Sharing, The New Default

Build something in the physical world and the minute it’s used it starts to decay – scuffs, dents, chips. Drive a car off the new car lot and it immediately loses ten percent of its value. Use something a lot and eventually it wears out.

Art is different. A work of art gets more powerful when more people use it. Music that gives voice to people grows in meaning. A play that doesn’t get discussed stops getting produced.

If at least some of the power of art comes from the ways people choose to use it, to interact with it, to change and reinterpret it, then where does the act of art stop? When the artist launches it into the world?

I don’t think so.

Choosing to do something in response to a work of art can be a profoundly creative experience, one that extends or builds on the original work of art and makes it more powerful. If this is so, shouldn’t we extend the definition of art to include the kinds of response it evokes? We live in a culture now where sharing is the new default; it’s an expression of one’s identity. For many, the act of art is not complete until what was meaningful is shared with those who are meaningful to us.

The commercial culture world understands this and aggressively promotes sharing at every level. In the arts, not so much. In fact, many arts organizations actively discourage sharing, prohibiting the taking of pictures or recordings or tampering with original versions of art. There are plenty of good reasons for this. Plenty. But the fact is:

  • if sharing is the new default in the broader culture, and if
  • sharing is essential to the experience for many people and the arts aren’t allowing it (let alone encouraging it), and if
  • sharing and using art is what gives it  its currency out in the world…

then don’t we need to broaden our list of active collaborators to include the audience?

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on Reddit


  1. says

    I can’t agree with you more!
    Since being reassigned to business after the music critic’s job was eliminated at the Toronto Star, I’ve immersed myself in the social media world.
    Like most everyone else, I had an inkling that we were living at a significant turning point in how we are going from being consumers of culture to interactors with culture. But the full weight and impact of this shift is becoming ever more clear.
    Sharing IS how everything happens among anyone younger than 35.
    I used to think that all the camera phones held up at a Lady Gaga concert were a strange form of mediated experience. Now I know that it’s a significant experience of sharing, among other things.
    Our job as musicians, listeners, readers, writers and general participants in a greater cultural conversation is to find creative ways to organically become part of this sharing experience, or risk being totally marginalized.
    It’s so easy to write this — and so very hard for those of us who grew up in a different ethos to actually wrap our heads around the shift and start participating.
    I’m being bought out from the Star and hope to use my upcoming freedom to try and figure this out some more.
    John Terauds

  2. says

    Shakespeare’s works of literature genius only grew more and more famous after his death. Homer’s plays only expanded in popularity and fame after his name was forgotten. But, in the same way, Einstein’s theories have been expanded on for years after his own passing away. I do not believe the idea of “sharing to expand” stops at art. I believe it applies to all forms of information. From Math, to art, to music, to science, even to religion, as long as ideas and information are being shared, they will expand.
    But, there is a difference in music and art in relation to math, science, and religion. Music and art lives and breathes. Like an ameba, or liquid, it changes based on the reactions of an audience, or the composers ideas. Even after the composer dies, the music lives on with reinterpretations and mixes. But science, math, and religion are set in stone. It can be reinterpreted, re-explained, or re-analyzed, but it does not change. The nature of science and math are based on laws, theories, and constants. Religion is based on perceived truths. Among these, none can be changed. Laws of nature cannot be reinvented. Truths in religion cannot be thrown away for a better idea (that would be a different religion).
    But art and music change every day, every second, based on millions of variables ranging from sound quality and composer style to Crayola versus Gauche, to how an audience receives a piece. There are no laws, no perceived truths in Art. There is no set grade to beauty. Interpretations are not marked down for inaccuracy. They are marked for the reaction of those who watch/hear/taste/smell/feel.
    All forms of information, when used more, can expand in popularity and grandeur. But only music and art can be reinterpreted, and changed into a whole new piece, new information. And only art and music can take its surroundings to change the piece. Music and art are about creating new information. New interpretations. New reactions. Using the audience could make or break a piece. Audience interaction should be added to the millions of variables that create a piece, but only used if the composer is certain of his ability to speak and interact with the audience effectively.

    • says

      You say that only art and music can be reinterpreted but what of scientific data, or ideas, or inventions, not true works of art, a theory can be reworked by many people changing and advancing its accuracy, between many people a theory forms. A mathematical formula can be reworked and made into something entirely different although still the same as it was originally, for example reworking the formula for special relativity into the formula for reality. Art shares these similarities but is not the only form of expression or form of creation that can be remade. All things can be reinterpreted remade and reintroduced it’s the actual matter of the audience interaction as you say that makes not only a piece but any piece of scientific data, for it’s by our viewing of an experiment that determines the outcome, as it is the audiences listening and interacting with the piece that determines what it will be.

