Inside Sofa magazine’s Cyberlove issue

by Grace Wang in May 2017
HumourTechnologyWomen

What does ‘cyberlove’ mean to you? Dissecting the term to its bones, Sofa’s second issue is packed with conversations and thoughtful commentary on the intersection between love and the digital space. Every page is filled to its edges with eye-catching graphics and disorderly text, all vying for your attention and playfully transmitting the magazine’s messages. These can range from a column on the art of webcam sex, a Tumblr dedicated to the very last messages sent between ex-lovers, or a discussion uncovering the emerging emotional relationship between humans and their machines.

Their first issue, which focused on Generation Z, enlisted the help of a teenager as a co-editor. This second instalment is just as inventive and entertaining, so we talked to editors Ricarda Messner (founder of Flaneur) and Caia Hagel (co-writer of Girl Positive) to find out more…


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Can you define cyberlove for us?
Caia: Cyberlove is so much more than sexting, it’s the feelings around all the things we do online (which is pretty much everything?) So for this issue, we’ve moved through the cyberspace and gazed at it as a proper ecosystem where different forms of love and relationships exist, from bedrooms to boardrooms to many fronts of activism.

Why ‘cyber’ and not, say, digital or online?
Ricarda: Calling it cyberlove was intuitive, but also, it sounds better than digital love and looks better written out on a cover. (Gotta think about a sales point of view too ☺️) Our guest editor Natasha Lennard pointed out a pretty interesting fact about how the prefix ‘cyber’ is usually used in a threatening context — cyberattacks, cyberterrorism, cyberbullying etc. So in a way it made sense to call our deep dive ‘cyberlove’, to encompass the good and bad sides of love on the internet. She also referred to the origin of the word: cybernetic, which simply stands for a proper ecosystem built by feedback loops. This definition works for the cybersphere and our own love life, and Natasha asks the right question: “Isn’t it romantic?”

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‘The Sleeve is getting longer and longerrr…’ (above) is not your typical fashion piece. Can you tell us more?
Ricarda: Caia and I adore fashion and its ability to predict future societal trends. In every issue, Caia writes a column about a current trend in fashion, imagining what it actually means, and also coming up with some fun interpretations. We’ve seen last season’s long sleeves hanging down to our knees and it was like an epiphany when she pointed out that it probably just means how badly we are all craving some digital detoxing, and a subconscious revolution against Apple and Steve Job’s ‘opposable thumbs’. I can very much relate to this right now — last week I re-did my fake nails and it’s not very convenient for typing and getting things done digitally. At the same time, I miss Mother Nature and being offline so much. So pay attention to your fashion trends, because they are probably the best therapist you could ever have.

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Our changing relationship with social media is also talked about a lot in this issue, like Rachel Rabbit White’s Instagram diary.
Ricarda: The feature opens with “The sadder I become, the more naked I get.” We are all aware that there is more to it when we post pictures of ourselves. The selfie is just a mirror to our souls, especially when we are talking about naked selfies. I can’t go there myself, but I totally embrace everyone who feels comfortable enough to share this kind of intimacy. It’s even more interesting when it is put into a philosophical context, as Rachel has.

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This can also be linked to the ‘bedroom’ section in the magazine, which explores online intimacy…
Caia: I have to say that our entire bedroom file is surprising and illuminating. It’s honest, a little raw, and breaks out of the stereotypes around digital intimacy. We’ve got a pro webcam sex tutorial that aims to empower our sex lives, a discussion about platonic friends sharing their naked selfies as a way to give each other confidence, a touching piece about banned Instagram nudes as a symbolic diary that dials in deep emotions, an insight into asexuality that is managed with safe sexting from home, a 101 on everything from stalking love interests, to how to deal with an ex or be left unread. We also see anonymous digital break up messages that are sad. It’s an unexpectedly candid and emotional chapter that everyone can learn through and feel bits of their own strange experiences in.

What are some other stories that promote positive change?
Caia: ‘Reorganising Our Digital Smut’ by Natasha and ‘Breaking Orgasm Rules’, an interview with Lisa Wade, the author of American Hookup, are both really intelligent activist stories that give respect to ‘smut’ as a form of culture. It has a huge influence, but is something that we never talk about, analyse or hold up to critique in the media. So it was refreshing that we got to hear about the nitty gritty of transforming porn tag dictatorships and using the Tinder-fuelled ‘orgasm gap’ as a new frontline for social change. The illustrations by Hélène Jeudy for the Orgasm story (below) are totally gorgeous too, I’m majorly cybercrushing on those ☺️

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Lastly, the design of this issue is wonderfully erratic and noisy. What was the thinking behind it?
Caia and Ricarda: Our favourite contribution overall is the issue’s kick-ass design by Studio Yukiko. We asked them to push themselves to their limits and they really did. For Cyberlove, the design beautifully translates the weird sentiments of the internet, being all over the place but sometimes also managing to be solid, structured and visionary. We love how the visual language of Sofa generally articulates a fresh way of representing the world and talking to it: lo-fi, pop-trash visuals on thin glossy paper as a platform for big, deep, powerful and loving ideas ☺️

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