What Happens When A Community Crumbles?
In June, I wrote about how I was using the digital collage app Mixel for iPad. Unfortunately, Mixel stopped being available for download in early August. The service has remained available to current users until now, but as of this weekend, Mixel for iPad will be gone. Lascaux has released a new app, Mixel for iPhone, but that app has no appeal to me.
The original Mixel featured simple community building tools. Any user could Like, Love, comment on, or remix another user’s Mixel. Because there were no limits on how many pictures one could like, users handed out Likes generously, which helped the users build a supportive community. Each user could only give out 5 Loves per week, which gave each Love increased value. Some users pushed themselves to improve, tempted by the reward of precious Love hearts under their collages; threads of collages made by different people using the same images demonstrated the unique, creative vision in each user; and many folks pulled apart collages to figure out how the creator had put them together. It was a vibrant, creative world for the people who chose to hang out there.
For many people who have been using this software, the community of Mixellers has been their tribe. Some of the most loyal users have not used their creativity in years and had found a community that celebrated their creative recovery. Several people claimed “artist” as part of their identity because they were treated as artists by the community.
The imminent disappearance of the program has prompted a range of responses.
- Making art that expresses their sense of loss and the need to let go of this community, like the collage above by Ankica Dragicevic.
- Celebrating the world of Mixel that was, like this video, Farewell to Mixel, by Timothy Paul Brown.
- Attempting to recreate the community aspect in other venues: Facebook, a web-based Fan page; deviantART, etc.
- Taking resources available within Mixel and saving them in other locations.
- Exploring other iPad apps to discover what other tools allow similar creative processes.
- Obsessive use of Mixel to eek the most out of it before it is gone.
- Stopping using the software before it shut down, not looking for alternatives, grieving and moving on.
None of these options will replace the complete package of community and tools that were available through Mixel for iPad. Each former user is finding their own path away from this community. Some will stay in touch in other venues. For how long, though? Time will tell.
Communities collapse for many reasons.
Have you been part of a community that collapsed? How have you moved forward?
Several people have expressed interest in hearing more about my life in theatre, so here is a beginning. Being involved with theatre for more than 30 years has affected my life in too many ways to be the subject of one blog post. In many ways, theatre training and production has actually been my training for life.
Over the years, rehearsal and performance of plays has given me:
- Self-Awareness. Many roles taught me something about myself or gave me an opportunity to stretch out of my comfort zones and experiment with other ways I could choose to live. Finding similarities and differences between myself and the characters I played enabled me to explore who I am and what makes me unique.
- Awareness of Other Perspectives. Playing characters who differed from me pushed me to develop a bodily understanding of the reality that the world looks different from other people’s perspectives.
- Community. Everywhere I go, there is a theatre company that benefits from my involvement. When I move, the local theatre community is usually where I make my first, and often my closest, friends.
- A Reason to Work Hard. School never challenged me. I got through my entire education by handing in something for each assignment and showing up for classes and exams. Theatre challenged me. I started with nothing more than a good speaking voice. After 30 years of classes and productions, I have become a respectable actress and a good director. My theatrical accomplishments are some of my most cherished because I had to work for that growth.
- A Place Where Unique Contributions Are Valued. Whatever your skill set, if you want to work on a show, there is a theatre that can use you. Even the most elementary amateur production needs performers, sets, costumes, props, lights and sound, publicity, front of house, and overall coordination. Even if you don’t want to perform, you can be a valuable member of the team. I like to know what is going on in every aspect of the production which makes me especially valuable as a stage manager, director, producer, or Board Member.
- A Reason to be Part of a Team. I am naturally introverted. I like to figure everything out myself, and manage all the details on my own. But, you can’t do that in theatre. My senior thesis in college included a solo performance that I wrote, choreographed, and directed. I also designed and created the costumes, set, and sound. But, even so, I needed people to run the show while I performed in it and somebody else to design the lights. It would have been impossible for me to succeed without at least a small team.