  3. says

    I believe we need to include the audience in our presentation of our art pieces to make our pieces of art more memorable. When the audience interacts with the artist, they instantly become a part of the piece. That makes the piece of art more powerful and better overall because the audience has an ownership of the piece.

    • says

      I completely agree with you Janelle. Interaction can make a composition completely different and distinct. And may make that piece more powerful, but I have to wonder if the piece is so centered around audience interaction what if the actual music doesn’t get as much focus as it should?

    • Brett Netherland says

      I do believe that without the audience the music would not be appreciated, but a piece of music is completed before an audience hears it, so technically they did not have any ideas in creating the piece. But I do agree that music and art would be nothing without the audience.

  4. says

    I at first disliked the idea of audience interaction because I felt it intruded on the artists’ rights to wholly project their own, individual, unmarred presentation, and that art is about the artist itself. However, I think this does miss the point of art in one area. The most worth is found in benefiting and affecting others, because that IS where the art becomes important. Even if one cannot predict the reaction of the audience, the act of reaching out to them gives possibility of more value to the artwork. Humanity itself is based upon interaction.

    • says

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Art is not art until it is seen/ heard/ felt by someone else, and shared to the world. The more an art piece is shared, the more popular it becomes. If the piece incorporates the audience, then the audience is more likely to share the piece they heard, if more to the unique experience than the piece itself. But since audience interactions would be based on the piece, and considered part of the piece, then the audience would still be reacting to the piece, not the interactions.

      • says

        If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a piece of art is not seen, can it actually be considered a piece of art? Interaction only furthers its recognition, not it’s visualization. And do we really want it to be shared by more people? For then the experience would be different from person to person eventually evolving to chaos, some good some bad, like a game of telephone, the outcome can be for better or worse.

    • says

      I also didn’t like the idea of the audience interacting, at first. But when the audience does interact then they have a better connection, and sometimes it eases the artist’s nervousness. I agree that art becomes important to others when it affects them, but it was also already important because something had to affect the artist to make it.

  5. Brett Netherland says

    As a composer and a performer, I do not believe that the audience should be credited with collaboration in my piece, but they do deserve that they respect for interacting with the piece, whether it was meant to be interactive or not. A simple applause is interactive because the piece causes them to react in this way, but it is not intended to be part of the piece so that the artist was the creator of the piece of art, not the audience. Sharing is completely the way that art is spread throughout the world, and maybe the audience does need some credit for their interactions, but not in the creation of our pieces.

    -Brett Netherland

    • says

      I agree with this immensely, because the composer determines the piece in their creative process, not the audience. The audience may interact with the piece, but that doesn’t determine the composer’s intent. Yes sharing art is vital to it’s existence, but it is only a part of the whole ordeal.

    • says

      I concur! This is exactly how I feel and why I feel uncomfortable with this ‘audience credit’ ideal. They may have their respect, but let us keep our rights to creating. They may act as they want, but we have acted on our own, and only once we have created this piece is when the audience may interact as they will. Audience credit is a skewed ideal.

  6. says

    I agree to an extent,
    Letting the audience interact with my piece allows for a certain amount of randomness that I cannot provide for it myself, and makes it better in certain conditions. But I would not allow the audience just to take my piece and use it as they please.

    • Blaine Valencia says

      I concur. The audience provides much to any form of art. Without an audience, a piece truly wouldn’t be whole. The audience is the publicity and the judge of the piece. Any piece of art without an audience might as well be a pile of dirt.

    • says

      I agree with your first part Liam, but I don’t think that Mr. McLennan mean for the audience to take over the piece. I believe he wants people to just interact for them to better understand the piece and be more engaged into a composition. You aren’t letting the audience take it and use it as they please, he just wants to broaden and have a greater audience appreciate it and come to understand it.

  7. says

    Absolutely I agree with you Doug, the art is nothing without the audience. Art cannot be appreciated if no one is there to appreciate it. So therefore, we need more audience interactivity to extenuate the artistic experience and enhance the artists themselves. When I have the audience interact with my music, it brings it to an entire new level of passion, creativity and overall love for art.

    • Jordan Moss says

      Exactly, I believe that if you have an audience that just sits and watches with little appreciation at the end it totally brings the, as said, Passion and creativity away. Now if you play a piece where everyone can participate, whether it be clapping or stomping to the beat or bobbing their heads, it makes everything you worked for worth it and gives you the motivation to keep making more and more music.

    • says

      Some ideas I can agree with, but an idea that I don’t agree with is that “the art is nothing without the audience.” The artist made their art from nothing into something; it was nothing before the artist made it something. Another thing that I don’t agree with is that “art cannot be appreciated if no one is there to appreciate it.” if the art was created then the artist appreciates it. Otherwise they wouldn’t have made it.

