So what’s Christopher Poole’s new venture? A site called Canvas, recently revealed at the South by Southwest technology showcase in Austin. Says the New York Times, “[Canvas] allows people to upload images and watch as other members on the site add to and remix the content.”
A recent popular thread on Canvas featured a cute brown dog covered with snow. Each subsequent image added to the original. One introduced characters from “Star Wars” to the photo, then someone joked about calling in Charlie Sheen to help the dog clear away the snow, a thinly veiled reference to Mr. Sheen’s widely-publicized struggles with drugs.
And so on. “It’s a shared experience,” observes Poole, “knowing that you and several other people are experiencing this and participating in helping something unfold in this moment….That ephemeral nature of that moment is special and will never be repeated in the same way.”
But such digital doodling is much like Chesterton’s description of the dandy’s dressing room: entirely made of mirrors, cracked mirrors, in which real things assume weird and grotesque shapes which amuse for a moment but which are ultimately pointless.
Every art transmutes reality to one extent or another—but if the point of the transmutation is not to go deeper into reality, than what the artist creates is simply a funhouse reflecting the triviality of his own mind rather than things themselves. How sad that Canvas is being backed by several prominent investors and venture capital firms, including Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley investor who was one of the earliest backers of Google. How sadder still that when the 15-year-old Poole created 4chan, he ran it from the secrecy of his bedroom with his parents totally oblivious as to what he was up to.
Ours is a culture created by the minds of 15-year-olds run amuck.
“But I was never interested in mirrors,” continues Chesterton
that is, I was never primarily interested in my own reflection—or reflections. I am interested in wooden posts, which do startle me like miracles. I am interested in the post that stands waiting outside my door, to hit me over the head, like a giant's club in a fairy tale. All my mental doors open outwards into a world I have not made. My last door of liberty opens upon a world of sun and solid things, of objective adventures. The post in the garden; the thing I could neither create nor expect: strong plain daylight on stiff upstanding wood: it is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.