Colour Weave Layers

Scanned images of the layering of the weave series using tracing paper. Its challenging to replicated the transparency and the effect of light in these pieces via scanning.

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Digital art and games

games not art

With the recent sorta release of the¬†PlayStation¬†4, the issue of graphics and gaming seems to have been arrived at once again. Leaving aside the whole are games art ‘debate’ ¬†(as I would hope that by this time the discussion was moot. Games are capable of being aesthetic, lets get on with it) ¬†the average reaction seems to be this:

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MS Paint Adventures- Some interesting ideas part 3

As the History and Theory of Digital Art module is about to commence for us MADAHers, I thought this would be the perfect time to bring a strange item to your attention. Never thought that you would be reading, let alone playing, a game based on and built with Microsoft Paint? Well here is your opportunity to rectify that absence in your gaming/ MS paint repertoire. This is the free game/comic known as Homestuck, created by Andrew Hussie.

Homestuck

The most basic of imagery, the most sweeping of stories, and the mightiest of fandoms evident through the Kickstarter which had¬†24,346¬†backers, who raised¬†$2,485,506. The original goal to be attained was¬†$700,000. This was raised in 30 days.¬†The size of¬†Homestuck’s¬†fan community¬†was described by Lauren Rae Orsini as in the millions, with around a “million unique visitors” coming to the site daily.

The simple beginnings of the Homestuck¬†phenomenon¬†can be seen in the above image. The basic animation, the minimalist art style. Now play the video beneath, which was the kickstarter promo piece (loud but rockin’ chip-tune/rock-opera sound warning). Big difference, huh? This gives me hope that even the most¬†meagre¬†of projects can escalate into a fully fledged hit with a dedicated¬†fan-base¬†of¬†satisfied¬†player/contributors/backers. According to the wikipedia entry for Homestuck, as distinct from its Wiki:

¬†“The initial style of the webcomic was developed to be advanced by fan contributions, with the fans deciding what actions the characters would take. However, once the fan base had grown significantly by 2010, Hussie moved away from this style because the fan input method had “grew too unwieldy and made it difficult…to tell a coherent story.” Though, while Hussie now controls the main plot of the story and the character’s actions, he still “visits fan blogs and forums” to figure out small things to add into¬†Homestuck.”

 

This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Homestuck. It’s success is based entirely on the strength of its fandom. The level of commitment and passion that players of this game exhibit is near unparalleled. I heard of it online through one of my haunts dailyoftheday.com. No advertising¬†campaign, ¬†no big marketing budget to try and carve out a section of the market. Pure viral (or meme, depending on your preference), in the sense that this game gained over 2 million dollars through having its¬†existence¬†and quality/querkyness extolled online by fans and those¬†fascinated¬†by its style. This is one of the strongest examples of¬†an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.¬†According to Gordon¬†Graham, writing on the issues of biotechnology:¬†A meme acts as a unit for carrying¬†cultural¬†ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to¬†selective pressures.¬†The concept of the meme was¬†initiated¬†by Richard Dawkins, when he wrote in his work The Selfish Gene.

“We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of¬†imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to¬†meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word¬†m√™me. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.”

Don’t believe me that homestuck can be considered a meme? Do a google image search using the terms homestuck cosplay. It will blow your mind how popular just the ritual of dressing up as these characters has become. Sample below, from¬†http://mia-saridzava.deviantart.com. Or¬†alternatively¬†the aptly named ¬†http://fuckyeahhomestuckcosplay.tumblr.com.

Some may interpret this as ‘well anything can be¬†successful¬†online’ syndrome, where those items/detritus of humanity can attain a status in the digital world that would be impossible offline/IRL.¬†So why is this distinction still made between the hardcopy disk in a case game and an online download? The same can be said for the field of literature. Why does this distinction between the online and offline versions of a book still matter to some? It seems to me to be the never ending cycle of high art versus low art being played out through the dichotomy of contemporary life; being both offline = high art, and online = low art. Thankfully¬†Calvin and Hobbes are here to help us understand the distinction, courtesy of Bill Watterson.

Funny how ‘commercial’ is considered by Calvin to be ‘hack work’ and ‘low art’, given the current push to commercialise most output, both within art and the humanities, and certainly within the digital realm.¬†Now that distinction is ‘clear’, let’s look at another example from Everything Shii Knows, a candid account of art, creativity, and who also shares my apathy for the Mona Lisa. The High art example is taken from Persepolis by¬†Marjane Satrapi,¬†which been made into a film too.¬†It debuted at the¬†2007 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize, and was nominated for an Academy Award in the same year.

The low art is the manga Emma by Kaoru Mori, set in Victorian London and is the story of a house maid who  loves a member of the gentry, and deals with issues of class, and is now an anime (animated film). Again, I think that this distinction has to do with  intrinsic value judgements, based on culture and place/time. This must mean then that the online and offline worlds possess different cultures and form judgements in different ways. Any online forum  can certainly indicate the distinction, as cyberbullies and trolls alike take note of. So the offline democratic culture allows for anyone with an opinion to voice it, so too does the current online culture (excluding China, as Ai Weiwei attests).

The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon (I refuse to call it literature) owes the vast majority of its success to¬†eBook¬†sales. ¬†The book¬†has attracted criticism due to its origin as a¬†fan fiction¬†based on the¬†Twilight¬†novels.¬†at least initially this was how it built up a solid and very audible fanbase. The anonymity of the eBook and the fact that nobody could tell that that the kindle being read out in public was actually displaying erotica (this is being generous, as it is usually referred to online as ‘mommy porn’) was a level of freedom for readers and was reflected in the book’s rise to¬†prominence¬†through digital devices first and traditional media (the ol pulped, processed and dried tree edition). ¬†The lesson I take from such disparate examples of the digital distribution model is this: it could make you millions, but at the very least you may find that select group of people who like the same detritus as you, sharing those things that make you happy (or at the very least occupy/entertain, not everything can be Shakespeare). It should be mentioned that¬†the historical settings of MS Paint Adventures comics¬†Bard Quest¬†and¬†Problem Sleuth goes some way to¬†filling the¬†Shakespeare¬†quota, though then again…

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Digital Aristotle for Everyone

An interesting talk from C. G. P. Grey on how the internet may influence education. Of particular note is the software angle, and the projected reduction in the numbers of teachers (which I personally find disquieting). I want a future where technology helps supplement interpersonal education,  not act as a replacement. The claim that this would be awesome news for both students and society I find overly sweeping/ generalising. The teachers you interact with I have found to be the formative core of education (hopefully good). I feel that we would be loosing a great deal by claiming such a role to be on the precipice of obsolescence. Until testing methods become sensitive to a much much greater degree (to the level of true artificial intelligence/ singularity), I would prefer to have a person as my educator, rather than an artificial personal one.

 

CSS and Fashion

An intriguing question¬†regarding¬†the nature of aesthetics online; fashion vs function. It asks the question I dread ¬†(as it suggests that I may have to upgrade to ‘Pro’ for my blogging needs) and that is ‘how much can code actually express’ (at the 2:45 min marker), and that code is art (in all CAPS, so it is ‘serious’ stuff). ¬†I wish all discussion of code and style was this energetic and passionate, and littered with pop cultural references I instantly get, in contrast to the literature slog. There is nothing like memetics for that sweet heuristcal¬†nuance¬†(more on these terms soon). Let’s stay positive about digital expression people, youtube Idea Channel for the win!¬†Gesamtkunstwerk!

ps. There is also a Brazilian band called CSS (cansei de ser sexy), whose track CSS suxxx (also the title of their blog, filled with cats) I have included for the sake of academic rigour, would not want to get them confused ;p