    • says

      I agree completely, art would be nothing without an audience. Without an audience, there would be no appreciation of art, because there is no one to appreciate it.

  8. says

    I do agree with this idea, but I think that everything eventually decays regardless of their medium. Plus, everything is forgotten eventually. But art can simultaneously gain praise and disdain for it whatever it is. That connects with the idea that social recognition doesn’t equal it’s brilliance, many songs are famous for being recognized as horrid. Plus the promotion of something is easy, but the creation of something worthwhile (which is subjective anyway) is much harder, or occasionally anyway.

    • says

      I agree with you partially, but I do not believe in your idea that everything is forgotten. Just like literature lives, so does music. Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays will never be forgotten, just as Beethoven’s symphonies. I believe there is a distinct difference between pieces of art recognized for their worthwhile qualities, and art recognized for its horrid qualities. While a piece of art that is truly genius will never be forgotten, pieces noted for their horrid-ness will be forgotten when the next horrid song appears in the spotlight.

  9. Adam Abadilla says

    Dear Douglas McLennan,

    I am a 15 year old composer, and recently I collaborated with a partner to present an interactive piece to an audience. Knowing that the audience would range in age, I aimed for an experience that would invoke fun and nostalgia. My partner and I developed “Scratch and Sniff” cards, containing 5 stickers with the scents Strawberry, Lime, Grape, Spearmint, and Watermelon. We created nearly 100 of these cards to distribute to the audience, and we had an accompanying video playing on a projection screen queuing when to smell a certain sticker. The basis of our music composition revolved around the 5 distinct scents, and it turned out much like a medley of genres, flowing from melancholy melodies to hard dance beats to unsettling polka. I definitely believe that audience interaction, whether it be something similar to what we did, or something completely different, is a very successful way to enhance how to audience experiences music. Being a musician, I’m keen to listening into a song for its underlying melodies and beat, and I believe that even the simplest interaction (Ex. Clapping to the beat) forces the audience to pick apart the song, and listen for parts that may have gone unnoticed. I will never forget how the audience responded to my piece, and from now on, whenever I compose music, I will always keep in mind a way to capture the audience’s attention.

    Music Composition 2
    Adam Abadilla
    Mission Vista High School

  10. Blaine Valencia says

    If an artist creates a piece of art that connects to the audience to a level where they feel the art, it truly enhances the piece of art as a whole. The spectators participating, at a live concert for example, would liven up the overall essence and environment of the concert, I don’t entirely believe that it is up to the artist to tell the audience what to do, or include them in any way, although it is the artist’s job to create an environment friendly to the viewers, including the audience. The audience is simply there to watch the show, so including them in a piece of music, directly or indirectly, would give them focus and including them ‘as a part of the show’. The main reason a person goes to a concert is the same reason to go to any show, or play, or movie, or even sit at home and sit on their rocking chair and knit is simply for entertainment. The job of any artist is to create entertainment as an art form, to sell themselves, to pull an audience for their creation.

    Music Composition 2
    Blaine Valencia
    Mission Vista High School

  11. says

    I agree, I believe that art is nothing changing. Our society today has somewhat suppressed the sharing and interaction of art so much so that people don’t realize how important art really is to people. They lose their connection with it. Art, in general, is something completely different and should be protected and shared at a mass scale.

    • says

      Isaac, I cannot agree more. Art is why we are not all robots living our boring lives in solitude. Even though there are some moral opposition to pirating or stealing music and other art forms. But, it seems to be the ultimate way to share and experience art of all forms. So what good is art without someone to reflect on it and be moved by it?

  12. says

    Yes I agree with you, because we are having the audience become part of our art and they maybe able to understand the piece better. The more we broaden our list the more people we bring into an art form, and then they have that experience and then talk with other people about it and that brings more people to it. But what about the physical art forms, I think they do both they decay over time but also the more people that see them the more that art grows as well, and people want to replicate that, so in a way it does both.

  13. says

    Recently I composed a piece that was to have an interactive portion for the performance. At first I didn’t know how the interactive portion would work, and if people would want to interact. I found that when I was sharing my piece with my interactive portion the listeners seemed more involved and inclined to really listen to the music and to set a storyline to it. They could really get into the music and have an understanding of how we put it all together. So I think that we do need to broaden our list of active collaborators to the audience.

    • says

      I agree with you because having an interactive portion causes the audience to actively listen. This can make the piece more memorable to them, and also make the piece more powerful in its presentation. Also, the more we include the audience in our collaborations, the more they will want to listen to more of our compositions.

