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Photo courtesy of the artist

Instagram real life with Mark Stephenson’s HipsterMonocle

By Ryan Saxby Hill on May 30, 2013

This week, Ottawa is welcoming some 150 delegates to the city for the Creative City Summit. The summit presents an opportunity for people who work in arts and culture across the country to come together and discuss some of their common challenges and goals. We thought that having a group of cultural thinkers in the city was a pretty good time to show off, so we’ve launched a special guide highlighting Ottawa’s artistic hot spots.

One of the artist’s the city selected to create work for the summit was local designer Mark Stephenson. He’s the man behind HipsterMonocle — a square monocle that users hold up to their face, giving subjects in their non-digital lives the avatar treatment. I sent Mark over a few questions to see what the project was all about.

Apartment613: How do you define hipster? Why did you choose to use this term?

Mark Stephenson: The hipster term seems to get thrown around a lot today and probably means different things to different people. For this project I thought it was a fun fit. The HipsterMonocle has a connection to modern culture yet borrows from the past in the same pattern of inspiration as some of its references. A monocle, square photos, Instagram/Polaroid, a heart, and an old school handle equals a disjointed mix of things that works together. That is hipster to me.

Apartment613: Your project is playing on some interesting and familiar shapes and aesthetics. Can you take us through your inspiration for the piece?

MS: Yeah [it] certainly is. I thought it would be fun way to take the view finding experience of Instagram and the familiar pattern of cropping profile pictures into squares and play with that in a physical context. I specifically incorporated some design elements like the heart and Instagram/Polaroid styling and even a logo in an effort to make that connection. Instagram is taking inspiration and replicating elements from the past and bringing that into our digital world, and I’m in my own small way taking some of that back to the physical in the form of this monocle. Sounds deeper than it really is [but] I’m just having some fun with this project.

Apartment613: We normally experience avatars and photos digitally. Do you think there is a need for new tools to create these same forms?

MS: Why not, especially if the experience is enjoyable. The HipsterMonocle although it takes its styling cues from online experiences, produces a different one. It’s tactile and looking around through the lens is fun and social, not just for the viewer but those around them as well. There is no photo created just the memory of having used it.

All that said I am trying to have a simple online component as well. I want to encourage those who have the monocles to submit pictures of themselves using them to to chronicle the project in some fashion. I’ll get the most out of the online component as I get to see images of people enjoying their monocles and that puts a big smile on my face.

It’s my hope that the HipsterMonocles have [the] opportunity to spark some interesting connections and fun moments for those at the Creative City Summit.

I really enjoy projects that people interact with, the ones where they become part of the experience. I’m planning [on] doing more projects along that idea.