Digital Art in the Age of Social Media: A Case Study of the politics of personalization via cute culture.
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory
Undoubtedly, as social media ubiquity spreads, the attendant forms of emerging creativity, collaboration and community further appropriate and adapt Digital Art current trends. As Jean Burgess observes in her studies on YouTube, one of the key attributes of this personalization phenomenon is what she calls “vernacular creativity” . Here Burgess spearheads the amateur / professional nexus that has been transformed through networked social media. In these transformations, the role Digital Art vernaculars play in the divergent world of the global games industry in an age of social, networked media has been given little focus. One such vernacular can be seen in cute culture. As a highly emotional and affective vernacular with its roots in Japanese personalization culture, cute culture has straddled various Digital Art terrains such as gaming and new media. I argue that through charting the cartographies of personalization through cute character culture we can gain insight into Digital Art vernaculars both inside and outside Game Studies. By honing in upon one of the most pervasive modes of Digital Art—cute character culture—this paper provides new ways to conceptualize Digital Art. To focus upon cute culture is to explore an aesthetic that has its genealogy in Japanese technocultures — a realm that has, until recently, been left under-researched in the Englishspeaking world. In a period marked by the increasingly proclivity towards “personalized technologies” it is cute culture, with its history in the rise of Japanese personal technologies from the 1970s, that can lend much insight into the politics and practices of contemporary Digital Art. In this paper I uncover some of the meanings that have caused cute culture to become a lynchpin between so much media converging Digital Art with games in an age in which the personal—epitomized by personal technologies—has a deeply political edge.