Net neutrality versus advocacy is not really a choice

By Clay Lord, Director of Marketing and Audience Development, Theatre Bay Area
At the end of his comment on Tim's entry "Blurry Lines and Cultural Norms," Bill Osborne says, "In reality, our lack of public arts funding is a much more important issue and has a far worse effect on our cultural lives than any threats to Net neutrality. It's strange how silent you policy folks are about that." Interestingly, I agree with Bill - I'm not nuts about Net neutrality (as a topic, not a concept), and find advocacy for funding a much more comfortable place, but I also feel like it's important to note that (1) much of the conversation has actually wandered away from Net neutrality issues and (2) we can't simply say the problem of public funding of the arts is unrelated to Net neutrality. Bill Ivey's request for ideas on how to convey value, Chris' appeal that we shift our attention away from strict advocacy and towards a larger canvas, even the entry on which Osborne was commenting - they're all about making the conversation larger, about conveying public value, which is at the core of the European funding model, and which is sorely lacking in the U.S. Advocacy is, as Chris points out, a long and often frustrating process, but it also happens in many many ways, from audience education to participation to mash-up references leading to familiarity to traditional lobbying, public promotional exercises like the Big Read and Free Night of Theater, etc. Audience enjoyment like Tim's example is crucial, despite the various copyright infringements, because it provides a familiar perch for those cruisegoers, which lets them have a happy memory of that show on that cruise ship, which lets them think about how their kids or grandkids might really like that musical downtown, which lets arts into the lives of new people, which ultimately, if we do it right, yields more public support, more funding, and more relevance in a landscape where, lets just be honest, we're competing against anti-smoking campaigns, poverty, sick kids, fatal diseases, etc etc. Where it gets touchy, I think, is that depending on the formulation, the discussion of artists digital rights is either an argument about the freedom of creativity to proliferate on the web and generate new converts, or it's about the agents of artists (advocates, unions, movie studios, recording companies, etc) or artists themselves attempting to restrict the disbursal of authored art without what they deem proper reimbursement - a totally valid cause much of the time that often unfortunately sits counter to the instant, zeitgeist-oriented culture that is pervading online. There's a fascinating TED Talk floating around out there with a big wig at You Tube talking about how those same big scary corporations are learning that it is often the wrong idea to pull down an infringing video because it generates ill will, stymies a public spontaneous response that is worth more than the money they're losing on copyright, and can ultimately engender long-term good feelings in a population that is notoriously unresponsive to traditional advertising. It's not altruistic, certainly, but it's smart, and it has the strong benefit of taking into account longer term benefits over short term losses.
July 22, 2010 8:58 AM | | Comments (1) |


I just want to say that I agree that this general discussion about policy and activism is very beneficial to advocacy for public funding and many other policy topics. I like Bill Ivey’s point that better arts policies are dependant on a change of consciousness in the USA. His explanation of how environmentalists created such a transformation was especially illuminating. It gave me a sense of hope and a valuable model to think about. Imagine an advocacy group for the arts modeled on Green Peace – a combination of policy wonks, lobbyists, POPagandists, subvertizers, and performance art dare-devils supported by a grassroots network of citizens making ten dollar donations. A daydream I know, but I think that is what Chris was getting at when he suggested we artists get off our butts and use our skills. The Gorilla Girls come to mind as a model.

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William Osborne commented on Net neutrality versus advocacy is not really a choice: I just want to say that I agree that this general discussion about policy a...

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