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The Untapped Creativity of the Chinese Internet | VICE | United States
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Somewhere in mainland China, a kid in the grips of puppy love posts one of those raw, unmediated posts so saccharine it's both unbearably endearing and ridiculously funny. It's so completely melodramatic that other users stumble across the post and begin adding their own feelings and thoughts, remixing it to be even funnier. The words are skewed, images and music added, and finally uploaded to Bilibili.com, where users overlay their own comments onto the video in real-time.

The resulting GIFs, poems, videos, and comments spread through the Chinese internet on Sina Weibo and WeChat in a flurry of color and flashing animations. This is So in love, w​ill never feel tired again, an online exhibition of work by Chinese new media and net artist Yin​​g Miao, and it serves as a counterpoint to the West's view of the Chinese internet as bland and heavily censored. Despite all that I've been told in the West, the internet here looks incredibly fun and vibrant to me.

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"The Chinese internet is really raw," Miao tells me. "It's so unlimited but also limited. It's really rich material." We are sitting in a café with our laptops open in downtown Beijing, a brief bike ride from Tiananmen Square. Miao is walking me through her artwork in preparation for the launch of the online exhibition series Ne​tizenet. Miao impresses upon me the depth of creativity on the Chinese internet, showing how memes emerge and morph across platforms and ideologies and around censorship.

While I'm becoming accustomed to relying on my VPN or Tor to use boringly functional sites like Gmail, Miao is taking me on an unblocked tour of her inspirations, the wildest and weirdest of the Chinese internet from behind the so-called Great Firewall. Here, everything can be remixed and .GIFs are always welcomed. Conversations on WeChat (the most popular messaging platform here) are an endless stream of reaction .GIFs that put Tumblr to shame.

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In the series, LAN Love Poem, Miao explores her complicated feelings around the Chinese web. LAN stands for local area network and is suggestive of the localized nature of the internet, in both law and culture, that we in the West are rarely confronted with. Miao uses type inspired by Taobao.com (a site akin to eBay) and intentionally poor English translations of odes to her censored net.

The extreme creativity and vibrancy on the Chinese internet is hard to grasp as a Westerner who is a devout defender of free speech. My ignorance of Miao's raw material, and the many other aspects of Chinese net culture that are difficult to grasp is what Netizienet (or 网友网 in Mandarin and Wǎngyǒuwǎng in Pinyin) is all about.

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Using NewHive, a multimedia publishing platform, Netizenet will examine the internet as a medium from within China, an internet very different from what I grew up with in the States. Through an ongoing series of online exhibitions by Chinese and international artists--of which Miao is the first--Netizenet asks important questions about creativity, differing online aesthetics, and location-based web access. Is the Chinese internet uniquely different from the rest of the world's, or does every country's web have its own unique aesthetics and traits?

The curator behind Netizenet is Michelle Proksell, an independent curator, researcher, and artist currently based in Beijing. Proksell was born in Saudi Arabia to expatriate American parents, and moved to the United States when the Gulf War was starting. Proksell loved traveling through Asia as a kid and this is why she eventually returned and has lived in China for over two years.

Proksell sees a ton of potential in Beijing and Shanghai for the arts, especially net art, and wants to help cultivate the scene. She was fascinated by how the Chinese internet influenced Miao's "artistic aesthetic, process and production," writing that Miao "has a bit of a love affair with the kitschy, low-tech aesthetic, and unreliable nature of this part of the [world wide web.]" ​

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Miao is one of the few net artists in mainland China. She and Proksell have adopted the monumental task of helping to encourage a net art discourse in a country of over 620 million internet users as well as introducing that culture to the West. Proksell tells me, "I really wanted to set a tone for the project by working with an artist who had been intimate with this side of the web early in her art practice."

Miao has certainly been exploring the aesthetics and issues of access in the internet in her work for some time. In 2007, for her undergrad thesis exhibition at the China Academy of Fine Arts near Shanghai, Miao made The Blind Spot, which meticulously documented every word blocked from Google.cn. The piece took Miao three months to make and is a brilliant DIY version of Jason Q. Ng's work documenting blocked words on the popular Chinese social network Sina Weibo. But Miao has no interest in only focusing on the limitations of the Chinese internet, believing there are much more fascinating things underway.

For instance, iPhone Garbage is an incredible convergence of Chinese manufacturing, social media, and ​Shanzhai (slang for pirated and fake goods) culture. A heavily remixed video shows a young entrepreneur aggressively promoting his custom smartphone while continually calling the iPhone "garbage." In Miao's work we see a pushback on Western aesthetics and corporations in favor of a more local flavor.

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Miao suggests that the emerging narrative of Shanzhai might be replicated in net art in China. At first Shanzhai referred only to cheap knockoffs that rarely worked and were an annoying thorn in "legitimate" companies' sides. Now, as Joi Ito has found, Shanzhai merchants are beginning to build entirely unique hardware, offering entirely different capabilities than their Western smartphone counterparts. Miao believes too that Chinese net culture should embrace their differences and push them as far as possible.

