Artists, authors and musicians have been collaborating face to face for centuries. It’s not cheating; it’s innovative and can produce some brilliant pieces. And now, in this age of digital media, they can work together on something without even having met in real life.
The internet, amongst its many other uses, is morphing into a giant, online studio for professionals and amateurs alike. But is online collaboration merely a grab at the limelight for amateurs? Is it a marketing gimmick for professionals who have easier access to sponsorship to fund these undertakings? Is a project worked on between an artist and their fans just a publicity stunt? Take bands who run competitions for their fans to design their posters. Is that just a way of endorsing themselves while making an enthusiast feel like they’re famous?
What follows will hopefully shed some light on whether or not online collaborations are for fame, fortune or fun.
The first stop on our foray into online collaboration is WebCanvas. The idea behind this site is that anyone, anywhere can add to the growing canvas of sketches to create a truly unique piece of art.
In a sense, it could be considered a YouTube for artists, a place to showcase work. There are some complicated and technical pieces, but there are also a lot of simpler ones. Like the star I drew next to a man with sunglasses. Simple, yet effective. And the fact that it is pretty much anonymous means you can’t tell who’s drawn what, unless they post it in the forum.
WebCanvas, for me, is a site created entirely for enjoyment. Anyone, whether they are trained artists or not, can have a go, which gives it a huge sense of fun. It’s not a constant vying for attention, the anonymity means it’s simply a platform for doodlers and drawers alike to unleash their creativity.
A phrase that is making its way into internet searches and forums is ‘online band’. This, in essence, is a band that makes music online with members who could live continents apart. CoCompose is one of a number of websites that allows for this online musical collaboration.
Unlike a similar site called Songsinc, where ready made tracks are available if you pay for them and access to tracks made by professionals is just as easy, CoCompose is more about the creating music from scratch side of things. It does, however, ensure that credit is earned where credit is due.
Although both sites are clearly aimed at collaborating, CoCompose has the edge in that it seems more open, more friendly and laid back; more about the creation and less about the industry. But professionals do have to make money, and what better way to do it than helpamateurs to give it a go online?
A Calendar of Tales
Here, we enter a more professional-sided realm. Neil Gaiman is a prolific author who has some incredible titles to his name. But he has recently undertaken a collaboration project entirely on the internet and involving his Twitter followers: A Calendar of Tales.
He started the initiative by asking questions via Twitter based on months of the year, such as ‘why is January so dangerous?’. After collecting all the tweets for all the months, he created stories out of them, as well as asking for audio and visual accompaniments from his followers.
This collaboration between professional and amateurs is a pretty unique concept. The fact that the whole project was commissioned by Blackberry may, to some, mean that it has lost its integrity, its passion or its ingenuity. To me, it is a fantastic way of using social media for good to create a totally enthralling and beautiful end product. And an author’s got to eat, right?
The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator
The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator describes itself as ‘A movie you watch, a game you play and a comic you read’. It’s a graphic novel inspired take on a series of animated videos, and the episodes follow Brandon and his adventures to overcome writers block.
What he got up to in each episode, however, was decided by his internet audience via mini story format. Here’s one I wrote earlier. I don’t think it made it into any of the episodes. Although contributions to the site have now ended, the four episodes containing his exploits as decided by his audience are still there for all to see.
This also happens to be a project sponsored by Internet Explorer. Does that negative its creativity? The fact remains that, without the internet, this interactive graphic novel would never have been made. To me, that’s a pretty amazing thought. So let’s not let the fact that it’s endorsed by a corporate name take anything away from just how ingenious this creation is.
Never mind the sponsors or the hierarchy of famousness. Advertising on the internet is a way to make money, no doubt about it. But these online collaborations show that this is irrelevant next to the outcome. They are projects created by people who love to paint, draw, write music and tell stories, and the result is as pure and fun as a red panda play fight.
In a world where the internet can mean viruses, hacking and slander, I think it’s brilliant that there are people out there who use it create beautiful, funny and moving pieces of art; both for their own pleasure and to inspire others. Long may online collaboration continue.
Do you guys have any other great examples of creative online collaboration?
All images by: DuckJen