By Marian Godfrey
Great arguments have been made for both "expressive life" and "creativity" (creative vitality, creative capital, creative community...) as the best descriptor of a vibrant culture, with no consensus. But what are the verbs that will call either the creative/expressive individual or policy makers to action? Bill focuses us on the big policy problems threatening creative life: the potential loss of net neutrality, and of the fair use doctrine in copyright law, for two. I think it is difficult for the culture sector to get traction on these issues not only because big institutions don't see them as "their" issues, but also because advocates have not yet succeeded in making them kitchen table issues for the general public. When we are talking about the importance of the creative or expressive capacity of the individual, how should we be talking TO that individual about what she or he has to gain and has to lose? Does it work to say that if net neutrality is lost, big business will be able to suppress your ability to share your creative activities with your friends/network? Can we inject some urgency into the situation through the language of action? And by imagining we are talking to individuals, rather than about them, can we clarify the relative effectiveness of our terms? For example I find it easier to use "self-expression" in such a sentence than "expressive life," but the problems with "self-expression" have been discussed.
My nieces and nephews tell me they are more apt to think about their own "creative" life and activities than their "expressive" life, so I'm going with that one. They also express a lot of self-reliance about their ability to pursue their creative activities--they don't see any entitlement to or need for outside support of the kind provided by our current subsidy-oriented arts policies. But if they are informed that if big media succeed in suppressing net neutrality or fair use. and consequently they will lose the ability to access and share both information and creative expression, and if they are given something to do about it through an advocacy campaign, I believe they will act.