blogs, competition, consumption, journalism, photography

Boing Boing Finally Catches Up with Me

On February 16, I wrote about the tilt-shift effect and included examples of tilt-shift photography that I created using Photoshop.

Two days ago, on the 27th, Boing Boing, the blog that leaves everyone breathless, published a post saying that you could, after all, fake the tilt-shift effect, and included a link to instructions on how to do this. Well, my goodness, who would have thought of that?

Good hustle, guys!

And now, there’s a Flickr group devoted to fake tilt-shifting as a result. Two weeks ago, you could find a small handful of Photoshopped tilt-shift pictures, at most. Now everybody’s doing it.

Admittedly, I’m no expert on this and I didn’t bother to detail the process I used to create those photos. The instructions to which Boing Boing links are pretty good—though not perfect. They don’t account for spatial relationships for individual objects when defining depth of field (although some of the Flickr discussions do), but I won’t get into that here. If you decide to make your own Photoshop tilt-shift pictures, then we’ll talk. Until then, let’s fool around with pictures of, say, that lone protester at the Great Avenue of Everlasting Peace at Tiananmen Square.

I guess this is what happens—or doesn’t happen—when your (my) blog is not known to the outside world. I forgot that the whole point of putting anything on the internets is simply a pretense for engaging in rabid self-promotion. People who had no interest in this when I mentioned it are suddenly riding the wave because everyone else is doing it. Glad you could join the herd…I guess there’s room for one more. As a bonus, in Boing Boing’s follow-up post, a program manager for Microsoft Earth managed to promote his blog and highlight his talented and probably unappreciated, underpaid Microsoft colleagues. Excellent!

But with all of these people doing this technique now, won’t it get a little old? Or is this eccentric little effect—used most often (until a few days ago) by artistic photographers, but now mass-produced by anyone with the software and time—not subject to diminishing returns? Makes me wish I’d read Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by now so I could insert a pithy quote here.

Maybe every new fake tilt-shift will be like a little, bejeweled Fabergé egg. Mine will certainly be so precious. Or maybe this trend will follow the pattern described by corporate “cool hunters” like Look-Look’s Sharon Lee and Dee Dee Gordon (whose ideas were built upon by Malcolm Gladwell and are being capitalized upon by Auren Hoffman, et al.), which is to say :

[Q:]Let’s talk about what makes a Look-Look kid. How do you pick a kid to be part of your organization? What are you looking for? What makes a Look-Look kid?Gordon: A Look-Look kid is someone who is a forward-thinking individual, who looks outside their own backyard for information, who is someone who is a leader, who isn’t afraid to speak their mind, isn’t afraid to like investigate new things. . . . It’s someone who has a lot to say, someone who sees things that most other kids wouldn’t.

[Q:] What is the theory beyond that? Why don’t you want an average kid to know what average kids are doing?

Lee: We look for kids who are ahead of the pack, because they’ll influence what all the other kids do. We look for the 20 percent, the trendsetters, who are going to influence the other 80 percent.

[Q:] How does that work? How does a trend spread?

. . . Actually, it’s a triangle. At the top of the triangle, there’s the innovator, which is like two to three percent of the population. Underneath them is the trendsetter, which we would say is about 17 percent. They pick up on ideas that the innovators are doing, and they claim them as their own. Underneath them is an early adopter–it’s questionable exactly what their percentage is–but they are the layer above mainstream, which is about 80 percent. And they take what the trendsetter is doing, and they make it palatable for mass consumption. They take it, they tweak it, they make it more acceptable, and that’s when the mass consumer picks up on it and runs with it and then it actually kills it. [Emphasis added]

[Q:] You said it eventually killed it. How quickly are these things given birth to and then killed? How condensed is this period of time from when a trend starts to when a trend is killed?

Lee: It used to take a year-and-a-half to two years for something to move. And now it can take a couple of months. . . .

Frontline, “Merchants of Cool,” 2001

When the mass consumer picks up on it and runs with it and then it actually kills it. Think about that for a minute. Let that idea seep into your brain through your trucker’s hat.

So, then, what’s the life expectancy for fake tilt-shift being a fun, new concept? A couple of months? Maybe—in 2001. Dear Readers, it is now 2006 and something called “blogs” exist and most blogs eschew original content in favor of pointing to one of the 500 or so actually interesting things on the internets, and one of the the top three or four blogs on the entire planet is seriously called “Boing Boing,” and the rate of the novelty value of any new meme is undergoing rapid inflation, which is to say their half lives are getting shorter and shorter. The life expectancy for fake tilt-shift (as a novel trend) might be a couple of weeks; within days of its Boing Boing birth it grew from a cute little concept into something bloated and unwieldy, collapsing under its own weight and consigned to a fenced enclosure in the backyard. Its novelty finally expired a few short minutes ago. Rest in peace, fake tilt-shift photomanipulation technique. It was a good run. I’ll always remember you.

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