LIFE IN THE BUBBLE

Read article

she's got this crazy laugh

Monday, 13 February 2012
16 Comments

I don’t know who Pip Jamieson is. I don’t know what she does or even what she looks like.

On the way down to the Tratt, where we’d agreed to meet, I bump into my friend Kim. She makes coffee around the corner at Massive. Lovely, mousy girl. We stand talking at the traffic lights and a blonde girl with sunglasses and baggy jeans passes, talking on the phone. Kim smiles hello.

“Who’s that?” I ask, always being nosy.

“Phillipa Jamieson, she works around the corner.”

“That’s who I’m supposed to be interviewing.”

“She’s awesome. She’s got this crazy laugh,” Kim does a little rendition of a crazy laugh. “When she laughs you’ll know what I mean and you’ll think of this.”

I laugh too, then I say goodbye to Kim. I walk past the old lady with the whacky sunglasses who smokes endless cigarettes outside the Astoria, and over to where Pip’s sitting, grinning at me.

“You’re Pip Jameson,” I say.

“Yep!” She grins, then she laughs. It isn’t that crazy. She probably needs to warm up a bit before the really crazy laugh comes out.

She’s from England, I forget to ask where. I’ve never interviewed anyone before, I’m just winging it.

“I didn’t bring anything to record you with,” I tell her, getting out my notebook. “So I’m going to take notes and try and remember what you say.”

She grins some more. The waiter comes near us, then moves away. Pip stops grinning and waves at him.

“Beer,” she says. She doesn’t say it very loudly. There is no way the waiter can hear her.

“Beer,” She says again, this time with more agitation, bouncing around in her seat. “Beer. I really want beer.”

She starts waving at the waiter with both hands. I write ‘beer, beer, beer’ in my notebook. The waiter notices her and holds up a finger, she glances back at me, reads what I’ve written.

“You’re not supposed to look at my notes,” I tell her.

We laugh. I like her already. I can’t see her eyes because of her sunglasses, but I imagine they’re nice.

“Beer,” she says to the waiter.

“Coffee,” I say.

She relaxes a bit, now that beer has been secured, tells me she’s been insanely busy.

“The site crashed for five minutes today. That may not sound like much, but it was a total headfuck.”

“What site?” I ask her. She just stares at me. “I’m sorry,” I explain. “I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know what you do or where you’re from or anything. They just told me you were interesting and that I should interview you.”

“Perfect,” She grins. So much grinning.

She tells me she runs a website called The Loop (www.theloop.com.au) with her business partner, Matt Fayle.

“It’s an online creative community, a kind of hub where anyone can upload their work, like graphic designers, photographers and animators. And people who are looking for creative talent can go there and find the right person for their job. For example Frankie magazine just found a really cool artist to do some drawings for them…”

I imagine lots of busy little artists squirreling away.

The beer comes and she slugs back the first inch, sighing contentedly. Then she slides down in her seat and takes off her sunnies. Her eyes are nice, all warm and friendly.

“It was Matt’s idea,” she tells me. “He was digital director for MTV Networks Australia and I was working for MTV in New Zealand, and all the creative people we were using for marketing and stuff were coming from a really small pool, just people we knew through word of mouth really. Loads of them kept asking Matt how they could increase their web presence, and The Loop just kind of came out of that: a place to search for talented people and a place for talented people to be found.”

“So how many talented people have you got?”

“Twenty-five thousand.”

Twenty-five thousand?!”

“Yep,” this time her grin is all proud around the edges.

“How does someone sort though all those people to find what they’re looking for? Do you have to monitor all those people? Twenty-five thousand!”

“We’ve got an algorithm, like Google or whatever, and it sorts the good ones from the not-so-good ones. It works like this: people can ‘like’, ‘follow’ or ‘share’ someone’s work. The more a person’s work is ‘liked’, ‘followed’ or ‘shared’ the higher it appears in the search results. But it also depends on the quality of the people that like it. In the beginning some kids worked out that if they just kept clicking on their portfolio they could go straight to the top of the pile, but we changed the algorithm and it’s sorted now.”

“So how do companies recruit people?”

“They can send someone a ‘handshake’ and the artist can either accept or refuse it... ”

“Have you got a crazy mathematician who does all your sums for you?”

“Yep, his name’s Asanka. He’s a Sri Lankan genius...”

I stop asking questions for a minute and just picture it: lots of people making good art, bunched together in the same virtual space and kind of sorted into categories, shuffled around until the good ones come to the top. I picture a big glass of beer full of little artists in bubbles. Nice.

