Introduction

February 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Welcome to CraftCvltvre, a blog using dark aesthetic culture and style as a lens through which to explore the concepts of online niche communities, the creative process behind handcrafted objects, and the relationship between the material and the digital. This is my undergraduate capstone media project for the Emerging Media and Communication program at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The digital age has dramatically accelerated our ability to connect with other people beyond the limits of physicality and geographical location. We can form and join complex microcommunities based on our most obscure, esoteric interests and hobbies. Even if only two people in the whole world have devoted themselves to some subsubsubcategory of something, they can find each other with a quick and easy search query.

One such computer mediated culture that has flourished, the focus of my investigation, is centered around a dark visual and semiotic aesthetic. This is a wide umbrella that encompasses several diverse styles, from the mystical and romantic to the minimalist and apocalyptic, but they all connect back to each other and to the concept of the macabre, the morbid, the spooky, the somber. Often this cluster of motifs is called gothic, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be constrained by the baggage of that label. Members of this thematic community congregate on social media channels and blogs to share ideas and media.

Computer mediated communication is all about externalizing oneself into a physical object that transmits disembodied signals to a vast network. Messages are somewhat agnostic to their platform – especially with the rise of mobile computing and flexible, responsive information design – but people have always expressed themselves and connected to each other by putting meaning and mental energy into material matter. Our Internet-connected devices simply provide a new medium, with new affordances, to continue doing so.

The most meaningful and important pieces of material matter, however, are the ones people craft by hand. The act of shaping raw elements into something completely new is a very personal experience, and the resulting creation allows us to leave an enduring mark of our presence on the world. The community I’m examining for this project has a wealth of highly creative people doing just that. And the Internet allows their niche work to find an audience.

There’s a place, then, where the dark aesthetic, online niches, and self-expressive material craftsmanship intersect. I want to tell the stories of the people and objects that meet at this intersection. Specifically, I want to focus on these things as they apply to feminine adornments – women’s fashion and beauty products. Through this blog, I plan on carrying that out by conducting interviews with independent makers of dark clothing, accessories, and cosmetics.

Though our physical and digital artifacts can take on a life of their own, they all begin with real human beings. Who are the people who make these beautiful things and communicate online? I will be asking questions and having conversations with crafters about their physical and mental workspaces, the community of which they are a part, and the relationship between the material and the digital as well as self-expression and craftsmanship in both forms.

You can participate too! Join in with your own thoughts and imagery by using the hashtag #craftcvltvre on Instagram, Twitter, and the BHeliot.com Facebook group. I will be using that hashtag as well for discussion and sharing links and media, and you can also follow this blog via RSS, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. As a side note, this blog is a living document, and entries may be edited continually.

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