Exploring New Social Media: Polyvore as Global Art Gallery
At First Glance
Polyvore describes itself as "the world's largest style community with over 20 million unique monthly visitors." It is a social media site that provides its users with interactive software which allows them to mix and match product images, styling before they buy.
Fundamentally, Polyvore presents itself as a cool and creative way to shop. Its homepage displays stories about trendy products and user-created fashion collages called "sets." At first glance, it appears to be little more than a site that features fashion trends and styling tips while promoting upscale designer clothing and trendy products.
However, the initial impression the site gives is a deceptively shallow. The collage editor built into Polyvore's site is a remarkably sophisticated tool and offers almost limitless artistic possibilities. Although fashion sets may be the norm for many casual Polyvore users, interior design and art sets are also featured. In fact, Polyvore is home to a burgeoning online artistic community.
How Polyvore Works
Polyvore's structure is similar in many respects to that of other popular forms of social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
A user begins by creating a profile similar to that of a Twitter account. She (the vast majority of the site's users are female) can upload a thumbnail image and write something brief about herself as well as provide links to any relevant sites such as a personal blog.
Once one becomes a member, in a way similar to "friending" a person on Facebook, one can follow other users and acquire one's own followers. Following users makes it easier to view all of their set creations.
Borrowing Facebook's system, Polyvore allows users to "like" the collage creations of others by clicking a heart below the set. Popular creations that garner enough likes have a chance to be featured in Polyvore's Top Sets of the day.
The real meat and potatoes of the site is its collage creating tool. Polyvore plays host to a vast databank of images and also offers the ability to clip additional images from anywhere on the web with its clipping tool (similar to tools offered by Pintrest and Wish). Each set can have up to fifty images added to it, and each image can be resized, cropped, and otherwise manipulated. The results are really only limited by the skill and imagination of the user.
Textured Polyvore Art
An interesting feature of Polyvore is the ability to join groups. There are groups for just about anything that you can think of -- from fashion to Dr. Who, from horror to adorable kittens, from goth and emo to Victorian scene recreations. There are a multitude of groups dedicated specifically to art, in a variety of styles, from abstract, dada, and surrealist, to art based upon specific themes found in psychology, philosophy, literature, or mythology.
What is the purpose of all of these groups? Well, to submit sets, of course. Each serves as a mini-gallery for displaying members' works. What's more, these groups all run contests.
Yes, contests. Most active groups almost always have a contest going, thus encouraging their members to compete with one another.
What are the prizes? Well, just bragging rights. Recent contest wins show up on users' profiles and, if the contest has at least fifty participants, the top three winners will earn a tiny trophy accolade (like a game achievement) that is permanently displayed on their profile pages.
Polyvore Profile Information
Another Polyvore Art Set
So Much More Than Fashion
Although Polyvore appears to be a fashion site and has, not so coincidentally, predominantly fashion industry sponsors, its user content is tremendously diverse.
Just a few of the more popular types of art that can be found on Polyvore include textured sets, in which users create unique effects by layering textures over each other, cut out art, which utilizes scraps of other images to create a single new image, fantasy sets comprised of blended .psd Photoshop elements, and "doll" art, in which a single female model becomes the central point from which the rest of a set is built.
An Example of Polyvore "Doll" Art
Mesh Images to Produce Photoshop-Like Effects
The Future of Art?
Before the Internet, people had to wait for just about everything. If you wanted to read a book, you had to go to a bookstore or a library. Now it can be downloaded in under a minute. If you wanted to watch a movie, your choices were to either see it in the theater or wait for it to come to the video store. Now it can be downloaded in under a minute. If you wanted to know some random bit of information, you had to go to a library... Well, you get the point.
The world has changed. Instant gratification is a characteristic of our modern lives. It seems, however, that art galleries are behind the curve. Sure, even the smallest galleries have online presences now, but the artists' works that they feature are created, then displayed, and then eventually may be shown online.
In as seemingly innocuous a place as Polyvore, an artistic community has blossomed. Polyvore users, many of whom are commercial artists, are busy competing with and inspiring one another as they create in real time.
By simply offering the creative tools, Polyvore has brought together a vital, dynamic community of artists under one umbrella site. Just log on, and you can observe the immediacy of artists' works, often reflecting the day's headlines, as they are created.
You never know -- you might just be peering into the future of art.
Have you ever used Polyvore?
© 2013 Alisha Adkins