the white cube as a social media tactic>
[2023 February 11] -> deutsch
The white cube is the looming void. For decades, art, paintings and sculptures have been fighting against their own meaninglessness, which inevitably attaches itself onto them in such spaces.
As prisons of ideas, museums with white walls hold the displayed art hostage. Out of pity, museumgoers set out to offer comfort to the lonely photographs and installations: if silent stares and static faces can be considered as comfort. The white cube absorbs all emotions and leaves behind monochrome rationality, which is exchanged at the reception with the purchase of a souvenir.
And at night, the spun colours and thoughtful patterns on the pictures and shapes cry because of their growing loneliness.
The white cube hates itself. It knows of its only function as a vacuum. It is not a villain but also not a hero, but the tragic result of an understanding of art that wants to separate "cringey tinkering" from "high-quality results of human creativity". It tries to separate art from the world. It strives to make art pure and to keep the flawed human being (with their snotty paws) away from it. It kills art, because nothing in the world lives with a broken heart for very long.
This is not confined to museums. The white cube lurks around every corner. The latest victim is the internet. There are several blogs that have already dealt with the phenomenon of the commercialization and resulting centralisation of the internet.
They also bring up internet aesthetics, which have become increasingly boring. With this I don’t mean logos of big internet companies, which have become increasingly flat, but the arrangement of elements on websites, the size of fonts and the use of colours, etc. Even international companies had a personality twenty years ago. (Well… on the web atleast lol.) Their internet presence was memorable and not completely interchangeable like today. Try it out for yourself: Use the Wayback Machine to see how multi-million dollar companies presented themselves before the white cube striked. Even Nintendo is now addicted to conformity:
In 2003, there were almost no white spaces. The page was designed for efficient functionality and not for wide backgrounds which bore no information or interaction. The content of the page was framed by a playful structure that made essential elements such as the search bar, the logo or the log-in stand out visually. And most importantly, the site had identity. Today, on the other hand, I surf around on sites that all have nothing to do with each other (insurance companies/garden centres/cinema programmes) but look confusingly similar. If that's what this so-called professionalism is supposed to be, I'd much rather remain an amateur forever who hasn't understood anything.
Maybe some of you think: well, but at least things are clearly laid out on the net. First of all, I don't believe that. Because this design, which even uninterests itself, doesn't guide the viewer's eye at all. We only know where the navigation bar, the search bar and the terms and conditions are because we have become accustomed to their locations.
Secondly, not only websites of individuals and companies are affected by all of this, but also social networks just as severe.
Social exchange on the internet has always been curated. Simple chat programs - like Ajax Chat may consist of simple text fields, but modifications to the program tell users how they can style their messages (italics, underlining, font, colour...) and what kind of files (JPG, GIF, MP3...) they can send in the chat. The same happens in forums: the administrator dictates how big the avatar can be, how high-quality forum posts have to be written and what kind of nicknames are allowed. In summary: The operators tell users to what extent they are allowed to express themselves. This is either regulated in the code itself (your avatar can not be larger than 150x150 pixels.) or moderators intervene if your post violates the site's guidelines.
In the last decade, it has become clear that it is not personal development that has prevailed, but the white cube.
For two decades now, users have been increasingly deprived of their creative possibilities, while the big internet platforms continued to grow. I don’t know if this is connected. Maybe it's because internet companies wanted to address more people (preferably everyone on the world) and therefore lowered the entry threshold of their platform. (And of course it is also easier to place eye-catching advertisements within "tidy" designs).
a few examples:
Before networks like Discord and Reddit exploded, many different forums existed on every topic in multiple languages. Even though most of them were built using either the construction kits from phpbb.de or vbulletin.com, there was still a wide range of personalisation possible on your profile page in terms of text and also visually with the signature under your posts. In addition, administrators and moderators usually interacted with the users, which meant that they were included in the social exchange, which is not the case on today's large social networks. Users were able to influence the appearance and functions of the platform to a certain degree.
On Discord and Reddit, users almost disappear and are left with a nickname and a small avatar. The focus is on messages, posts and interaction (upvotes/downvotes) - the so-called "content". The rest is swallowed up by the white cube in favor of a homogenization and pure presentation of text and images.
Something similar has happened to YouTube. While users had so much freedom that some channel pages looked like their own websites in the first few years of the platform, today only the avatar, a small banner and the nickname can be changed. The focus is now on the videos and no longer on the video makers or viewers.
The same thing happened with classic social networks, which were and are designed for interacting between friends. With MySpace, it was still possible to make profound changes to one's own profile. With Facebook, this is now over. In the meantime, however, counter-movements to this trend have emerged. SpaceHey.com, for example, is a spiritual successor to MySpace and has found its niche. Likewise, a few people still make their own websites, code them themselves using HTML/CSS and host them via Neocities, for example. Like this page here! :3
Instagram and Twitter are great examples of the white cube. Photographs and texts are displayed in a white vacuum. By the way, I don't want to say that I have anything against the color white. (Just the other day I got myself a pair of white overalls!) The problem is that users can no longer express their personality on the internet. They have to surrender to a grid of conformity if they want to play along. I'll say it again: the white of today's social networks is not a color, but a vacuum. And that devalues users and art
An App took this to another level: TikTok! Which even uses the white cube as an underlying concept: On TikTok, everything is «Content». You can follow users, but you mainly stay on the "for you page", where you are shown endless video material. Interpersonal interaction doesn't really exist anymore. Even commenting on videos feels anonymous because the comment column is incredibly sterile. Like on Instagram, the profiles all look interchangeable too.
On TikTok, there are no individuals anymore. The white cube has prevailed and art has been completely separated from humans. That's probably why videos on TikTok are so quickly forgotten about and replaced by new ones. (Why should I spend a longer time with an object that has no humanity in it? That even repels humanity? Rejects me therefore personally?) I don't want to know how lonely these videos must feel, born in a place that doesn't care about them. Because the white cube doesn't care about anything. Even itself. That's why, for better or worse, TikTok will abolish itself before the end of this decade. (okay hot take lol)
Humans are disappearing from the internet. Internet corporations don't want us. (While they claim to democratize the world.) And they use art unlovingly as a tool - as "content" to keep its users' screen-time up. They are probably ashamed of themselves for the way they deal with the passions of their users. Because of that they fail to name this "content" for what it really is: textual, visual and auditory art.
In order for humans not to fall out of the internet completely and for (internet) art to be loved and appreciated again, there are only two solutions:
- learn to code!!! Better learn to code badly! Then you can code badly together with your friends!
- destroy capitalism I guess
the white cube as a social media tactic>