When Canv.as opens up to the public, there is going to be a whole bunch of cranky people who will hate it. They won’t “See Value”, “Find “Engagement” or “Conduct Meaningful Interactions”. This is because Canv.as is a totally open playground. There is a set of simple tools to create, remix, tag, sticker, comment and share images. Then there are the results of people using these tools. There are no further instructions, and it’s up to the users individually, and as a group, to figure out what to do with this space.
Canv.as is Christopher “Moot” Pool’s new project, and he seems content to let the community hash things out. When you login, you’ll see a page full of images. “Franklin Gothic”, a drawing of Ben Franklin in Goth eye makeup, pictures of crashed sports cars, Disney princesses and the obligatory cute teenage girl. All of these photos have been mashed up, graffitied, cut, pasted and re-arranged. There are plenty of headlines in the images, and some comment threads, but overall writing is scarce. It’s a fully 21st Century version of William Burroughs and Bryon Gysin’s “Cut-Up” theory of communication. People are using images to say what they have to say. THe image board isn’t a new idea, but this presentation of it is a whole new execution.
The user experience is simple, and the focus is on getting images made as easily as possible. Click on an image that tickles your fancy. Underneath, you’ll see a chain of images, going back chronologically towards the original, in all their modified states. It’s like the “Undo” layers in photoshop, if they were controlled by insane people with unlimited access to moonshine. The remix button let’s you chime in with your own version. The remix tools consist of an MS-Paint-esque image editor, with all the basic functionality you’d expect. It serves it purpose well, which is to churn out mass communications. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be creating digital masterpieces with these tools, but some of the artwork on Canv.as is pretty decent quality, and a lot of it is very entertaining. It’s possible, just like on 4Chan, to post anything anonymously, simply by unchecking a box. Anonymous seems to be the most popular handle.
Placing different stickers on images you enjoy, like colored smiley faces, #1 and “LOL”, make up a voting system. There is also a way to tag posts by category, as well as some sharing features for social networking services. You can follow amusing threads by pinning them. It’s very basic, but very functional. The construction seems to encourage creating things quickly, and getting them up the board so other users can get their hands on them. The system seems to discourage excessive perfection seeking.
Canv.as is currently in a closed beta, so I think making predictions would be uninformed and somewhat ludicrous. Canv.as appears to be wholly driven by how the users are feeling at that moment. Watching the culture on the site develop will be an experiment worth watching. The way Canv.as focuses on remixing images as the main communication medium, and the open nature of the site itself have huge potential. If you can’t find a way to amuse yourself here, you’re just out of imagination.