It's All In The Nuance? aka Leaving Our Echo Chambers Behind

By Jean Cook, Director of Programs for Future of Music Coalition
This post is inspired by Kevin Erickson's comment, which suggested

It's important that as we try to make our system more nuanced and more public-purpose-oriented, we make sure that our description of present reality is appropriately nuanced as well.
The bloggers and commenters in this conversation are bringing vastly different experiences to the table - academia, philanthropy, government, journalism, organizing for example.  We're hearing a wide range of opinions and ideas from the nine musicians, filmmakers, composers, and new media artists (by my count) who have chimed in.  And the conversation is rich and inspiring. 

It also reminds me just a little of one of my favorite stories about the blind people and the elephant.

I think we've all seen it before.  When academics mostly only talk to academics, or funders to other funders, beltway insiders to other beltway insiders etc - their many shared experiences can often become unspoken understandings, that over time if unchallenged can start to feel a lot like obvious truths

Echo chambers are powerful because what resonates usually sounds  fairly reasonable.  And that's why beltway insiders can get away with speaking for the grassroots, why academics often speak for artists, and funders speak for the field.

It's refreshing to see this group challenging each other in these potential echo chamber moments.  I have always learned the most about problems, ideas, and potential solutions in conversations when you take smart people OUT of their bubble.  When you put beltway insiders WITH grassroots folks, academics WITH artists, funders WITH the field, you see which arguments stand up, which ideas might be worth pursuing, and possibly discover new and sometimes unexpected paths for potential solutions.

So, yay us.

And one minor clarification.  I greatly admire Bill Ivey and have agreed with nearly everything he has said so far this week.  Except this:

I really think our "service organizations" have let their memberships down by not being at the table in IP and media policy debates.  Jean argued this well and I agree.

While I agree with Bill and Brian that service organizations you describe (APAP, the League, Americans for the Arts) are well positioned to fill the gap that you and I agree exists, I was not actually making an argument that they are letting their constituents down in my note.  There are plenty of well informed players who chose not to comment in that particular docket, which was happening at the same time as a number of high priority proceedings at the FCC. 

This would also be an appropriate time to give props to Americans for the Arts, Performing Arts Alliance (which includes the League, Opera America, Dance USA, Arts Presenters, and Theater Communications Group), American Composers Forum, American Music Center, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, Fractured Atlas, and NAMAC, who are all hardcore nonprofit arts service organizations that have gone on the public record and also reached out to their members on the Net Neutrality issue in the last year.

I'm going to try to further clarify my thoughts (because Bill wasn't the only one to intuit an unintentional jab between my lines):

1. The creative community is being represented.  Many of the groups I mentioned have ties to our community, though we may not think of them that way because they work with both artists and creative groups that traverse both ends of the commercial-noncommercial spectrum.

2. You may disagree with how these organizations (like, perhaps the RIAA) go about their business when they claim to represent you, and that's OK.  But unless you decide to file in that proceeding, or put in your own amicus brief in the court, or show up to the hearing, or tell your representatives how you feel - you're not participating in the process, and you're not going to be counted. 

I hear Corey when he suggests that it's a little unfair that the system is so complicated.  But faced with a choice between fighting to make things easier for artists and delaying action during a critical policy window - what can I say?  Them's the rules.  You can't bend them unless you agree to play the game.  And I'm in.

July 21, 2010 4:37 PM | | Comments (0) |

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This Blog Arts and culture are a cornerstone of American society. But arts and culture workers are often left out of important policy conversations concerning technology and creative rights even though the outcomes will have a profound impact on our world. Is it benign neglect? Or did we... more

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