Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Push and Pull of Mediums on Creative Expression

This is a video sketch of a dream sequence for Jess as she undergoes her superpower medical procedure. It was pretty easy to put together, given the way Plotagon allows you to quickly flip characters while keeping the same dialogue. It's not quite baked, but you get the idea. I hope to have time over the weekend to flesh it out.

Each medium and platform has its own push and pull moving users to actualize their ideas in certain ways. Even text, whose grammar and natural syntax put all but the most innovative (or illiterate) writers into a fairly narrow box of expressive form.

I guess this can be taken a step closer to home and view the human brain and senses as also shaping the way we express and receive creative works. For instance, there are limitations in our ability to perceive the visible and audio spectrums. And cultural metaphors and story forms are so ingrained into our psyches that we usually end up conforming to some preexisting template.

Some of my favorite artists and writers tend to repeat forms and themes over the course of multiple works. Part of this is because they simply enjoy a particular motif, but I believe that there are also subconscious factors at play ranging from psychological issues they're subconsciously attempting to work through, to limitations in vision or craft. And for successful creatives, there's also the fear of alienating their audience and losing the associated money and fame.

For those of us creating on an amateur level, there may be less skill in our craft, but certainly more freedom to experiment without repercussion. As always, I encourage those of you who don't typically create to pick some medium and dig in. If you stick with it, it's likely to unlock creative potential that was probably buried in grade school after someone's criticism of your finger paint work became the final straw that pushed you away from artistic expression.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Storytelling in multiple mediums

A lot of what I've learned here has enriched the work I do for my business. But one thing that hasn't crossed over yet is multi-platform storytelling. Over the years, the evolving story that began on this blog has crossed over into social networks, comics, videos, 100 word stories, single frame stories, and participation in virtual panels and presentations. This didn't arise as a conscious attempt at spreading my brand (God forbid). It was mostly me messing around in new mediums that piqued my interest. Most of what I do requires only the most basic technical skill, so as an advocate of amateur creativity, I also hoped to encourage others to give some of these tools and mediums a try.

Speaking of me, the "me" that goes under the pseudonym Botgirl is these days mostly an extension of my RL self, rather than the fictional character I originally created. She was an artificial intelligence who woke up in Second Life without any memory of her past. I'd love to bring her back one day. I have an outline of a book length work I hope to actualize at some point.

For now, I've been playing around with a new character who arose while testing Plotagon, an animation platform I've mentioned quite a bit recently. What started as a video character, is now interacting on Twitter, has her own blog and is now appearing in what will probably be an ongoing comic series. Here's the first page, which begins after the surprise twist at the end of the first video story arc.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Age of the Amateur

When I take the time to think about it, I am awed by the way technology has empowered amateur creativity. Just a few of decades ago, the ability to craft a creative work and share it with a large number of people was limited to a handful of professionals and media companies. Today, anyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer can create anything from a short video on Snapchat to a full blown animated work with Plotagon, and share it instantly worldwide with a few taps or clicks.

Whether a work is viewed by a few dozen or a few million, the ease of creation and sharing has motivated millions of people to creative expression they wouldn't otherwise have realized. The widespread activity of continuous creative expression is in the process of producing a psychological and cultural shift of historic proportion, the impact of which will only reveal itself over decades. The ubiquitous use of smartphones and social sharing is subtly shifting humanity to what can fairly labeled as psychological cyborgs, because neurologically, the tools we commonly used are experienced as being part of our own bodies.

The continued evolution of creative mobile technologies will eventually result in a renaissance of imaginative expression that will expand from our personal lives and popular media to just about every segment of the business world. Like the strength and endurance we build working out is carried into our lives outside the gym, the exercise of our creativity in living rooms and coffee houses carries over into our working lives. On a personal level, the last five years of personal creative work has certainly revolutionized my own professional work.

