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Why I Love Weird Porn

The glories of DIY porn.

A note: as a courtesy, most of the esoteric terminology in this article will not be clarified with links. Google is your friend, but be aware that you’re rolling the dice; some of these things will be disturbing or upsetting to you, others may end up pushing buttons you never knew you had. So, y’know, heads up.

One of the most important speeches I’ve seen in the last few years is Clay Shirky’s famous “ Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus“, in which he lays out a theory stating that we are presently enjoying an unannounced renaissance in creativity made possible by the tools of technological empowerment.

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan’s Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don’t? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn’t posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it’s not, and that’s the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it’s worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

And I’m willing to raise that to a general principle. It’s better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, “If you have some sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too.” And that message—I can do that, too—is a big change.

Now, I grew up around futurists, and one thing growing up around futurists teaches you is to have a hair-trigger bullshit detector whenever you’re anywhere near a futurist. If I don’t see immediately testable predictions that map to both the futurist’s theory and my own experience, I just file it away with the Long Boom and VR helmets. Shirky’s model of cognitive surplus passes that test with flying colors. People, young people especially, are getting home from work and school, sitting down, and making things. Making lolcats, fan tumblrs, stupid YouTube videos. Making indie games, webcomics, 3-D printable models. Making crazy Rube Goldberg machines because the internet gives them an audience for their silly project. Making a playable arcade out of cardboard because why the hell not?

Even watching TV is now a participatory act for many people. You vote for the winners, you jump in the online discussions, you help with the save-the-show write-in campaigns, you pick the best screencaps to put Texts From Last Night over. And the makers of TV know it. They plan for buzz, they build fan spaces, they put fan jokes into the show itself. Consumption is no longer passive; it has become a give-and-take between art and audience in which the audience is an active and necessary part of the process, shaping both the art itself and the outcome of the symbiosis between them. Tell your grandchildren that you lived in the generation when postmodernism came to life and ate the world.

Of course, technology being what it is, one of the major things people are using this incredible participation for is making porn. SO MUCH PORN.

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