Doing Something Different

As you may or may not know I am a little odd. I’ve been called ‘eccentric’, ‘weird’ and ‘crazy’ many times by many people. I don’t take that as an insult and maybe that makes me weird, I don’t know. I like to think I’m different, I know everyone likes to think they are different and special though. I guess I’m just a little more different, more out there in left field picking dandelions and calling them roses.

That weirdness bleeds into what I create. My novels don’t go too far from the norm but I do try to explore things that are a bit more out there. I don’t think my writing is super weird though. My first novel  bent style a little too much I think, to the point where people had a hard time following along. I like to try to push things though, I enjoy experimenting.

With programming there is room for weirdness but there are essential rules that must be followed, physical constraints in the machine and the basic OS that cannot be bent too far. I do have an idea for a weird game that I want to make though, but I feel like video games in general are playgrounds for the weird so that’s not anything new.

It’s been my foray into film that I find myself pressing further and further into unconventional and different styles and experiments. I don’t think that what I’m doing is too far out there, I’m sure it’s been done before by other artists, but I think I’ve added something new. Something that as far as I can tell is not being done in the way I’m doing it.

I’m using YouTube as my primary medium and that medium is one that has a particular set of standards and expectations. I’m doing something on that platform that is different from the normal content that one would post there.

If you go to the YouTube trending page you will see basically the same kinds of content on a week to week basis. Usually some clips from a late night show, maybe a movie trailer and then perhaps a popular music video and a big YouTube creator doing either a vlog, unboxing or personal rant to their audience.  This trending page is heavily controlled by YouTube and it becomes a self-reinforcing thing.

If something is popular it will only get more popular as it is featured more and more heavily. Then add in the algorithm, where YouTube and google tune the recommended and search results to your tastes. Tastes that are learned from constantly monitoring your activity online. Combine all this and you end up in a place where people are existing in highly personalized little boxes that are hard to get out of because they will never even see the results for content that is different from what they normally consume.

That’s what my content is. It is out of the box different stuff. Because of this it does not really get noticed. For example, I made a gaming channel a while back that lasted a few months and had maybe 20 videos on it. That channel grew ten times faster than my current channel. That channel fit the box nicely and the one I’m creating now does not.

I don’t want to get too much into it, this is not really about how ‘out there’ my content is but rather about a concern I have for the future of new and experimental content. As we consume more and more of our art and media online and as what we consume gets more and more tailored to our existing interests I worry that people are not getting exposed to new things.

Sure you might get new episodes of content you already consume, or content that is so similar to stuff you already consume that it might as well be the same thing. What people are not getting is content that they might never even have known they would be interested in or like. Content that is so far from what they normally consume that the algorithm would never recommend it but that the person would enjoy anyway.

Humans are complex creatures, as much as rich nerds off in Silicon Valley try to reduce us to numbers we really are beyond that. How can you show something to someone that they would never even think of liking? How can you expose people to content that is so far removed from their normal consumption patterns that it’s not even on a person’s radar?

It used to be that people would find this stuff while channel surfing, or wandering an art gallery or bookstore. That people would discover new music while browsing at the record store or going to a small concert. Sure people have always looked for more of what they already like but it used to be that in the looking process people would discover things they had no chance of finding on their own.

Now there is no looking process, we are handed what we already like and there is no time to look for new stuff. Unless a person makes an concerted effort to find content that is different from what they already consume they won’t happen upon it on their own.

Using myself as an example, my YouTube channel is basically a mix of what I’m calling ‘visual poetry’.  There are a few short films tossed in there but essentially it’s poetry that I write and narrate over a footage that is transcendentally related to the piece.  It’s pretty experimental and hard to describe, it’s something that I don’t think anyone else is really doing. So how would someone find it? Sure I try to include related search terms but there is only so much I can do without lying.

For example, let’s say a teenager is watching gaming channels and a few vlogs. As they’ve matured they have developed an interest in poetry and art, so they search spoken word poem on YouTube. The results they get will be in line with what YouTube thinks they might like based on the data it has on them. Something like my content, something they might find refreshing and new is not going to show up because of how out of scope it really is.

I know there is no easy way around this, people want refined search results and I agree that they are much more convenient than sifting through piles of trash. But there has to be a way to find new stuff, an organic way to stumble across new content like in days gone by. I worry that people who are out there trying truly experimental and weird things are not ever going to get found by an audience because we have lost these organic ways of discovery.

I don’t know, I might be the only one lamenting this like I said I am a pretty odd person. I just think that we are going to lose out on different art in the future and end up in an echo chamber that only shifts and never really changes.

Then again, maybe the reason content like mine does not get found is because it’s terrible. I know in my case I’m not really doing it for an audience, it’s a free form kind of creation for me. But there might be some gems out there that we never find because we have been too insulated by our search engines.


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