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Speaking Without Words: and Ryder Ripps

Ryder RippsIf a picture is worth a thousand words, then maybe we should let do the talking. The image-based chat service is the brainchild of Ryder Ripps and the result of his collaboration with Scott Ostler of MIT Exhibit and Tim Baker of Delicious, all three part of the ever-growing group of young artists raised in a digital age.

Ripps describes as a "platform for real-time image communication." He says, "In a way, it is an iteration of both the chat room and the image board, as it uses pictures to create conversation." The site is set up like a normal chat room, albeit with an emphasis on the images posted rather than merely on the text.

The site is ideal for those who want to share the images they've created, or just for the people interested in inundating themselves with the absurdist aesthetic that exemplifies. The streamlined signup process echoes the site's simple, clean aesthetic, and images can be uploaded to locally, posted directly from a webcam or displayed instantly when linked from a URL. screencap
The images posted by users are steeped in an ironic absurdity borne by the infamous image board 4chan, which served as the birthplace of some of the Internet's most pervasive memes, including "pedobear", "sup dawg" and the "rick roll." In accordance with this mixing of the ironic and the absurd, Ripps cites Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Andy Warhol as inspirations.

He explains that came about as a way of streamlining the communicative aspects of image-sharing. "I was using Tumblr lots in '08 and '09, and was noticing that many people, including myself, were using this blogging platform as [a] means for making friends through like-minded content. People prolifically post throughout the day at such a pace, one has to wonder if it's really 'blogging' that is being done. I wanted to have a tool so people could talk and share content more like they do in real life."

The Internet itself serves as Ripps's inspiration and medium, both. He and his peers trade in the online aesthetic of the mid-'90s, years before, as Ripps puts it, the "boring, perforated, stock-looking social networking platforms" became ubiquitous. Seeking inspiration from "the shrill sounds of that 28.8k modem," this is the anti-aesthetic popularized by the likes of Paper Rad and Cory Arcangel, comprised of animated .gifs, "bad" Web design, pixels, anime, pop-culture references and video games.
Internet Archaeology
Like many of his peers, Ripps (born in 1986) began using the internet in his early youth, at age 10. His involvement with the Web led to his previously most well-known project, the archival site Internet Archeology, which came about as a way of preserving content from Geocities (an early Web-hosting service) after it ceased operation in 2009. "When I was a kid I remember stumbling upon the obscurities and oddities of the Internet. It was a real eyeopener. Finding unexpected things at such speed inspired me in unexpected ways. Geocities was very much a part of my landscape growing up. Every great society ought to preserve their landmarks and history, and I feel that landmarks on the Internet are no different," he reflects. "They are a looking glass into a mysterious and complex past by which understanding might help us realize our future better."

While the aesthetic of's imagery, and much of Ripps's own work, may be based on the (near) past, the site itself is thoroughly modern, and Internet Archeology is a pioneer of digital preservation. Likewise, Ripps has clear plans for the future of each service. In regards to Internet Archeology, he says "[I am] very interested in preserving Flash-based websites; I think they are a dying breed." As for, he hopes to build versions of the site for content creators who want to engage an audience in fresh ways, a la Tumblr or Chatroulette. "A full-screen version of was recently used by [the band] Anamanaguchi during a live performance, and that proved to be very fun. I would like to see used more within this vein, as well," he notes.

Ripps is paving a future for digital archeology and textless communication, but doing so in a way that seems born of enjoyment rather than any stoic technological utopianism. His thoughts regarding his inspiration, Arnold Schwarzenegger, seem to characterize his own ethos and work. "I love how [he] is such a confident, self-aware, mockery of himself; I hate people who take themselves seriously." And, here, he is perhaps summarizing the nature of digital art, itself.

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