In an int​erv​iew between Miao and Proksell, Miao said, "I think there is a bright future for Chinese internet art." Proksell and Miao have an uphill battle proving that to the West, but just as I had never seen many of Miao's influences, this culture is emerging with or without the West's acknowledgement or support. Whether that appreciation comes or not, Netizenet is off to an amazing start and I for one will definitely keep my eyes open for the next show and on Miao."
via:unthinkingly  aesthetic  newaesthetic  internet  web  china  online  accretion  beijing  netart  netizenet  byob  michelleproksell  lanlovepoem  yingmao  newmedia  benvalentine  tumblr  newvibe  gifs  memes  poetry  poems  sinaweibo  weibo  wechat  animation  screenshots  low-techaesthetic  changzhai  socialmedia  joiito  2014  webrococo  newhive 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic - The Awl
"Let’s call them Shitpics. Because they look like shit.

Shitpics happen when an image is put through some diabolical combination of uploading, screencapping, filtering, cropping, and reuploading. They are particularly popular on Instagram.

For instance, consider this post by the very famous celebrity Ludacris.

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There’s a lot going on here. Let’s try and figure out how this image ended up in its current state.

The image was probably created by the joke account @blackgirlproblems_official, where it looked like this:

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There are a few clues that this is probably the original. The text is centered and sharper, and the emoji is more than a smudge of dirty yellow gibberish. The picture of the monkey is clear (and cute!!!). All of the text in the watermark is legible.

Then this meme went through hell.

It was saved and cropped numerous times. There are a few signifiers of this: The text is cut off on the left side and there are slight black bars at the top and bottom of the frame. The greenish cloud around the text also indicates an absurd amount of (re)compression.

Maybe the most baffling part of this is the appearance of the rule-of-thirds grid, which likely came from Instagram’s upload screen. Which means that someone screencapped their upload process and then uploaded that? And the grid somehow doesn’t even reach the top and bottom edges.

The version of this image from @msrjstlf indicates that it was probably not run through a filter at any point, since the whitespace seems to have stayed mostly that. The lower left corner of the picture does show, however, just how many times it has been reconfigured: the “black” in “blackgirlproblems_official” has been absorbed by section of blanket that has been widening and darkening as the macro travels through the wringer.

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Then Ludacris puts the cherry on top: a translucent gray regram banner crediting the account that he got it from (though not, of course, the original photographer or even macro author).

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image.

The second, more important shift is the new macro format that divorces text from image. Classic memes (jfc “classic memes” what are we doing) had text directly on the image, written in Impact font in a particular style—white with a black border. That changed with the rise of the text setup/image punchline format on Tumblr, particularly on the blog What Should We Call Me, which spawned and continues to spawn imitators. Twitter began to imitate this when it changed tweet formatting to hide image URLs (pic.twitter.com) from tweets, easing the transition from text to image, from setup to punchline.

It’s difficult to send someone a technically exact copy of these types of jokes, because they can’t be bundled into a single file such an image. Sending the URL where the joke is hosted requires someone to load an entire webpage, which is relatively laborious on mobile, and so they necessitate being screencapped.

In general, directly saving images on mobile is a function that, even when available, most people don’t bother to use or even learn (saving files locally—in any kind of file system—is generally discouraged in smartphone operating systems). Screencapping is just easier—it’s the quickest way to get something from the internet to your camera roll. That’s why even classic-format memes have fallen victim to the Shitpic process.

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When you pair the format’s inherent need to be screencapped in order to attain virality with Instagram’s prevention of downloading images, you get an endless cycle of screencapping and compression through uploading. Throw in the occasional filter, or watermark, or regram tag, and let the process carry itself out for a while, and eventually you get a Shitpic. The layers pile up, burying and distorting the original.

The rise of the Shitpic demonstrates just how little ownership there is on the internet: Shoddy workarounds and subpar image quality are a small sacrifice to make, so long as your version of a joke goes viral instead of someone else’s. That the image is a muddled cacophony of compression artifacts and blurry emoji matters little, so long as your screenname is above it.

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Perhaps most importantly, the Shitpic aesthetic could very well be the first non-numeric indicator of viral dissemination. Metrics such as pageviews, impressions, Facebook referrals, YouTube view counts, and BuzzFeed viral lift all attempt to quantify virality in some way. To the layman (and, let’s be frank, some industry experts too) all of this is gibberish.

