At first your reaction to myouterspace.com which is a social networking site for sci fi fans might be that it was lifted from the pages of The Onion, but alas this is no parody. And what breaks my heart is that because J.J. Abrams didn’t give William Shatner a well deserved cameo in the last film is that now he’s been forced to get involved in second rate projects like this one.
The website pretty much represents everything that Hollywood doesn’t get about social networking or web 2.0: The site is graphics heavy, filled with video, has Flash animation on every other page, features a convoluted navigation metaphor, and talks down to potential audience members. And making matters worse the art direction of the site is designed to try to be as Star Trek like without being Star Trek — it’s as if they had lawyers looking at every screen design to see what they could get away with:
I can already hear “the pitch” that they gave for the site: “Imagine if there was a version of MySpace but aimed at sci fi wannabes? We’ll call it MyOuterSpace!” Fortunately most ideas like this never get off the ground, but I guess somebody knew somebody who still had money in a recession to give away. Of course I don’t fault the business thinking which is solid, after all every art and film school ad you see starts off by asking if you’ve ever dreamed of working on a videogame. So it does seem logical that you could apply the same sales strategy to sci fi fans.
But typical Hollywood tends to talk down to their audience — and then the execution goes all wrong as you have to pick a planet or starship to go with your profile. I think this is in part because the film industry is the last bastion of entertainment which hasn’t been deeply disrupted by technology, unlike journalism or music which require little money for an entry point. What I also find sad is that there are fans out there who are doing amazing things with the technology, right now they’re making short videos on YouTube but my guess is that before long the we’ll see the next phase of indie cinema coming from this direction.