Inadvertent pornography.

I think the image is a success in that it communicates a tricky concept. The strange and unfortunate thing about the image, though, is that it took on a cliche, glossy, and slightly pornographic character that no one intended. I don't have any problem with outrageous and/or sexy images, but I am uncomfortable and a little embarrassed by this image. I decided to publish it anyway, because I find the idea of the invention itself provocative (and critical to achieving a cephalopod nature).

So, what to say about the experience of being an inadvertent pornographer? I learned that visual communication should be given the same time for reflection and revision that the written word requires. I made an error in leaving the creation of the image for the last minute. That error had a bit to do with the awkwardness of going back to paper and its deadlines. If this had been a web publication there would have been time for revision and space for alternate versions of the image.

But, why did the image come out the way it did? I think the glossy effect that annoys me is embedded in the work habits of many people in the image chain. It's a little bit in the posture, a little bit in the lighting, a little bit in the retouching. To tie it to a classy current science metaphor, it's a little bit like the organismic vector field Goodwin says gives DNA its meaning. A distributed causal agency.

And then there are the race/gender issues. All I can say is that these are hard to get right. We started out with a plan for a male and female model, showing only a shoulder tattoo. The male was changed to a female because we thought there would be too many implied gender role messages otherwise (though of course a slightly different problem is certainly present with the two women- and you could ask why we didn't choose two men). The tattoo broadened from the shoulder and crawled down the leg because one of the art people (who was a woman) got excited about having more room for visual composition.

We had to use a black model for the tattoo to get the visual effect to "read". She's topless because the original part-of-the-shoulder design was to have been topless, and that remained the case when more of her body was shown, even though effect was quite different (a mistake on our part, I think).

I'm disappointed in the plastic affect that comes through in the models. The models in actuality were entirely human and not Playboy-like at all. I'm always annoyed at media images of a single type of sexy body (since my body isn't of that type and I feel sexy). In person the models did not particularly match the cliche. The one playing the game, Jezebel, has a rock band and was energetic and goofy. Yes, I know, her tongue is sticking out. It was just horseplay at the time. And yes, the joystick is more phallic than most. It was the only one we could find in the short time we had that would show up clearly.

Eek! I know this sounds like a load of excuses, but truly, these things have to come together very quickly. So far as I can tell, no one involved, and certainly no one at SPIN or at Bob Greenberg's shop (where the tattoo was applied), consciously intended for things to get cheesy, but they did.

I'm writing this in advance of the issue's distribution, and I have no idea at all how this image will be received. I'm quite curious and a little nervous...
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