastructure and institutions. Spaces with such seemingly benign, or, should I say, obvious stories that even considering them as storied spaces at all is bizarre. Like, I know why the library is in the center of main campus–access and availability. And, a library is a resource center, one that provides books for your needs/interests so long as you have a card with the institution. It’s all very prescribed. Background noise at this point. Facts my brain doesn’t need time with to process and sort.
There is a world that exists behind or beyond that kind of dictated, socio-culturally enforced, shallow surface. When I think of the library, utilitarian purposes don’t exclusively come to mind. The books I’ve checked out do. The conversations I had with the librarians do. The friendship I formed with one of the librarians does. Even, all my anxiety about tripping down the library’s totally trippable steps comes to mind when I think of the library! (Don’t judge. I’m afraid of all heights equally and I’ve seen more than a couple of people miss those tricky steps~)
Anyway, it still sounds weird to think of my own personal experiences with an environment or place as being “world building” but, I guess they are. I mean, it’s how I see my world–through my interactions with it. Those interactions inform how I navigate and how I structure my life. If I had a poor experience at a certain restaurant, I probably won’t go back there, regardless of how hungry I may be and my proximity (i.e ease of access) to it. Through a utilitarian lens, when hungry, I should go to the nearest place that provides food. But, that’s just not the reality of the world. Not the one I live in, at least. I’m not eating someplace where I don’t like the service. End of story.
I’m not sure if there’s a means of communicating all the stories a space can accumulate in a way that isn’t overwhelming or too selective, still. Like I said earlier, my brain can process a place’s utilitarian, dictated purposes like second nature. Increasing the amount of info (i.e stories) it would need to process in a short amount of time may become more of an interference in how I’m informed about a space instead of an improvement. Maybe. Our brains are capable of processing such an abundance of info though–but it takes time to do it well. And, I think when it comes to attaching a multitude of associations to a place, time becomes a reasonable concern. Over-stimulation, a major concern. Plus, how much does every person who walks through/uses the library need to know about my fear of falling down the stairs? What would that meaningfully add to their concept of the space? Would they walk a little slower down the steps? Again, maybe. If they cared. Which is another thing.
I may know the technical purpose of a space and know the intended use of a space, but that doesn’t mean I care. For another example, the Quick Check’s (local convenience store) back lot by my high school may have been intended for parking–and it was used for parking–but everyone also knew it was a great place to skateboard after the skate park closed. And, to be honest, that function superseded the original because it was the only one most anyone cared about. The police would come by and round you up every now and again but that didn’t deter anyone. So, that was my roundabout way of explaining that there is a level of care that goes into the conceiving of a place. It’s the functions that everyone cares about that become a place’s associations, become what it is renowned for. Applying this idea to storied spaces, to me, means that people will still only care about a select few stories themselves because there’s nothing stopping them from doing that. Attempting to give a place a greater depth of meaning through attributing more stories to it, while admirable and overall nice, doesn’t ensure any intentions will stick. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer
Still, I think there’s some merit to using digital means or digital storytelling to help inform people about how to conceive of a place, how to build it. At the very least, it can provide a place for a record of another place’s experiences. Like, a lot of museums have apps now that allow you to explore the entire museum via your phone. Some even have cool activities you can do whilst meandering through the galleries. Essentially, those who do care about what lies below the surface of a space can dive in. I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable for other spaces like universities to have apps specifically for cataloging the experiences of their students in order to possibly enrich experience of the entire space overall. For any place, really, I don’t think that’s unreasonable or, too far off from reality. Not with the way technology is developing.
(Let me know if any apps already exist that are attempting to do what I just spent for-freakin’- ever describing!)
Apparently, I was in a sharing mood this week. Adding a dash of “feelings” to both this week’s blog post and to the Padlet. Just couldn’t help myself.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about the purpose (or, intended purpose, should I say) or, really, the person, behind the writing on this blog, I’d check out this week’s post. Also, if you want to hear me curse at Audacity. And, read a story in my own voice….
(Speaking of, the items I used to make the sound effects are, in order, sticks of vine charcoal for the tinkling sound in the beginning, 2 faux-skulls banged together for the steady beat + mortar & pestle, a stick of vine charcoal snapped in half for snapping bird bones, and a handful of tortilla chips I crushed for the crunching bone sound. Kind of difficult guesses. Sorry~ but not really)
Creative Enterprise (i.e that section you can skip if you don’t care~ I’ll only cry myself to sleep a little bit)
This week saw a grand total of….*drum beat* 1 bot story written.
