Believe

On April 14th, the @InternetofWords Twitter feed is a year old. When I started this project, there was the belief writing could be successfully funded long-term, and that would probably have remained the case were it not for the fees issue that made me pull the project in December. Four months on from that, I’m grateful for a chance to sit back from obligation. Without the shift in emphasis, my novel would never have been finished, because a continuous sense of being beholden to patrons would have put that work ahead of personal desire. I still want to find a means to make money long-term that includes the processes that are being developed here, but what matters more right now is evolution.

The creation of my Patreon was done with the best of intentions but ultimately ended up stifling creativity. Part of the issue was not knowing exactly what it was I enjoyed doing, and not having enough of a portfolio of work to back up those assertions. This year, therefore, has become an exercise in building foundations, via the website and on Social media. Slowly but surely a body of work will emerge that reflects this personal journey, development along lines that I am able to dictate and command as an artist. Once that groundwork is in place, it will be time to look again at sustainable funding.

There Was No Glory

By far the biggest success story in all of this has been the development of my poetry, and if all goes well, I intend to crowdfund a project at the end of the year to translate both haiku and micropoetry into book format. Assuming that all goes well, we’ll look at other ways to maintain the momentum. Right now, they are all baby steps, but once we hit the one year Anniversary of the IoW in June? The only way is forwards and upwards.

I look forward to expanding Outlooks and Universes for many years to come.

Old Friends

Again, through the wonders of time-travel, I’m writing a post on Sunday that should have been published on Wednesday, but that’s useful at least in terms of deciding what happens to both this website and my Patreon going forward. If you’re a Patron and have not yet taken part in my Feedback Survey, you can expect an email to ask you to consider giving some next week, before I open up the process to the general public. I’m quite happy with the way that poetry is now running, and organising a month’s content in advance has given a lot of freedom for other projects to take flight. Therefore, next month, I’ll be doing the same with a twist.

Before Xmas

This year the festive season will be celebrated in a very particular way: I’ll be producing 25 Haiku up to and including Christmas Day. However, I will be taking the Christmas period off: last day of ‘work’ for me will be December 22nd, returning to full activity on January 2nd. It is still not clear what December’s Patreon content will be, but I’ll have a better idea after the Feedback Survey is concluded. What I will be doing is starting to write the Haiku next week, as many of them will need particular festive pictures as accompaniment.

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I suspect there may be an Audio Advent Calendar too as there’s never a bad time to share music, however that’s not going to need that much additional planning. I’ve decided to not push particularly hard for new Patrons in December but to leave that for 2018: yes, I could give it a go but as most people’s cash over this time of year is quite difficult to come by, it seems only right and proper to not push the point.

Watch this space for more details of how Patreon may change, and what new things might be in store for the end of 2017…

Book of the Month :: The Ambiguity of Image

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The Trojan War is notable as one of the single most important events in Greek mythology, kicked off when Paris, King of Troy, stole Helen, wife to Menelaus of Sparta. In the ten years of hostility that followed the event most remembered was the night the Greeks left a giant wooden horse outside the heavily fortified Trojan capital. Taking this as a victory trophy, the structure was dragged into the city. Hidden within were a group of soldiers who promptly poured out, opened the gates and let the rest of their countrymen in.

What they assumed was one thing turned out to be something quite different.

Ambiguity in art could be traced back to the first cave painting, if one subscribes to the belief that the only person who truly understands meaning of any composition remains responsible for its creation. However, if you look for paradox in art purely in visual terms, trompe-l’œil (French for ‘deceive the eye’) has been popular since Roman times, creating paintings so lifelike as to be believed as real. With the Renaissance period in Italy a process was popularised known as di sotto in sù, meaning ‘from below, upward.’ Applied to the process of ceiling paintings, elements were presented as if viewed from the true ‘vanishing point’ perspective, creating the impression they were the true vista above the viewer.

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With more knowledge and time came the ability to better integrate orientation and numerical precision into works, leading to more complex approaches to creating an illusion. The most famous of the artists who popularised mathematical conceptualisation was M.C. Escher (1898-1972.) This Dutch graphic artist extended precision to infinite staircases and birds that turned into fish: his work is almost instantly recognisable even today. As the established art world began to question and reject traditional expression, photography became a new way to accurately represent the human image. This form however was not as pure and incorruptible as many early proponents would have its participants believe: trick photography soon became popular, and with the advent of cinema the potential for deceiving the eye via ‘realism’ was not far behind.

Cinema brought a whole new set of visual variables to the table: the film ‘L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat’ was said to appear so real when exhibited by the Lumière brothers in Paris during 1896, that observers ran to avoid the oncoming train, though this claim has subsequently been debunked as an urban myth. Once it became apparent what could be suggested by cinema, film-makers would seize on the possibility visual ambiguity: trompe-l’œil became an indispensable means by which movie sets could be painted, to give a sense of depth and false perspective. When one looks at the process of modern Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) in films, and realises that in many cases the worlds we are presented with as real were in fact created inside a computer, it is clear only the sophistication of tools has changed in the process of deception.

It is becoming increasingly important for an audience to be capable of distinguishing CGI actors from the real thing. What then matters is a sense of belief that what their mind registers is unreal can also be acceptable as natural. Many cinema reviewers will refer to the concept of the uncanny valley: (noun) the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. This has been most notably highlighted recently in the Star Wars stand-alone story Rogue One, where the late Peter Cushing was ‘resurrected’ (with the full permission of his estate) to appear as the Grand Moff Tarkin.

