It’s hard to believe that it’s been half a decade since The Show from Ze Frank graced our tubes with its daily updates. Five years ago to the day, he recorded the greatest three minutes of speech ever committed to video.
In the midst of his challenge to find the ugliest MySpace page ever, he received this comment:
Having an ugly Myspace contest is like having a contest to see who can eat the most cheeseburgers in 24 hours… You’re mocking people who, for the most part, have no taste or artistic training.
Ze’s response is a manifesto to the democratic transformative disruptive power of the web. It is magnificent.
In Myspace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made templates that “work” in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool.
Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to make your Myspace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it’s possible that completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic ability.
That’s one of the reasons why I dread the inevitable GeoCities-style shutdown of MySpace. Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time. And when it does get shut down, we will forever lose a treasure trove of self-expression on a scale never seen before in the history of the planet. That’s so much more important than whether it’s ugly or not. As Phil wrote about the ugly and neglected fragments of Geocities:
GeoCities is an awful, ugly, decrepit mess. And this is why it will be sorely missed. It’s not only a fine example of the amateur web vernacular but much of it is an increasingly rare example of a period web vernacular. GeoCities sites show what normal, non-designer, people will create if given the tools available around the turn of the millennium.
Substitute MySpace for GeoCities and you get an idea of the loss we are facing.
Let’s not make the same mistake twice.