This is largely due to the fact that I have a new-found addiction to My Favorite Murder. That podcast I mentioned in my blog post this week. It’s ruining my life (i.e productivity) and I love it. Highly recommend.
Anyway, before I became a raging addict, I did manage to finish a jewelry-making project–a necklace that I’m still describing as “blood-splatter wings” because I haven’t picked a name yet…. Like I said, this has been a poor past few days for getting sh*t done.
Also, I’ve managed to acquire some bones (chicken, relax, and ethically gathered) for my project I’m working on now. Have a new friend who dabbles in taxidermy. Score. So, definitely check back to see how that turns out.
Hopefully, the creativity will pick back up. I’m like half-way through the podcast’s archive so I’m on my way to getting it out of my system. Or, you know, maybe I’ll accept moderation into my heart….
I like the idea of storied spaces catching on. Would make the world feel “homier”, I think. Less indoctrinated and more lived in.
Actually, it would be cool, I think, to create a kind of storied space with my writing an art. Like a show or an exhibit that sought to join the two mediums together via a personal interjection of some sort. Maybe that could be accessed in a digital format. I’d like to find some way to get people to hear me reading my stories too–so, that could also be an element to this concept. Think that would be pretty cool and be a way to “story a space” because everyone would have their own interactions and experiences with the exhibit to add to the ones that are already installations of it. It’s something to think about anyway.
Drumbeat batters breeze bare-knuckled. Bloody, if it could. Tut-tut-tut transforms the atmosphere into something tormented. Tortured. Just a sliver shy of a scream.
I sway to the sound, skin soaking in its scathe. Absorbing the maim and claim. The tug and tear.
In the thick of the crowd, illuminated by a mix of fire and faint moonlight, a figure fights the drum’s beating. Twists sharp turns to thwart possession. To prevail. A losing game.
Once lured in, that’s it.
Other figures clap, pound flesh till the night seems alive with its own rhythmic pulse, thrumming steadily through the battered air. A grunted chant rumbles in time.
Somewhere, deep in the wood surround, a wolf howls. Tears at night’s skin. A territorial call if I’ve ever heard one. A victorious brag. I grip the skin I’m in. Tame growl into grumbling chant. Return sight to the light bathing those gathered in shades of dark red.
The dancer nearest flame, so deeply red they’re shadow on smoke, throws back their head–theirs and the bear skull that swallows it whole. An echoing, bellicose bellow–growl–silences both flesh and drum beat.
Another deep sound, the wolf.
A last, me.
Closely, I watch the dancer shed the bear skull. Slide claws as long as fingers from their hands. Keep the grizzled pelt wrapped ’round their wide shoulders, though. For warmth, maybe. The skin in place ’round their meaty waist.
Two figures donning wolf skulls and matching hides separate from the crowd as the lone bear dancer returns to it.
Beats begin their battering blows once more. Less heavy. More lean. Like wolf meat. Night’s pulse picks up in a low thrum, a lower hum. Faintest scream.
I track the bear dancer as they cut through the crowd, one toothy smile at a time. A short laugh or two. My rhythm mirrors theirs. Overtakes it. Sleek. Light. A slow skulk. Steady hunt.
We meet where the edge of the crowd kisses forest fathoms.
Bear Dancer slashes a charming smile across their face, distinctive jaw jutting upward with its self-assured slant as if to display the many scars crisscrossing sensitive skin like trophies. One rather deep cut is still raw. Fresh. I curl my fist.
A grin of my own begins to stretch flesh. Tempt tearing. Bear dancer’s widens in return. Devours his face.
“Hello,” he steps into my sway. “Like tonight?” I nod, grin sharp enough to put Bear Dancer to shame.
“You dance good.” Another growl tamed into something softer. “It’s striking,” I motion to the pelt on his back. “your form.”
“Yes.” He preens, fingering the fur. I swallow fury. “A lucky catch, bear. Usually, they keep to their caves.”
“Ah?” I drag him back to me. “Where’d you get the bear then?”
“Clearing by Slim River.” His voice is proud. “Mama and cub hunting. Hare, probably. I got Mama first in the side with my spear. When she charged, I got her in the head with my handy ax. She clawed, though.” He taps his scarred chin. “A fighter.”
“Huntress.” I correct.