That said, throw away all of my world-change speculation and the Age of the Amateur is still amazing. Beyond the shear joy of creativity, it gives the average Joe and Jane access to experiences that were once the sole domain of professional authors and artists. Although the quality of the works we create may pale in comparison, the psychological insight and growth we experience is equivalent.

I am continuously surprised and delighted by the doors new platforms open for creative expression. Beyond music, my tech-fueled creative life was born in 2008 with my introduction to both Second Life and the iPhone. Second Life allowed me to free my imagination from the constraints of the physical world and my wallet name identity. The iPhone freed me to create and share, with increasingly sophisticated tools, at any time and in any place.

This is still being realized through my latest amateur project, the Life With Jess video series. For instance, I didn't see this new huge plot twist coming. I woke up yesterday morning and there it was. Like it had been planned from the start. So Life With Jess Episode 17 turns out to be the concluding video in the first story arc and sets up a whole new life for my favorite little narcissist.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And They Give Second Life Crap About Sordid Sex?

I'm going to recap a bit, so if you've been following the story here, you can skip to the second paragraph. I've been playing around with a new project for the past month or so. It started with a couple of videos I created with Plotagon. I kinda fell in love with Jessie James, the main character, and ended up creating what is now a series of fifteen videos and a supporting blog and Twitter account. As the plot developed, Jessie signed up her arch nemesis, Lizzie, to Seeking Arrangements, a RL site that connects wealthy men with girls who want to be supported financially. As mentioned last week, I signed Lizzie up on the actual site so I could get a screenshot to use on the blog.

The Sugar Daddy story line started out being played for laughs. I thought it was an exaggerated caricature of what were certainly isolated relationships. But an email from Seeking Arrangements brought home that what's going on is not much different than a line of prostitutes standing in front of visitors to a brothel. This is an un-retouched screenshot from the email.

I'm about as liberal as they come when it comes to sexual choices. And there's nothing inherently wrong about a woman trading sex and companionship for money. And vice versa. But I can't ignore the history of patriarchy and financial inequality that supports this particular sex trade that hooks up young girls and old men. The flesh and blood daughters of these Sugar Daddies get to go to top colleges on free rides from their biological parents. The girls who turn to sites like Seeking Arrangement have to trade their bodies for tuition money from Sugar Daddies.

Yeah, I know that every Sugar Baby isn't a poor college girl with a heart of gold, and that some Sugar Daddies are just lonely men who can't otherwise find companionship. But this email seems to indicate that it's basically a meat market. So people can make fun of Second Life all they want for furry fetishes and gender-swapping cheaters, but it's nothing compared to what goes on in RL. Not even close.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Guru Jessie James: What I've learned from Life With Jess.

I'm finally beginning to figure out what Jessie James and the Life With Jess narrative has been trying to tell me. In short, it's a wake up call to the fact that my own happy sense of life is only made possible through ongoing inattention and apathy regarding the suffering of others. And that I have a foundational and pervasive sense of entitlement based on what is mostly just good fortune.

I'm not saying that I'm a bad person. In fact, I'm probably above average on a scale between ISIS beheaders and  the Dali Lama. But I can see the seeds of Jessie's character within my own consciousness. They do not come to fruition in the same overt intensity. But to her defense, Jess is a fictional character in an animated series, so there's no real harm done. 

In the fictional universe I've created so far, the consequences are never visualized. I don't show Lizzie huddled in the bathtub cutting herself with a razor blade in order to feel like she has some control in a life that is full of shame and coercion. Or the Dean standing on a chair with shaking knees, an electric wire tied to a ceiling fixture and wrapped around his neck, contemplating oblivion instead of facing his colleagues and wife when Jessie threatens to expose his affairs with students.

These dark undertones began to hit me as I was writing the script for the men responding to Lizzie's ad. Although they were still over the top caricatures, there was a more realistic resonance and ugliness that Jessie's cute lovability masked in previous episodes. So here's the uncut version, without the mitigation of Jessie's presence: