Open and Social Media: Post Digital Publications

During our first week on Open and Social Media, we looked at the idea of what Post-digital could mean, and how we could interpret the ideas of ‘open’ and ‘social’ as we currently understood them. Something that I discovered over the course of the lecture was that the term ‘Post Digital’ is not itself an easy thing to comprehend. My initial interpretation was to see it as taking the online to the offline i.e. making the digital physical. However, these terms are much more complex than this early simplistic reading. After all, an iPad is a digital device yet it is a physical object that we activate through touch. When the term post digital had the addition of ‘publication’ added to it, the ideas certainly became more complex.

When I was thinking of examples of post digital publications, my first thought sprang to how we take things online offline. For example, a person may draw and write a webcomic for many years, and then decide to print and bind it for sale. This is a perfect example of a post digital publication, especially as it falls into more traditional notions of publishing and content ownership. Ideas around publishing, and what makes a publication, were discussed in week 2, and have further shaped what I am considering to be a post digital publication.

The example I am drawing upon is cosplay. Cosplay (from the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’) is when fans dress up as characters from their favourite video games, tv shows, films, comics, books and anything in between. Many fans are extremely dedicated to making their cosplays, and will spend months hand-crafting outfits to exact detail, making them as closely replicated as possible to the original. I myself have recently started to take part in cosplay – I cosplayed as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider at the Birmingham MCM Expo in 2015. In thinking about my own cosplay, and how I took a digital character from a video game (Lara Croft) and brought her offline and into the real world via my cosplay, that I saw it as a post digital publication.

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Tomb Raider cosplay: I actually modified it for the expo, changing the vest, adding wounds, and my boyfriend made me a climbing axe to take as well. 

Publication does not mean only of the written or visual. It’s definition is to make something public, or generally known. Tomb Raider as a video game has already been published in the digital realm. But I took the character of Lara Croft specifically and took her offline, making it a physical incarnation through use of my own body and crafts. She became publicly known as I walked around the convention hall – I, and my cosplay, became post-digital publications.

How I will develop the idea of cosplay as a post-digital publication I’m not sure yet, but I definitely like the idea of publishing through the body and craftsmanship of cosplay as a key angle on my work. In week 2 we discussed the craft of making items and publishing them, and cosplay certainly fits into this. Cosplay is also quite a fluid form of publication. Cross-play (cross dressing in cosplay) is very common, as are designing hybrids of genres and characters to make original costumes (i.e. someone may design a steampunk style Superman outfit, or a punk Stormtrooper). While these costumes seem original, they are in fact hybridised forms of media copied and mashed up with incredible skill. It is here I am reminded of the phrase to ‘steal like an artist’, which means to steal something and twist it to your own imagination until it is no longer recognisable. This notion is highly Postmodern, but I feel it applies well here.

I look forwards to exploring the post digital capabilities and ideas of cosplay throughout this module!