“Yes.” Bear Dancer nods, looking grave. “Very fierce. The others threw many spears till she went down. The cub though,” Bear Dancer’s grin returns. “was easy. Little fella. A club to the head.” Bear Dancer swings his arm past my face. “Dead.”
“Dead.” I repeat, dead, stepping back into forest, spiny nettles brushing bare skin. Swirl my hips. Bear dancer follows. “Poor boy.”
“There were two.” He leans close as if revealing a secret. “Cubs. Two of ’em. Always with Mama but not this time. Very odd.” He quirks his head. “Bears don’t usually keep more than one. Too hard to feed. Keep only the strong one…. Wonder where the runt is? The little fella cried out after he was hit. Almost like a scream. Maybe–”
“She heard.” I finish with too much gnash. “The sister?” Bear dancer gives me a confused look and I reach for his hands–the ones that were wearing Mama bear’s claws–settling them on my waist.
“Yes.” Bear dancer tightens his hold on me. I lead us further behind branches. Beyond the fire light’s creeping reach. “You know the story?” Now, I quirk my head. Take another backward step. “About the sister cub. That she’s one of us. Child lost from the tribe long ago. Found by bears. Clothed in their skin.”
“I hadn’t heard.” Another step. So close.
“Not from ’round here?” Bear Dancer asks. “Was wondering…. You look familiar but can’t place face.”
Finally. Trees give way to open space. A clearing. Nearby, a watery babble replaces drum beats. Flesh beats. Moonlight overtakes flickering flame.
“It’s not my usual.” I brush Bear Dancer’s hands off me and he tilts his chin. That fresh cut. Shiny red beneath the moon. I flex my fingers. Feel nails sharpen. “Face.”
A swipe of my claw to the head and Bear Dancer is down. For brother.
I’m on him before he knows what hit him, my lithe body now heavier. My skin, fur. Much better. Weight settles on my shoulders–my skull no prop large enough to swallow a head whole. Bear Dancer’s. I stare into his wide eyes, grizzly reflection in their glisten. I can’t smile anymore so a snarl will have to do. Recognize me now?
“S-s-skin-n-w-w-wwalk-ker-r.” He accuses.
No, a growl like a laugh rumbles in my cavernous chest. I told you. Huntress.
A claw finds purchase in the mark Mama carved so I’d know and tugs. Jaw gone before Bear Dancer can scream. Then, claws like little spears and teeth like ax blades find flesh. Tear. Bite bone, too, creating their own beat, own chant. Rhythm.
And, when the song is done, I toss my head back. Scream. Tear the night in two. It’s no victory screech. No brag. Nothing celebatory. It’s a warning. An announcement.
The battle is mine.
*Side note: those last words are coincidentally my first thoughts in the morning…. Weird. ^.^
Anyway, that means I finally got around to playing with sound. And, to being frustrated by it.
That said, I didn’t really feel a strong pull towards any of the not-to-do-list prompts. I did really like reading one of my works aloud in class this past week, though. So, I decided to run with that and record myself–again–reading my story. Only, this time, with some added sound effects to set the mood. Create an atmosphere.
It was noteasy.
Audacity seems like a simple, user-friendly interface until you start piling on the different sounds and then it get complicated. (see, uncooperative) Adding a sound here or there moves everything else out-of-place. And, cutting something is a very, shall we say, hellishdelicate process. Always, always listen a few dozen times after every little change to ensure you’ve done what you intended is all I want have to say. Always.
Without further ado, why don’t you take a little listen to the fruits of Shadow Girl’s many frustrations~
(Can you guess what I props I used to make the sound effect? Yes? No? Maybe? All will be revealed in this week’s reflection~)
This is the same story I read in class and, to be honest, it’s a favourite I’ve written so far.
In class, I talked a little about the inspiration behind a lot of my work. But, because I was kind of nervous speaking in front of everyone, I only discussed one aspect of my work–that I like writing girls who are as cruel as their world has been to them. More, I enjoy writing stories about female characters who’s motivations are not responses to a patriarchal influence. My girls are violent or disturbed/disturbing in and of themselves.
But, there is more to it than that.
For many years, when I was young, I was silent. Silenced by some unspeakable things that happened to me. It was very hard for me to speak because I didn’t feel like I had a voice of my own. More, I didn’t feel like my voice was mine. It belonged to someone else who preferred my mouth shut.
