A core service for most arts organizations is the connection of artists and audience. Hope that’s not a shock. But if you were to create a time diary for most organizations, tracking how they spent the minutes available in a single year, you’d likely find that the actual connection (face to face, voice to voice, thought to thought) represents only a small fraction of what gets done.
There’s good reason for this, of course. For performing arts organizations, as an example, the requirements of connecting artists to audiences are huge. Planning, budgeting, human resources, contracting, fundraising, production, technical services, marketing, and on and on — just for a single live event. The greater the cost and technical requirements, the larger the ratio of preparing to connecting.
But it strikes me that even as we work hard to prepare and present the most engaging and transformative experiences, we miss opportunities all along the way to encourage more and better connections. Because of time, resource, and human constraints, we bunker ourselves away until the experience is ready to unleash, then we fling open the doors to start the connections we’ve been working toward.
If social media tools bring us anything (beside continual distraction), it’s this: They dramatically lower the cost and complexity of connecting people. If we could find the most efficient and effective ways of plugging in (not always, but when it makes a difference), we could take more of our year connecting artists to audiences and audiences to artists.
Blissfully, the arts are not alone in seeking out these tools, or innovating in their application to learning, discussion, and connection. Case in point is Free Technology for Teachers, which gathers and assesses social media tools to enhance learning — such as backchannel discussion systems, alternatives to YouTube, or resources to learn about copyright and fair use.
Of course, there are also mavens sharing such informations specifically for nonprofit or cultural managers, such as TechSoup, Beth Kanter, Technology in the Arts, or Nina Simon, among others. But there’s real value in lurking in other domains to gain different perspectives on connecting online.