Monday, January 12, 2015

Zach Shipko - The Kanye Westification of Digital Culture or "Imma let you finish but first check this new Monster energy drink flavor"

I am sitting at the library drinking redbush tea (aka rooibos tea) and I am focusing in and out on essays, work emails, news outlets and an assortment of social media and messaging formats. I am sipping my tea and thinking about these various acts and tasks and they feel like flattened stacks of things floating in some gravity free space. Then around these floating stacks are points of light that I guess could be called ideas and memories. While drinking tea and imagining all the things I am doing and have to do one of these memory lights starts to move around, grabbing my attention. I pause the stacks and go closer to this moving light because I am not sure exactly what it is and why I am being called to it. I stop drinking tea and I focus on this light.

This light happens to be something that I read in 2013 by Zach Shipko. It is a statement/reflection/position of sorts that talks about the Internet and the condition it is in and the passive and active ways one can or cannot operate within it. It says many things that ding that bell of agreement but it also gives an option for outlet in the project form of artf0rum, a message board created by Shipko and Rebecca Veith. You should peruse this site as some entries read like a type of poetry, which is always nice to read.

So what’s the point of this? I’m not sure but I have learned enough about my brain that when a light flicks for attention there is some reason why and I’m glad that I followed it to this memory today because re-reading Shipko’s essay and checking in on artf0rum made me feel better about all ‘this stuff’ and the state of things. Knowing that there are like-minded and intelligent people doing their thing in the ways they see fit makes all this more bearable somehow.

2013. The internet. Net art. Likes. Forums. It all seems so obvious. It all seems so dated as well as so right now but that aside, we need to take a minute and step back from our collective disengagements and pause, take a sip of tea and reflect on issues that seem small and unchangeable. We need to do this so that we can measure and possibly adjust how we treat others and ourselves both online and in real life.

Zach Shipko

The Kanye Westification of Digital Culture or "Imma let you finish but first check this new Monster energy drink flavor”

Rebecca and I created out of an interest in identity-free discussion and a curiosity based on understanding what exactly other people creating art on the internet are interested in.
I now realize that we were naive for believing that people would be interested in genuine discussion because it is very clear that Internet based art has become a training camp for simply establishing a cohesive person brand.  This totally disregards the various dialogs that have given meaning to digital art; the dialogs that have existed since the beginning of the internet.

To seed the initial user base Rebecca and I followed a random sampling of a couple hundred 'artist types' on twitter because we assumed that they would have some interesting things to say about the state of the internet and what it means to create art that mainly exists online in the year 2013.  I think this was our biggest mistake.  Many of the people we picked seem to exist in some sort of tumblr bubble with no concept of creativity online beyond the quest to establishing a personal brand.

It seems like people no longer consider an overarching base ideology when creating images, but rather are interested in being noticed by remixing images already deemed popular. There is no longer an acknowledgment of the radical power of the internet as an equalizer and instead it is seen as a tool to break away from your peers... some sort of method to propel yourself into the limelight based on follower counts.

I am not discounting the power of mainstream social media - but longing for time when there was more variety. When not everything was accessible by a simple like or fave but was part of a larger discussion.  When I first started creating art on the internet there were many places where people would actually discuss, share and reference the things that other people would make - not just consume them blindly.  One of my favorite platforms was - the ability to share links and comment on them while not being tied to a specific platform was extremely powerful. Delicious was never trying to piggyback off of your content and I suppose that's why they had a hard time keeping it around.  Artf0rum was modeled after this but updated to feel familiar to those used to contemporary social networks.

(note: before delicious there was usenet, irc etc… and these were even less limiting modes of discussion)

What I have realized in all of this is: these discussions, which I still consider to be relevant, are effectively dead - they may be revisited at some point in time but for now they are antiquated questions based on a history/reality that we are unable to relate to anymore because of the power of marketing lingo.

"i think u guys need a fav function"

What I didn't realize until now is the extreme power given to a like or fave on the internet.  These actions have become the driving force behind all internet interactions.  If something is un-faveable then there is no way to identify yourself with that content unless you directly reference it in another way. This leaves room for establishing a personal brand and very little room for discussions that allow alternative thought models to be born.  Instead we are all stuck being 'like collectors' working toward developing an outward identity that generates interest.

"i hate art i hate giving things more attention than they naturally generate, it works against survival of the fittest"

The above quote was one of the few things posted on that consisted of full words, and was not an attempt to inject javascript into the page (I get it you know what XSS is!).  What does it even mean?  Does the World Series naturally generate attention? Definitely not. Nothing can naturally generate attention when we are all aware of so many things - that is why targeted advertising and internet marketing are multi-billion dollar industries.  In other words - get off the fucking internet if you feel that way because that's all the internet is.  My understanding of "netart" is that it is a reaction against this sort of thinking.  It is an acknowledgment of the importance of generating discussions surrounding minute details of existence and understanding how we are able to alter our understanding of those details using digital media. 

I am sure the person who posted that quote has a twitter account where they have posted images of monster energy drinks or stuff like that - by doing so they are creating more attention for monster energy while dismissing their ability to do the same thing for critical thought and discourse.

Welcome to the corporate internet.

If you would like to continue this discussion I would love to hear from you… feel free to email me at or we can try to figure out something else.

Rebecca and I will also be discussing this on

For those of you who think this is stupid, it might be but please just fuck off.