“So I’m an advertising company,”

I shuffle forward in my seat, holding out my hands to somehow convey that I have changed into an advertising agency.

“And I’m looking for a kick-ass digital animator. I log on to The Loop and search, and out pops all these kids who are making cool stuff and I just choose the best one for me, pop them a handshake and blam!”

I smack my hands together to signify an explosive union. Pip nods. I sit back and nod too, impressed. I ask her a bunch of questions about money and stuff, investors and profits. Her answers are kind of a blur in my mind, but what comes floating to the surface, helped by the nearly illegible scribbles in my notebook, are these facts:

The website started in December 2009 and now there are 15,000 creative people on it. 45% of people who visit the site return to it 20 times a month. 10% of people return 200 times a month. I’m not a particularly techy person, but even I know that’s impressive.

I ask her if people are queuing up to invest and she tells me she re-mortgaged her flat, but the way she says it doesn’t make me think of her and Matt huddled around a single candle in Scrooge’s office, it makes me think of happy, busy people moving steadily upwards.

“We’re going international in six months,” she says.

“What the hell? I though you were international.”

“Nope, just New South Wales really. I can’t wait for Victoria to get on board, there’s so many awesome artists down there…”

Steadily onwards and upwards. Suddenly I get all excited. Suddenly all these little creative bubbles floating to the top makes me think of real democracy and Darwinian evolution and revolutions and I start frothing and espousing. Pip just sits back and watches me, grinning and nodding.

“The best part for me,” she says, when I’ve talked myself quiet, “is that it takes away the elitist aspect of the creative industries. It doesn’t cost anything to upload you work. So it’s not about how much money you’ve got, and it’s not about who you know or what school you went to, or which agency you’re with. It’s about what you produce, how hard you’ve worked and how good it is. The other day a young guy came up to me at a convention and gave me a massive hug. He was from Bankstown or somewhere and he’d gone to this regional, low-level university and we’d featured him because his work is really outstanding. Then he got headhunted by one of the biggest advertising firms in the world. That’s what I like: empowering the collective by empowering the individual.”

“Communism!” I shout, jabbing my finger on the table, pretending to be disgusted.

She laughs. “Not really. Democracy. Consensus. It’s still about the individual working hard for themselves, but their happiness, their hard work and knowledge helps the greater community. For example, now that all these creative people are coming together they can see what their work is worth in financial terms, because they talk to each other, and in that way they keep everyone else in the chain honest.”

“So that their work isn’t being bought for $5 and sold for $500,” I say helpfully.

“Exactly.”

“It’s kind of a new form of democracy,” I say, getting all misty-eyed.

“Yep - disintermediation.”

“Awesome,” I say, writing down the word without understanding it.

I looked it up just now and whoever wrote the article on Wikipedia defines it as ‘the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain: "cutting out the middleman".’

Brilliant. Cutting out the middleman. Cutting out all those ghastly vampire people who steal poor, struggling artist’s work and get rich in the process. I am filled with a righteous fervour now. Pip has grown in front of me into a kind of grinning, blonde Che Guevara of the internet.

“This is brilliant,” I say.

“Yep,” Pip yawns and stretches. Her beer is empty and the sun has already gone down. The Tratt is quiet and the waiters are lounging by the bar, talking in low voices. “But people are doing it for themselves. They’re finding each other and creating great stuff. All we did was provide a platform for them.”

She slaps the table, indicating that the conversation has reached a good end point.

“I have to go to a code-writer’s convention now,” she says, pulling her flat cap down over her forehead. “You’re not single, are you?”

“No,” I say. Luckily she’d mentioned her husband earlier in the conversation, so I know she’s not hitting on me.

“That’s a shame,” she says. “I’ve got a girlfriend I’m always trying to hook up with people. She hates me for it.”

We laugh and shake hands, then we have a good, friendly hug.

I watch her march off up the hill, chuckling to myself about the fact that she tried to hook me up with her friend,

then I realise that that’s what people like Pip do: they find people who need connecting, and they connect them.

And for a moment I see clearly how the world must work: some people have a predisposition to help others, as other people are predisposed to draw pictures or write books, and for a brief second, as I watch Pip weave through the Friday afternoon traffic, I see the world as a massive, fizzing liquid full of interconnecting bubbles, seemingly without order but at the same time totally, wonderfully ordered, and I am happy. Then the image disappears and I wander home, a single bubble, occupied by my own thoughts, bubbling my little way through life.

You can check out Pip’s site or create a portfolio at The Loop.

 

Words: Wil Gritten

Photography: Kristian Taylor-Wood

Comments

(16 Comments)
blog comments powered by Disqus