Tarkin’s requirement to the plot is sympathetically and (in this viewer’s mind at least) acceptably placed in the context of the narrative. This ability to bring actors virtually back from the dead moved Robin Williams to insert a clause into his will to restrict the use of his image until 25 years after his death, to prevent what happened to Audrey Hepburn (who now sells chocolate that never existed in her lifetime.) When it is possible to produce a hologram of a dead pop star to perform live on stage, who is to believe what they are being shown is real or not?

In the world of modern photography, a new set of rules dictates our belief of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Photoshop, airbrushing and all manner of ‘sympathetic’ digital techniques can transform, remove thirty years or similarly age an individual. You may claim to #nofilter but everyone, at some point, will look at themselves in black and white and know it is a better way to hide their own personal fatigue than will ever be found with make-up or suitable lighting. In this digital age, your children understand and wield the power of visual ambiguity on a minute by minute basis: SnapChat makes you a bird, or a dog, has the power to transform in a moment.

This ability to instantly manipulate imagery can and does form a distorted view of what has become visually acceptable. We spoke at length last week about the tyranny of the nude, that body confidence can be irreparably damaged when every Instagram post shows a woman in a size eight dress. This image manipulation however is not restricted to the female form: an increasing number of men use vanity as an excuse to alter their physical appearances via surgery.

Transformation to order often moves away completely from notions of sexuality and gender to allow greater affinity to the widest possible audience. However, some advances remain almost depressingly predictable. The latest generation of sex robots are being made to look like women, because their major purchaser will be men. For every cosmetic procedure reducing the size and shape of nipples to create more androgyny, there remain those willing to increase breast size. Fashion may dictate some choices, but traditional stereotypes continue to win the day.

As consumers of image, we can become more discerning not simply in our understanding but also in the willingness to be deceived. When we take time to apply filters to our own images before posting them to social media but are critical of actors or sportspeople who do the same, there is a hypocrisy at play that transcends the public face we all wish to present. Only by accepting the faults and flaws we all carry, and often by embracing them can there truly be a peace with what is presented, plus the means to expose the ambiguity of imagery in general. Learning to live with conditions such as alopecia, body dysmorphia or simply becoming more acceptant of the variance and beauty that comes from randomness in all things is the path more should try and tread.

However, all of this self-acceptance can often be totally negated by the vicious nature of current social media. Revenge porn, slut shaming… these are terms that have been invented for a digital age. However, undoubtedly, such practices took place well before the terms were used to describe the practices. The only difference is how those images are now delivered. Speed, immediacy and reach mean a hacked filmstar’s photo library can be global in 12 hours, when 100 years ago the pictures taken might have taken months or years to become public domain. Scandal is not restricted to the digital age either, the only difference now is in the number of people able to watch a sex tape, or stare at infidelity simultaneously.

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When so much of what the modern world is about revolves around image, it can be hard to cope with ambiguity. One hopes for a clear, precise explanation behind every image, yet often what looks like one thing ends up as something quite different. Honesty should be the number one priority when it comes to imagery: if you’re trying to evoke the representation in a particular fashion, then be up front. Not being clear or accurate in description, using deception as a selling point… this is never really going to end well. If we return to our wineglass/female body image from the first essay, it is only with the business of optical illusion that ambiguity is a positive. In most other cases, it will only end in tears.

As has been the case in the last two weeks, I hope you can walk away from this essay with a clearer understanding of the duality of image in modern life. When reality TV is only presenting a version of the truth, it is up to us as discerning and intelligent individuals to try and make some sense of the complexities presented. At the same time, if we feel others are deceiving with their presentation, it is important to stand up and make our dissatisfaction heard, especially in relation to promoting body, race and sexual diversity.

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The image and the word together are what makes the Internet so powerful and compelling. I can stick 4 images and 140 characters into a digital message and potentially have millions of people see both. When a single individual is granted that ability without restriction, you cannot simply just keep pressing ‘send’ without due consideration of consequence. We all have our responsibilities to uphold in the Digital Age. The next time you manipulate an image, for whatever reason, consider the long term implications such power grants you, and how that could be used unscrupulously by others.

The Final Countdown

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I mentioned back on May 5th that I was going to have to go in for what turned out to be quite important surgery. My recovery, although fairly swift, is not as rapid as I had either hoped or planned for. As a result, my intention to go live with Patreon next week is, on reflection, somewhat optimistic. That means there will be some minor changes to project timings, to allow me a chance to get completely back to normal and present the level and depth of content that I think this entire project deserves.

With this in mind, amended timings are as follows:

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Early Adoption Patreon will now go live on June 12th, with general access available on June 15th. This also allows me to finally complete the Top Tier rewards to be photographed, and have the enamel badge rewards in hand. I’m also considering some additional rewards that I’ll let readers of the IoW Twitter feed know about starting next week. If you want to be a part of my Early Access Team, please follow @InternetofWords on Twitter where there’s already a daily dose of Micropoetry and Haiku to keep you entertained.

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I’ve decided to do a massive update of all of the various online presences ahead of the Patreon launch too, as an excuse to standardise everything across the board and organise better going forward. The physical changes for this are already in place, it will now simply be graphics and content that changes long term. Here’s a reminder of where you can find me, and that all of these places will be getting a freshen up starting tomorrow:

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I’d love to tell you more, but honestly I’d like to keep some surprises under my belt… needless to say, it’ll be worth your time.

I look forward to seeing you bright and early tomorrow morning 😀