Saturday, November 24, 2012

Polyvore Project - Field Notes #3

This project really is proving to be fascinating, but that might just be the fashion nerd in me.  The more I'm on the site the more intrigued I become with it.  Users come from not just all over the US but all over the world.  Some of the people I follow or who follow me are from places like Croatia or Estonia or some other far and foreign land, compared to little old me in Phoenix, Arizona.  And yet we all share a love of fashion and similar style tastes.  Some are young, probably still in high school by the sound of it, others are in college, and some who are working professionals.

One of the people I follow studies comparative literature (according to her profile) so it's nice to know I'm not the only "academic" on the site.  During my time in academics, between my first masters program and now my current masters program, I've had to deal with plenty of people trivializing my research.  It's hard when you're in a Media Arts or English program studying fashion and costume design.  At best, people just don't understand you and you have to explain yourself a little more than someone who's studying one of the "usual" subjects.  At worst, you have to deal with people who think that what you study is irrelevant or unimportant.  Fortunately for me, in my current program I have yet to have anyone respond negatively.  They may not always readily understand my work but they're always intrigued and excited, which makes me thrilled to have found the field of rhetoric.  I feel like I've found my home and my people! :)  It's a good feeling.

This is also how I feel about Polyvore.  People of all ages, all backgrounds, from everywhere around the planet, coming together with a shared love of fashion.  After a long day of studying theory or working on a paper about the theoretical side of fashion it's a nice change to go to a site that lets me just have fun with the creative side about fashion.

So, what's new since my last post?  Not a whole lot but a couple cool things happened that I wanted to write down and share with you all.

1) I got the most lovely comment to a set I made for an outfit to wear for teaching and going to school. One of my "academic" looks.
I don't want to copy the full comment or share the name of the user, since I don't have their permission, but they complimented me on both the style of the outfit, which the user said they would love to wear it to one of their lectures, but also remarked on the pleasant composition of the set.  As a new user who is still trying to figure out the best way to arrange a set it was really gratifying to get such positive feedback on that particular element.

2) The second really cool thing that has happened recently was getting a notification that one of my sets (seen below) made up entirely of products from Ted Baker of London was "liked" by the official Ted Baker profile on Polyvore.  Not too shabby!  I adore and am totally addicTed to Ted Baker so to get any amount of attention from them on Polyvore is pretty darn cool.


3) Just a quick update of the statistics of my profile:
- I'm now being followed by 54 people (and counting)
- I've had 1,722 set views
-114 set likes
-2 collection likes

So now it's time to seriously move forward, compile the data, and get my proposal written up.  Already I can say that my focus has definitely changed.  As I moved forward through this project I thought I was going to focus more broadly on identity creation and the democratization of fashion through Polyvore from an American/Western perspective but now I think I'm going to look at those ideas through the lens of globalization.  What I've noticed is that there is a huge international community on the site, especially from eastern Europe/Baltic states/former Soviet Union.  I'm really interested in looking at how people in those areas (I think I'd like to look specifically at former Soviet Union/communist countries) use Polyvore to 1) create a fashion identity and 2) use Polyvore to create a fashion place/space that is relevant to them and that they have some control over.

In class my classmates and I have been talking about the idea of "social capital" (pg. 82) as described by Nancy Baym in her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age (2010) which I think has a lot of implications to the users of Polyvore.  Baym explains that social capital can be either "bridging" or "bonding" (terms she borrows from R. Putnam, 1995) and that, "bridging capital is exchanged between people who differ from one another and do not share strong relationships. The internet lends itself to and expands the potential for this kind of capital. In contrast, bonding capital is usually exchanged between people in close relationships. . . . Many online groups provide bridging capital, exchanged in relationships that are highly specialized, yet it is also common to find members of online communities and social networks providing one another the the sort of emotional support often found in close relationships" (82).  I've certainly seen preliminary evidence of this type of support and connections on Polyvore, I think a more detailed analysis and survey of the site would turn up more.

I'm also interested in Dan Gilmore's idea of the citizen reporter in We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People (2008).  Though I think Gilmore is referring more to social activist groups and individuals who use grassroots journalism to subvert of circumvent the dominant media system to call attention to certain issues, I feel it has applications to Polyvore as well.  Though the users of Polyvore aren't going to use the site to stage a political coup or topple a tyrannical regime, they are actively making statements to (and sometimes against) the dominant/mainstream fashion media.  This goes back to my ideas of looking at how Polyvore is democratizing the production and dissemination of fashion images and fashion editorials in a way that hasn't been seen before.  Now, more than ever, the power is being placed more and more frequently in the hands of the consumers rather than the fashion elite that run the various fashion houses, brands, and publishing industry.

These ideas and others (ones that are still bouncing around my head) are the more specific direction I think I'm going in.  I shall keep you updated over the next couple weeks as I put the final proposal together.  In the meantime feel free to track my Polyvore progress at my profile.

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