Emily Eifler: Host of Our New Reality

Emily Eifler (MFA 2011) has little time for sleep. She writes, directs, edits, and stars in her own YouTube channel, works full-time for a software research lab, and is a freelance columnist for KQED. Every aspect of her life has a common thread: her lifelong fascination with technology and culture.

On her YouTube channel, Blink Pop Shift, she posts new videos weekly on topics pertaining to her enthusiasms -- the history of search engines, say, or GIF artists -- in a way that’s funny and accessible.

“I was really interested in the possibilities of YouTube -- what you could do with good writing and ideas,” she says of her original inspiration for the series. “I started thinking about my personal relationship to technology, and my first videos were based on that. Literacy today is more than reading text. It’s reading interfaces and functionality as well.

“Discussing the history of technology gives people context for what we think of as the ‘digital revolution.’ To describe it as a singular event is an inaccurate representation of all the work that’s been done to get us to this point.”

The channel currently has more than 4,500 subscribers. Eifler is committed to keeping it online rather than migrating to some other format. “Putting my videos on TV would be a terrible idea. This channel is meant for YouTube, and I want it to be a really great web channel, not a stepping stone to old media. There are some cool collaborations in the pipeline, and some funded projects that I’m very excited about.”

From Medicine to Film and Video

Since high school, Eifler has seen no reason to split her interests in science and technology apart from her creative pursuits. She began her undergraduate degree with an emphasis in medicine, but changed her focus to film and video when she began attending the University of Colorado Denver. “It was a big change, but it felt good. I knew I wanted to do science and technology and art.” Eifler met her husband at UCD. After graduation, they relocated to the Bay Area, and she started researching graduate programs.

CCA was a natural choice. The interdisciplinary nature of the MFA program allowed her to work simultaneously in software, textiles, photography, and drawing. For her thesis project, she designed a video game, a medium she says several faculty at the time seemed hard pressed to even admit was art. She credits faculty member Brian Conley for encouraging her projects. “I loved him so much! Some students called him a dragon, but I thought he was delightful and challenging. And he was also working on video games, so we had a lot to talk about.”

GIF Art, Generative Storytelling

Eifler’s current visual projects are GIF animations based on drawings. In them, small units grow, curl, and multiply into larger organisms -- even worlds -- that jump off the screen.

She’s also working on a novel set in the world of generative storytelling, a new style of video game where the players determine the storyline. “It takes place both in the real world and in the virtual game. Actually, it becomes an multilayered ‘onion’ of virtual worlds, in which it is unclear which characters are real and which are generated.”

Designing Virtual Reality

After receiving her CCA degree in 2011, Eifler spent several years working at different design studios and freelance writing until starting her YouTube channel and eventually transitioning into her current full-time position as the Immersive Media Producer -- essentially a virtual reality designer -- at a private research lab funded by the German software company SAP.

“I am surrounded by, and married to, technology! My husband, a software engineer with in games, has been a huge influence on me in terms of understanding technology as a creative endeavor. The best way to learn about the intricacies of software is from someone who makes it every day.”

She has also been a reporter for KQED since 2012, and has to date contributed more than 50 articles on Internet culture and video game news in the Bay Area.

“Who gets to be considered an artist?” Eifler reflects, “Sure, I work for a software company, but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing creative work. Technology is a creative endeavor. It’s not just something you use; it’s something you make. Someone spent passionate time and energy on every component of your phone. Think about it!”