It’s taken many years and lots of intervention for me to realize my own preferences. For me to speak as I please. Still, though, I struggle to do that–speak at all. Break the silence. It’s not easy to exercise something you didn’t believe you had the right to for a long time. Often, I worry I come across as disengaged or uninterested, maybe unimpressed, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In my writing, I think my feelings obvious. On the page is where I began to rediscover my voice so I think it makes sense that it is where you can hear me clearest. But, I wish I could find my voice just as well beyond the edges of the page.
That’s another reason why I don’t like to speak aloud–I don’t sound the way I do in my writing and I so desperately want to. Hearing the difference between what I’ve written and how I voice it frustrates me. It sounds like a disservice. Sounds disappointing.
In class, though, it was an unexpected surprise to hear that people liked how I read my work. Apparently, my soft tone paired with my “brutal” words created a discordant, eerie harmony that actually worked really well. Which, is something I never really considered–that my gentle from disuse, honestly voice could add another, meaningful layer to my writing.
Forgive the long preface but that other aspect of my work I didn’t mention in class is that most of it is an exploration of trauma and how it informs one’s future interaction as well as its, overall, lasting impact/effect on one’s life. It’s a focus of both my written and metals work. Specifically, when it comes to my metalwork and jewelry-making, I like to create wings–in case you haven’t noticed.
(Really, in case you haven’t)
To me, making these symbols of freedom out of a fixed medium transforms them into a profound statement. Emblems of what could be or could have been but isn’t or wasn’t.
They become almost escapes.
It’s an inherent contradiction I hope I can continue to finesse in my art.
Getting back to the writing, though, I think that discordant harmony I was made aware of fits in appropriately with my overarching theme–something I would never have known if I hadn’t spoken up.
Silence is such a hard adversary to conquer. Especially when doing so feels like a betrayal. I mean, silence is an old friend. The oldest of mine, even. An integral part of me. And yet, it’s not. It’s a companion I didn’t choose for myself. Still, though, they’ve always been there. Like a crutch. Like a friend.
Our relationship is one of attrition.
Living with trauma is attrition–a back-and-forth tug-of-war with yourself. No matter on which side ground is lost, you feel like you are playing a losing game. It’s, like I said, contradictory a lot of the time.
It’s calm, too, sometimes. Inside. When it’s stalemate. Usually, deadlock occurs when I’m writing or in the metals studio.
Writing and creating from that silence is revenge. It is opening a mouth that was preferred shut. It is telling a story I was supposed to keep secret. It is traitorous. It is truth.
If a lot of my work seems coarse or vengeful that’s because it is. It is my vengeance. These girls I write in these vicious worlds are meant to articulate the sorrow and rage trauma sows in the heart it broke. That most of these stories end on the crux of closure or with a tinge of something at best bittersweet/disappointing is not a mistake. It is for your contemplation.
Anyway, personal introspection/rambling aside, I imagine incorporating readings of some of these short works in some digital storytelling format with my metal projects. I think telling my stories with my own intonation and in my own voice is necessary for meaningful communication. After all, it is what my body of work sounds like to me. Me. It sound like me.
Something else I’ve also discovered since reading my work aloud is how similar my vengeance sounds like confession–like honesty starving for listeners. Hungry to be heard almost as much as it is ravenous for revenge.
When it comes to confession, I know, it’s best to be all-in. To be unapologetic. To be brave. I want to be.
If nothing else is heard, I hope that is.
Speaking of listening, I’ve recently been introduced to a great podcast.
My Favorite Murder is all about these two freakin’ awesome chicks discussing, you guessed it, murder–a decidedly morbid interest/fascination of my own. My friend @libraryguy introduced me to this delightful show as one of their entries in our own little March Madness competition. We dubbed it #marchmacabreness/#marchmorbidness and, since we’re both connoisseurs of the creepy, horrific, and otherwise disturbing, the object of it is to see who can freak out the other more each week with some deep, dark internet find/fave. Well, at least, that was the object. It’s kind of turned into us just sharing freaky sh*t with each other back and forth.
That’s beside the point though.
Check out the podcast! It’s not so much about employing sound itself to tell story, I’ll admit, but the way the hosts structure their conversations and use tone to convey different feelings is worth appreciating. And, the content is killer. It’s to my tastes, at the very least, so take that for what you will….
***Got that featured image up! A recent, horror-esque drawing of my hand in charcoal ^.^***