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But if you look at a Shitpic, you can instantly tell the level of virality by how worn it looks, how legible its text is, how many watermarks adorn it. You can count them much like you would rings on a tree. A pristine-looking meme engenders skepticism—“This can’t be that funny, it hasn’t been imperfectly replicated enough.” But when you see that blurry text, partially cut off by the top of the frame, and a heavily compressed picture of Kermit below… that’s when you know:

This is gonna be a good-ass meme."
instagram  photography  internet  culture  degradation  compression  cropping  2014  brianfeldman  digital  shitpics  mobile  phones  screencapping  screenshots  distortion  virality 
october 2015 by robertogreco
The photographer subculture inside Fallout, GTA and Left 4 Dead — Hopes&Fears — flow "Video Games"
"Karl "Illsnapmatix" Smith was walking through a homeless community underneath the light rail tracks in a place called Strawberry when he spotted something. Lit in silhouette by the dying light, just barely visible, a man sat alone against a wall with a bottle in his hand. Smith pulled out his camera and, in his words, "caught this gentleman having a quiet drink." It's a snapshot of life on the edge, but it's not real. All of it happened in a video game.

Smith was playing Grand Theft Auto V, and the photo he snapped was taken with his character's smartphone. GTA V is unusual among games in that it presents its players with all of the limitations of real photography, transplanted onto the virtual space. You can't take a photo of something unless your character can see it, and you can only shoot from positions and angles that he or she can reach. You're restricted by the capabilities of your run-of-the-mill virtual smartphone, which comes equipped with basic zooming and Instagram-like filters, and by the physical abilities of your avatar.

Smith is one of many virtual photographers focused on capturing life in the bits and bytes of GTA V. Most take pictures of pimped-out cars in the persistent online mode where they can meet and hang out with like-minded players. Some pretend to be photojournalists documenting the perpetual violence on the streets of Los Santos. Others, like Smith, work more like street photographers. Photos are shared on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, developer Rockstar's Social Club, and Imgur. Smith posts his photos on his own website, where he occasionally also interviews other GTA V photographers."
pov  screenshots  photography  games  gaming  via:ableparris  digital  screenshottery  gtav  gta  fallout  left4dead  videogames  edg  srg  streetphotography  richardmoss  Illsnapmatix  karlsmith  duncanharris  robertoverweg  grandtheftauto 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The Most Important Thing on the Internet Is the Screenshot | WIRED
"Screenshots can also be almost forensic, a way to prove to others that you're really seeing the crazy stuff you're seeing. The first viral hit of the screenshot age was the often-filthy autocorrect errors in SMS. Now screenshots hold people accountable for their terrible online words. When Australian videogame reviewer Alanah Pearce was getting harassed online, she discovered that many of her trolls were young boys. She tracked down their mothers and sent a screenshot to one (who then demanded her son handwrite a letter of apology). DC writers eagerly pounce on politicians' social media faux pas, preserving them before they can vanish down the memory hole—part justice, part gotcha.

Even more arrestingly, though, screenshots let you see other people's screenworlds, increasingly where we all do our best thinking. They invite a useful voyeurism. Venture capitalist Chris Dixon tweeted a link to an article on how “Nikola Tesla predicted the iPhone” and got 109 retweets; when he tweeted a readable screenshot of the piece, it got over 4,200. Indeed, one of the more delightful aspects of screenshot culture is how often people share text instead of just the clickbaity headline. Developers have strained for years to devise technologies for “collaborative reading.” Now it's happening organically.

We're going to need better apps to help us share, sort, and make sense of this new flood. Screenshots are more semantically diverse than typical snapshots, and we already struggle to manage our photo backlog. Rita J. King, codirector of the Science House consultancy, has thousands of screenshots from her online ramblings (pictures of bacteria, charts explaining probability). Rummaging through them reminds her of ideas she's forgotten and triggers new ones. “It's like a scrapbook, or a fossil record in digital silt,” King says. A lifetime of scraps, glimpsed through the screen."
clivethompson  screenshots  internet  online  communication  perspective  pov  chrisdixon  2015  evernote  joannemcneil  photography  digital  imagery  computing  mobile  phones  smartphones 
march 2015 by robertogreco
OneShot – for sharing iOS screenshots
"Highlight screenshots of text and share them to Twitter."
screenshots  ios  applications  iphone  ipad  twitter  oneshot 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Screenshots as POV — The Message — Medium
"Screenshots are a sister to the POV footage that is taking over YouTube and Vimeo. Generally filmed with GoPro or Google Glass, the point of view of the image-maker is much more pronounced than with still photographs — you can tell how tall someone is, or if they tripped while walking. There’s a reason why that demo footage always features action-intensive activities like extreme sports and roller coaster rides. But most of us aren’t on hot air balloons or skydiving at this very moment. If you want to see what I see right now, let me take a screenshot."



"You could print a flipbook of your web activity that goes on infinitely. Like old GoPro footage of an afternoon cycling, these screenshot images bring you back to where you were looking at that minute."
joannemcneil  screenshots  2014  pov  photography  screens  gopro  cameras 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Tettix - Solace
"Solace is a game you will never get to play. A world built from the music up.
Each song inspired a different piece of concept art/screenshot.
I see the composition and concepts of the game with great clarity. But you can imagine whatever you like."
games  gaming  videogames  sound  music  solace  via:bopuc  illustration  screenshots  tettix  ambient 
january 2013 by robertogreco

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