In the chapter Simulacra and Simulations of his Selected Writings, Jean Beaudrillard offers an analysis of simulacra — a representational image without an original — which I believe can be applied to icons. In particular, Microsoft Word’s stupid save icon:
As Beaudrillard explains:
These would be the four successive phases of the image:
It is the reflection of a basic reality.
It masks and perverts a basic reality.
It masks the absence of a basic reality.
It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.
Using Beaudrillard’s explanation, let’s describe the life cycle of the save icon in MS Word:
Clicking this icon indicates you are saving your file to a 3.5″ floppy diskette.
You are saving a file, but you’re more likely saving to an internal hard disk, and not a floppy.
Floppy disks are supplanted by Zip disks, until removable media’s decline around the end of the century. No one uses floppy disks.
Files are saved to hard drives, stored in the cloud, or on Dropbox. The only removable media in regular use is the USB stick. The floppy disk icon remains a symbol only of itself.
And this is how Word’s save icon became a simulacra — to represent nothing.
I’m not saying this blog, but the concept is on its way out.*
Just as Facebook will go to its long goodnight as its users go to other sites, some leaving because they just want to make pithy comments passing other peoples’ content around, share photos of their lunch, or turn the idea of a newsletter inside-out, there are better sites for all these things than one’s own blog, and each of them comes with a strength the independent blog does not: a built-in community. Unless you’re one of my five friends, or came across this site looking for an (increasingly outdated) way to customize the RSS output of a Drupal feed, then odds are you aren’t even reading this.
I’m the man in the high castle, the fool on the hill, who built a fortress around himself, and wondered why no one ever visited.
But don’t worry… as per my habit, I’m behind the times — I haven’t even listened to ArtPop yet — so I figure timtoon.com still has a few years left in it.
*Todd would say this sentiment itself is outmoded.
Bleeding Cool’s Kickstarter Correspondent, Shawn Demumbrum has led three Kickstarter campaigns to launch comic books, two successfully funded and one that wasn’t. Each week he will point out some of the unique Kickstarter projects that wouldn’t normally be published by the big comic book companies, but deserve your attention.
Since we are talking about Misunderstanding Comics, which comic do you think is misunderstood or gets an unjustified bad rap? Writer? Artist?
Jack Chick. It’s fashionable to slag on him because he’s pushing some really horrible offensive ideas in his comics, but his actual cartooning is just brilliant. He draws the most evocative, iconic expressions — just great bulging eyeballs and flapping mouths and sweat drops flinging all over the place. Every panel is so chock full of detail it’s like a MAD magazine chicken fat, with great big stubbly faced pot-bellied demons lurking everywhere in the background. I know so many people who insist that the art is bad because they don’t like the message, but he’s really a talented, meticulous craftsman.
Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics was a landmark book in the comics world for establishing the potential of visual arts to convey beauty, drama, and transcendent meaning.
But comic book readers didn’t want beauty – they wanted buff gladiators with laser guns the size of a filing cabinet, sex kittens with impossible figures drawn by unskilled artists, an army of hacks hoping to sell a million issues of pre-bagged, individually- numbered holofoil special editions to drooling fanboys before anyone noticed they were bankrupting their own medium. Join us as we turn a jaundiced eye toward all that is wrong with the “invisible art”.
You won’t understand comics until you misunderstand them!