Today I was invited to try a beta version of a new app by my mancrush, Eric Kim.
Cards on the table here, folks.
Yes, I love Eric. His photography, his writing, his outlook.
ARS (pronouced “Ours”, not “Arse”… I’ve already told him that all brits will read “ARSE”), is a “feedback” tool for photographers. It’s basically "Hot or Not” for photographs. For each photo users upload you can tell them to “KEEP” it or “DITCH” it. There currently aren’t any networking tools in place, just very basic profiles and photos getting flashed up on a screen.
Now we could have the age old conversation about how art isn’t competition and how one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, that’s a worthwhile conversation to be had, but for the average photographer, trying to appeal to a mass market, feedback on photos that you’re not sure about can be a tool to decide what photos to use to promote your next workshop, which photos you should have on the landing page of your website… you get the idea. And hey, if you don’t like the idea of people rating or slating your work, don’t sign up.
The only argument against this kind of voluntary rating thing for art (and I mean this for anything, Facebook likes, download charts for music, the oscars) is that it perpetuates a culture of art being competitive. And this is where the ARS proposition gets interesting, and potentially where it’s downfall lies.
(And I’m sorry, in my head when I type it I still say ARSE)
The only other feature of the site is a “Top Photos” section, where the highest rated photos are shown off in all their relativistic glory.
Maybe I’m some kind of twisted person.
Maybe I’m just not that nice.
But it doesn’t take a genius to realise that in order to get your photos on the “Top Photos” for the day, your photo needs to be up-voted, and other people’s photos need to be down-voted.
In an anonymous world, where votes aren’t linked to personalities, few people are going to get to the “Top Photos” page by up-voting their competitors.
I think Eric and the team behind ARS (yup, still ARSE), are imagining a world where people will visit the site to get honest, anonymous feedback on their work.
But while there’s a “Top Photos” page some people won’t be on the site for the feedback.
They’ll be there for the self-promotion.
And that’s not a bad thing. Eric is one of the people I’ve learnt most from about self-promotion. He owns self-promotion.
But it changes the dynamic of the site.
Now to the good: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (which is really Facebook 2.0, don’t be fooled), currently OWN photo sharing.
If you’re not on these sites, you don’t exist.
I’m a big fan of people owning their own turf on the internet. That’s why I have this website. There’s no algorithm making a fool of this sites users. ARS might just give people back a small platform to share their work away from the billionaires’ playgrounds.
And for that, I have a lot of hope.
(I’d like to point out that I didn’t down-vote a load of photos on the site for my own gain, though I could have. I’ve only down-voted two. One was offensively bad. Like VapourWave art bad. The other was of a cup of coffee. A fucking cup of coffee. And don't come all "Yeah, you upload photos of cups of coffee sometimes. Well I don't upload them to be rated, you weirdo.)