When introduced to the term “new aesthetic,” coined by James Bridle who describes it as a way to refer to the growing appearance of the visual Internet in the physical world, emphasizing the blending of the two. In simple form, it is a way of merging internet “stuff” with existing reality.
At first I did not fully understand what the term meant, so decided to look up a couple visual examples and it quickly began to make sense. For example, a popular social media artist MLMA, or better known as @melovemealot, uses digital art to transform her regular videos into pieces of art. Below you can see a couple examples of her work, where she used platforms like photoshop and video editing to add her own spin onto what was once just a “regular photo.”
Now that you and I both have a better grasp as to what this all means, I want to dive further into how people are profiting off of their “New Aesthetic” creations. For some time now I have been following an influencer on Instagram that goes by the name Lilmiquela (@lilmiquela) She has an already large following of two million, and it continues to increase. Aside from her trendy posts and urban style, it is her physical make-up that draws in the growing number of viewers, and not in the way you may be thinking.
Again, she seems like she is just another trendy teen from Los Angeles. However, if you happened to take a closer look at these photos, you might have noticed what is different about her. In fact, there is a lot. At the forefront of it all, she is completely computer generated… an avatar of sorts. She was created in 2016 and since then has been pushing relatable, aspiring, and popular content. With fuller lips and ideal body type, she fits right into what instagram has come to show as an ideal influencer. Not only this, but the added details of her existence puts the cherry on top. She has fly aways in her hair, produces shadows, and of course has a relatable or “real” personality.
What makes this interesting though is the impact that Miquela has been able to make. Outside of being the first computer generated social influencer, she has also worked with a number of famous clothing brands including Chanel, Burberry, and Fendi. She has also been photographed with a number of notable celebrities throughout her time on and off Instagrams platform.
Above is a campaign video for the well-known clothing brand, Calvin Klein. I am sure that many of you, myself included, have some questions surrounding this. Yeah, posing in photos wearing some of fashions biggest brands, and even interviewing J Balvin are some big things, but sharing a kiss in full CK with Bella Hadid? This is at the top of the list of things that are blowing my mind when talking about this.
More importantly, what is all of this saying about us and the growing world of technology?
We are integrating. We are, whether we realize it or not, welcoming them into mainstream. When thinking about it, the video was likely made to be a spectacle and draw attention to the new season of clothing, rather than just a casual inclusion of a virtual influencer. That being said, this does not take away from the fact that reality is crossing over with digital beings or things. With the increasing number of technological devices and growing number of social media platforms, it can in some way seem reasonable.
Here is Miquela getting comfortable in a photo with her two creators Trevor Mcfredries and Sara Dacau. They are co-founders of the company Brud who have pioneered the integration of computer generated people into mainstream media. Although we don’t have a definite purpose as to why she was created, it is evident that advertisement has a huge role in its success.
After Miquela showed a significant amount of success, Brud received six million in venture capital funds. Alongside this, they have made quite a bit of money off of brand deals, interviews, and even Spotify music where she hit a top 10 on the platform. McFredries and Dacau have been vocal about their donations they have been able to make through their creation. Giving aid to the California Wildfire relief fund as well as the Black Girls Code NGO.
They have even gone as far to create friends for Miquela, Blawko22 and Bermuda. All of which have different personalities who have had conflicts surrounding things like politics from time to time. This further pushes the idea that with a certain amount of thought and detailed work, we have the ability to welcome them into a world that was made for humans only. It’s up to the rest of us to decide if we should be concerned or impressed at the thought of digital mimicry.