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tom moody

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Digital Pog Criticism (aka "pog bloggin'")

Some thoughts on Michael Bell-Smith's digital pog collection. Briefly, pogs started as illustrated milk bottle caps in Hawaii and grew into a kid-collectibles crazelet in the '90s. Digital pogs are 177-pixels-in-diameter GIF files that exist and can be "bartered" mainly via the Internet and web browsers. Whether Bell-Smith's pogs catch on and actually become viable mock-nostalgic anti-commodities remains to be seen.

As Bill Schwarz said when a few of these were first posted: the pog "is the low man on the collectible ladder. Lower than beer cans, lower than glass insulators, lower than advertising drink glasses, lower than everything. Congrats to mbs on recognizing a commodity that faint."

Whatever happens with them in the Internet's gift-exchange economy, these pogs are interesting to think of as a different kind of icon model. If you look at avatars dredged up by something like the LiveJournal icon-scraper they're all rectangular. Talk about "conventional"!

As an artist, working with the circular format makes you think about different content issues--what kind of subject matter lends itself best to this form? (Cameos for portraits, views through viewfinders and portholes, puns on circular imagery, etc.)

Down side: they require more steps to make than rectangles. Also, not every viewing situation respects the GIF's command to "transparencize" the area outside the circle--if that doesn't happen, the effect is blown.

Update: the above comments address the collectible aspect of pogs. Of course in the physical world their main purpose, and means of exchange, is a game where the pogs are stacked and knocked over, with the pogs landing face up going to the winner. Some serious thought needs to be given to how digital pogs can acquire the edge of competition, gambling, and class disruption that led to their banishment in schools across America in '94-'95.

- tom moody 11-22-2006 7:19 pm [link]