The revolution will be pixelated, apparently. April 19, 2010Posted by Erin Ptah in Meta, News Roundup.
From Lisa Nakamura’s Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet:
The avatars that these women produce pose a problem for many upper- and intellectual-class viewers in that they are decidedly déclassé in terms of visual style, as is much of popular digital visual culture; they are cartoonish, “cutsey”, festooned with animated sparkles, flashing animated GIFs, pastel colors, and sentimental stylings taken from older media franchises like Care Bears, Disney, Hello Kitty, and Friends. …Yet while these women’s autobiographical digital signatures are far from “cutting edge” in terms of difficulty of production or conventional aesthetic qualities, they are revolutionary in terms of the power that they take back from institutions that govern and produce powerful types of visual signification, institutions like the very “biotech and fertility industries” that give rise to so many images of women’s bodies, digital images that are accorded power and authority.
Hear that, ladies? Your sparkly animated Care Bear forum signatures are revolutionary! Tacky, yes. But revolutionary!
Seriously, does this rub anybody else the wrong way? “Gosh, these women sure do have horrible taste, but it’s okay, because they’re fighting the power!” As if you can really respect someone’s defiance of The Establishment when in the same breath you’re reasserting the rights of The Establishment to judge them – and find them aesthetically bereft and technically inept, no less.
Why do forum signatures have to be judged in relation to anybody else’s idea of Proper Aesthetic Taste in the first place? Maybe it’s not about The Establishment at all. Sometimes a Care Bear is just a Care Bear.
(For that matter, who says “intellectuals” must be disdainful of pink sparkly things? [She says, a month away from finishing her third degree, while wearing a Hello Kitty band-aid.])
To be fair, there was a lot of interesting stuff in this book. (As the title implies, it’s mostly about ways in which the Internet and racial politics intersect. But it veers off-topic pretty frequently, especially in this one chapter, which dealt with the cartoon-doll avatars created by women on pregnancy forums.) Some of it was illuminating. Some of it felt oddly shallow.
And then there were these sort of weird bits. Like the point where, in her analysis of AIM buddy icons, she discussed a site with a category for “nationality”. Users-submitted icons to this category featured labels like “Armenian” and “Irish”, but also “Capricorn” and “Muslim”:
Rather than interpreting this use of the “nationality” category as a sign of an inaccurate understanding of what nation, race, religion, and astrology mean, the particular mode in which these categories overlap indicates a multidimensional conception of what “nationality” means.
…uh-huh. Whatever you say, ma’am.
I’m just going to end this post by inundating ya’ll with examples of Amazing Pixel Art. Because I can.
stone restriction by Orkmides (look at that motion!)
Visitors by Viterai (creepy, then lolarious)
commission: xyliaeria by Apomix (lush!)
Transparant by griffsnufff (gorgeous and ethereal)
Kitty Running Round Star by Kiss-the-Iconist (deceptively simple)
White Peacock by Foxbane (look at those feathers!)
+Pixel ID+ GET PINK by Mirai-LD (see, now, this is the cutting edge of avatars.)