One of the best commentators on culture, politics and creativity today is also one of the funniest. Ze Frank is a real inspiration to me and his little video show from Friday includes one of his best longer pieces yet.
Watch the show.
For a very long time, taste and artistic training have been things
that only a small number of people have been able to develop. Only a
few people could afford to participate in the production of many types
of media. Raw materials like pigments were expensive; same with tools
like printing presses; even as late as 1963 it cost Charles Peignot
over $600,000 to create and cut a single font family.
The small number of people who had access to these tools and
resources created rules about what was good taste or bad taste. These
designers started giving each other awards and the rules they followed
became even more specific. All sorts of stuff about grids and sizes and
color combinations — lots of stuff that the consumers of this media
never consciously noticed. Over the last 20 years, however, the cost of
tools related to the authorship of media has plummeted. For very little
money, anyone can create and distribute things like newsletters, or
videos, or bad-ass tunes about "ugly."
Suddenly consumers are learning the language of these
authorship tools. The fact that tons of people know names of fonts like
Helvetica is weird! And when people start learning something new, they
perceive the world around them differently. If you start learning how
to play the guitar, suddenly the guitar stands out in all the music you
listen to. For example, throughout most of the history of movies, the
audience didn't really understand what a craft editing was. Now, as
more and more people have access to things like iMovie, they begin to
understand the manipulative power of editing. Watching reality TV
almost becomes like a game as you try to second-guess how the editor is
trying to manipulate you.
As people start learning and experimenting with these languages
authorship, they don't necessarily follow the rules of good taste. This
scares the shit out of designers.
In Myspace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made
templates that "work" in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to
pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation
of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool.
Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to
make your Myspace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as
consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it's possible that
completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic
So, Discardians, get out there and create whatever the heck you want to!