  14. says

    Sharing something that you’ve made with others makes the artist feel better about himself or herself and a little more successful. When people are included in the artwork they end up having more of a connection and appreciation for the artist and artwork. If an artist doesn’t share their work then how will they know that it’s good or that others will enjoy it?
    I think it’s a good thing when the audience interacts with the artwork. I, as a composer, feel encouraged and happier when people interact with my piece. But even if they didn’t I wouldn’t feel discouraged, the artwork presented just wasn’t to their personal liking. No need to feel like a fail.

  15. says

    Art does not decay because it is progressive. And its sharing improves advanced thinking, be it abstract or concrete. Since it helps people become aware of others’ ideas and form of expression through artistic sharing.

    • Nik Campa says

      I agree immensively Jose. Art being shared does most definitely change and enhance the quality of the music when being played live. It also makes me think of the opportunities of making your music really famous from sharing and expansion.

    • says

      i agree with you that art dosent decay but it progresses and sharing does improve it because with out the sharing art would be only know to those who make it.

  16. says

    The audience interaction affects music because it makes the audience become a part of the music and also bring more energy to the music, then if there were no audience interaction. As well when the audience is apart of the music they would tend to listen to it more and concentrate on it better then if they didn’t have an audience interaction.

    • Adam Abadilla says

      I definitely agree, audience interaction, whether it be clapping to the beat or something more elaborate, forces the audience to become active-listeners, picking apart the song in ways they might have never thought. Audience interaction tends to open up the other senses to the listener, rather than just the single visual/audio experience given off by art or music. Clapping to the beat, for example, not only invokes thought into the underlying beat of the song, but adds visuals (seeing everyone else clap), and sense of touch. Audience interaction takes the 1-dimensional nature of typical art and music, and brings it to new heights.

  17. says

    Having the audience interact with my piece of music made me less nervous to present my piece to other people and grabbed the audience to make it more interesting to them. I think we need to broaden our list of collaborators because it makes them a part of the piece.

    • says

      I totally agree with you, when you have the audience interacting with your composition they would listen to the composition more then if you didn’t have the audience interesting. As well as since they are doing something with the composition, it makes it more interesting for them since they are not just sitting down and listening to it, but having fun with it.

    • Skyrim Soldier says

      I agree it does make me less nervous. What did you present to other people? I think grabbing the audience does make it more interesting.


  18. says

    I think that audience interaction is best with music composed for it in the first place and that the audience has to focus on the music to keep up with the interaction. The interaction for me gave me more energy to myself and to the crowd and that they became part of the music and let them enjoy it more than just listening might.

    • Matt says

      I do think your statement is true but what if the audience doesn’t want to interact in the first place? To me it all depends on the type f audience you have.

  19. Nik Campa says

    I think that audience collaboration with music is good and bad in a way. I believe that the bad side of interaction is that tampering with an artist’s initial ideas or thoughts, as they can carry a stronger message then a possibly uneducated audience. I believe that the good side of interaction is adding to the piece in a proper and brilliant manner. It is a rare thing to find, but it is very excellent when it is pulled off correctly; it includes everyone who is listening into the song, and makes them truly apart of your story and apart of the emotions you had when you wrote your song.



  20. says

    In Response to Isaac.

    Isaac, I cannot agree more. Art is why we are not all robots living our boring lives in solitude. Even though there are some moral opposition to pirating or stealing music and other art forms. But, it seems to be the ultimate way to share and experience art of all forms. So what good is art without someone to reflect on it and be moved by it?

  21. says

    I believe that you need to include audience interaction into your music because 1. People tend to like to be apart of interesting things 2. It gives them the ability to do things with the music that they normally wouldn’t do in public like clapping to the beat of their favorite song while walking down the street.
    If you pull people into your piece of music alone and they like it, then great. However if you say: “Okay, now your going to help me keep a rhythm by patting your legs,” the audience will usually participate and they don’t feel so bored by just sitting and listening to a five minute piece, instead they actively listen for that certain part where they need to keep that as said rhythm, which pulls them in even more.

  22. Eric Schiller says

    Honestly, I believe audience interaction is both useful and a contradiction at the same time. Let me mention the useful reason first: audience interaction offstage is what helps an artist become noticed. The audience will spread your work’s attention by introducing it to their friends and families, and their friends and families will introduce it to their own friends and families, and so on. However, audience interaction onstage is a complete contradiction; it depends on what type of artist is performing. There are the artists who feel audience interaction improves their work and enhances the experience of their piece, and there are artists who find audience interaction a nuisance because they feel that the spotlight should focus on them and not the audience. The point is, it’s up to the artist whether or not audience interaction matters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *