The Arts Policy Drug/Game

By Brian Newman, consultant, Sub-Genre Media
How do we make activism an appealing drug that artists want to take? Great question Alex, but to answer it, we need to take this thought experiment a bit more seriously. What makes drugs appealing? They are addictive, they give you a very raw, visceral effect and they are usually easy to share. In fact, they are often fun to do with others. None of this can be said about most activism around policy issues today (as opposed to some other forms of activism, like protest, which can be addictively fun). Many artists don't know "what the priorities are" because figuring out these priorities is a decidedly un-fun activity and even if one takes the time to sort these out, participation is a very un-rewarding experience.

Let's just say, for example, that I am able to figure out what the heck it means to "protect the open internet" and want to get active. What can I do? I can go to the Public Knowledge website and tell my congressman to support the FCC's right to regulate broadband. If that's not a fun enough activity, I can tell my friend's to look at the site and tell Congress as well, and maybe make a donation.

Having fun yet? Addicted? The problem here is that this kind of activism is very un-rewarding and antithetical to the artistic impulse. Many artists today are using the power of digital technology to create very rewarding, often participatory experiences that are not just fun to share, but quite addictive. Gaming technology, social media, mash-ups and remix are informing culture in new ways, and guess what - the good ones go viral and get seen by millions. Like drugs, they are fun to share, and very hard to stop.

If we want to engage artists with advocacy, we need to embrace these tools - and give artists a way to use them as well. Nettrice Gaskins is correct - we need to launch a "new arts movement using these emerging platforms." It's very hard for artists to have much clout, as Marty suggests, without having cash. But it's equally hard for the media and the politicians to ignore a true groundswell of activity. We don't have that yet, because we haven't let artists make the message more engaging. Perhaps it's time for Games for Change to fund an artist to make the next Farmville for arts policy.
July 19, 2010 7:29 AM | | Comments (1) |


Before I even got to your final paragraph I was thinking about what you wrote and what Nettrice wrote and was thinking some kind of video game to makes arts advocacy fun and addictive would be the way to go. Great idea!

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