From webcomics
to comicwebs

Von Gabriel S Moses.

I almost felt my eyes popping out their sockets when a girl I dated first showed me her Myspace page. It was 2005 or so, Poppunk and Emo ran rampant and her page was all pink/black lines and Skacheckers? my pupils struggled to zero in on any one image with all the spastic pixy glitter flickering.

This was before Facebook took over with its extremely restricted template, designed to fit the needs of the generic citizen of centric cyberia? Myspace on the other hand, appealed mainly to music lovers and offered them semi hackish toolkits of copypasted codes and widgets, to create pages which looked like mini pop idol campaigns for their virtual alter egos.

That was also a time when the net was still spiderweb’ish and decentralized enough (or at least so it was still naively perceived) to even make erotic sites like SuicideGirls come across as a curious DIY subcultural endeavor for mischievous tattooed rebel girls? at least that’s the way horny cisgender punkrock boys like myself (at the time) saw it. In other words, the early 2Ks seemed to offer more online experimentation, with a touch of flirty zest? things still harbored a sense of wondrous unknown and the online social media realm still seemed more like The Neverending Story and less like The Ikea version of The Matrix.

But what really stumped me – and this is where all my interests fully converged – was how much Myspace reminded me of comics. I remember glaring at the screen, Xraying through the little text bubbles and posted images of my GF, with her excessive eyeliner, duck faces and Nightmare Before Christmas props, and all I could think was "No way! That’s the future of comics right there!". Instead of webtemplates, I saw comicpages? their aesthetic and content customized by users, instead of authors and illustrators. And then I thought, "Well obviously someone must already be writing something about this… if I wasn’t so lazy, I’d get to the bottom of it.". But I was a lazy reader (and as it turns out, there wasn’t much to read), so instead I did the next best thing – I made my own book.

It took me three years to finish Spunk, my first graphic novel published in Germany. In it, I figured that it would be interesting to take a bunch of fictitious, illustrated Myspace pages and arrange them chronologically, in a kind of 'timeline', for lack of a better word, so they would tell a story? a crime novel of sorts, about an enigmatic punk rock rebel girl. Readers could follow her entries to try and unravel the mystery of her death – that is, if she died at all and didn’t just log off Myspace in favor of a trendier social network.

But then in late 2011, something weird happened to my whole train of thought when Facebook, already in full flight, introduced Facebook Timeline. This was interesting because it actually put to practice the ideas I was playing around with in Spunk: Facebook Timeline really did chronologically arrange its entire user generated content. It really did sell itself as a certified autobiography of users’ lives, and all this was done using flowing edits of images, narrated by chat bubbles, captions, and text segments.

This change made two things evident to me: 1. unfortunately, Spunk was now obsolete, or at least a mere predecessor of a larger phenomenon, and 2. social media could now more than ever be considered a new kind of interactive graphic narration. That said, I don’t believe I was too ahead of the times, but it did comfort me to know my intuitions were on the right track with the general zeitgeist, even if I wasn’t going to have a best seller any time soon. However, at the same time, I was also beginning to get a bit creeped out, because although social media was rendering everything into interactive storytelling, and peddling it as such, I didn’t know of anyone trying to show users how to properly master these environments. There were of course adamant critics of social media, and there were groups like Anonymous who hacked online culture, but I saw little being discussed of the imperative flaws in design of these predominant web engines and the way they restricted their users’ liberties to affect their world. This is more or less where I jumped on the scholarly wagon myself to try my luck in driving my point home, using comics.

Given, a lot has changed since Myspace and Spunk debuted. At least in my little bubble, the seemingly DIY, decentralized punkrock naïveté of the early 2Ks has shifted to a grave concern with big data? whereas – especially in light of virulent trends like #Gamergate – SuicideGirls now seems like one more macho oriented pornsite, excused by a metafeminist allure. The main currents of cyberspaces have become extremely encroaching environments, feeding on confusion. But for better or worse, everything is still stewarded by rigid comicsy clusters.

This also inspired me to try tackle the future prospects of this whole shebang in my current project, ENHANC[=MENT, whose trailer I will be showing in my talk at Lenbachhaus on July 28, 2015 coupled with the commissioned installation, anything consumed must come out – a 4 screen adaption of one of the centerpieces in the story, which is showcasing at the Museum’s atrium.

Altogether, ENHANC[=MENT is a premonition of sorts? it unfolds the story of the children of a new future? a catastrophic consequence of a world at the mercy of a technologically naturalized worldview, inherited by the newborn digital natives of an all encompassing 'westernized world'? a young privileged generation, of Miley-Cyrus-looking kids, born with Smartphones in their palms, whose corporatecultural, dispersed, contingent, memetic and oversaturated pictographic thought patterns are still in a stage far too early, and far too devastating for older generations to fully comprehend? eyes closed and minds in full swing, tomorrow’s kids are coming in like a wrecking ball.

All this will be the focus of my upcoming talk at the Lenbachhaus as part of the FACTS & FICTION program on Tue, July 28th, 2015.

Gabriel S. Moses lebt und arbeitet in Berlin. Er ist Comiczeichner und hat mehrere Bilderromane veröffentlicht; außerdem ist er Experte in Sachen visuelle Kompetenz und Medien. Er verwendet sowohl klassische als auch digitale Illustration und Text sowie Bewegtbild und Piktografik in diversen Medienkonstellationen. Darüber hinaus hält er zahlreiche Vorträge und zeigt seine Arbeiten in verschiedenen medienkulturellen und künstlerischen Kontexten.

Veröffentlicht am 22. Juli 2015.