In the beginning, there was Toy Story. Then, as Pixar developed each subsequent film, they had a choice to make: what could we make the (still primitive) technology of computer animation do, and how can we tell a story based around that? One by one, the engineers tackled hair, water, particles - and those achievements highlighted by the characters and environments of their films.

Lately, it feels like computer animation has plateaued. Big technological innovations are harder to come by. And, as it becomes easier to do something, less care is put into how it is done, and why it's being done in the first place.

When the hurdles are taken away, when the ability to make something previously restricted to a few master craftspersons has become democratised, the sheer amount of competition can look scary. But it also becomes easier to differentiate yourself: as the one who still puts care into what they make, and why they choose to make it in the first place.

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AuthorThomas Riggs

If you look the bottom of the first page of an issue of the New Yorker, you’ll find teasers for articles which are not in the magazine you’re holding, but are on their website. A few pages later, a crossword puzzle with three clues asks you to visit the website to complete the rest of that week’s crossword digitally. (The New Yorker offers a separate paid subscription for crosswords.) In some issues, an entire page is taken up by the slogan, “Not all our award-winning writing can be found in these pages.” And who can blame them? If they could shove all their readers to online, they could remove the overhead of producing a print version of their magazine, turning it into profit (currently, the New Yorker offers both their print and digital subscriptions at the same price).

Meanwhile:

Weapons of Reason is a magazine about technology and humanity. It comes out once a year, offering a deep dive into topics like climate change, health and artificial intelligence. You can read the stories from the magazine online, but these are offered on a kind of time-delay; if you want to read the whole thing right now, you’ll need to order a copy and have it sent to you.

Kai Brach produces Offscreen from an office in Melbourne, sourcing content from writers across the world. It is only available in print, a kind of meta-statement on attention and reflection for the magazine’s tech audience. On his website, Kai writes: “Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about paper versus screens not as old versus new, but as different and complementary devices, each stimulating particular modes of thinking for particular times of our day.”

The New Yorker is no indie magazine, of course, it’s quite the opposite. But where a large-scale production like the New Yorker must cut its ties to the material plane to stay profitable in a world full of digital competition, the indie scene uses that same competition to their advantage, using their physical nature to set themselves apart from noisy online discourse.

This approach is difficult to scale, but that in itself becomes the appeal, the thing that makes it unique.

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AuthorThomas Riggs

Consent is one of those words whose true meaning and weight is quickly being eroded. On an average day, we’re asked to provide our consent in one way or another maybe dozens of times, to access websites, to use services, and to be surveilled. Consent is a concept that reaches all the way from a website's cookies to ownership of our own bodies and image.

In a world of heightened awareness around personal privacy, and a chilling of attitude toward those who ask for personal information, how is photography (in particular, street photography) affected?

For many years I have comforted other photographers with the clarity of the UK’s privacy laws when it comes to photo consent, which gives over a generous share of rights to your appearance to any keen street snapper. It’s common practice to carry a piece of paper with a title like “Photographer’s Rights”, to wave in the face of anybody who may be less educated on the matter. In a lot of ways, street photography is a medium which has depended on a kind of entitlement to, and legal ownership of, little snapshots of others’ lives - an entitlement possibly unchecked because of demographics (historically, street photography is a white, male pursuit).

In a world where more and more people are stopping to ask, “are you using my information responsibly?”, what could the implications be for photographers?

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AuthorThomas Riggs

One of my favourite sites back in the mid-2000s was HomestarRunner.com, home to hundreds of funny (at least, funny to 13-year-old me) Flash cartoons created by Matt and Mike Chapman.

If you visit the Homestar Runner site today, you will see they're in the middle of moving a lot of their content to YouTube. In contrast, the original site (made in Flash) was a wonderful hand-crafted experience. A couple of times a year, the home page would be updated, with little secrets to find - bits of animation, music and dialogue that all added to the Brothers Chaps’ universe of characters. Even the list of Strong Bad Email cartoons is displayed on the monitor of a Compy 386.

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AuthorThomas Riggs

Why buy a paper book, when you could have a thousand digital ones on a Kindle?

A paper book is something that's absolutely yours — something neither publisher nor bookseller can take back from you, something unbound by End User License Agreements.

More than that, a paper book is an object that continues to develop, with dog-eared pages, coffee stains. A second-hand book is a story that comes wrapped in a narriative of its own.

Most importantly, a paper book is something that forms a bigger picture of your inner self, your personality, or simply a history of the twists and turns of your own curiosity, when it's placed on a shelf with others. (The ones that don't go on the shelf also help create that picture, by not being there.)

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AuthorThomas Riggs

The guy next to me can't help but publically complain about every client email he recieves, every piece of feedback that needs clarification. He brings other people over to bear witness to the stupidity of the people asking for his skills.

The other people in the studio will laugh, and agree, that was a terrible and stupid thing for them to ask for. And, back at our desks, all of us are left thinking, yeah, our clients can be pretty stupid, too. They don't understand video editing, or page layout, or what exactly Photoshop can and can't do.

But this kind of thinking allows us to put other people below us because of their lack of knowledge in our field.

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AuthorThomas Riggs

This article from The Creative Independent really struck a chord with me, particularly this bit:

You have more time than you think. Seriously. For someone who has never had a singular vision of what I should be doing with my life, accepting this was a big step towards putting goals in perspective and accepting that my curiosity for music, writing, and education could all be explored. Renowned rock climber, musician, poet, and writer Pat Ament describes just this in his 2017 Aquarium Drunkard interview:

“It’s like love. There is no end to the amount of love one can have. You can love multiple people at the same time, your mother and father, your friends, your girlfriend—but it’s the same with our pursuits. There is more than enough time in life to do more than one thing,” he says.

Over the past year, I've been switching lanes so often, it feels like I've spent most of my time in-between them.

After a while, it made a lot of the projects I wanted to work on, a lot of the new skills I wanted to learn, or even future careers I wanted to explore seem like pointless exercises.

Keeping room in my heart for my varied pursuits has helped me understand that I'm not fruitlessly spinning in place, but rather, I'm growing.

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AuthorThomas Riggs

This is a common and comforting refrain I tell my coworkers and closest friends, when their project is running late, when things fall through. It's good to remind yourself that, despite a creative failing, it won't cost anybody their life. So ease up on yourself.

But this bit of wisdom has another purpose, too. What happens when, at the outset, you remember that no matter how badly it goes, nobody is going to die? No matter how bold, how questionable, how unpopular your idea may be, it's not going to cost you or anybody else their life. "They can't eat you," Bob Parsons once said.

So, why not do something crazy that just might work? Nobody's going to die.

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AuthorThomas Riggs