Recently by Douglas McLennan

Bill: it's not that I'm worried we'll be out of our depth or get it wrong if we expand the frame. It's that I think the weight of history is against it. You might not want to play the conspiracy tinfoil.jpgtheorist, but I'm happy to call it out. Yes, I do think that it's easy to marginalize the arts in the broader culture by setting aside a token underfunded agency and then letting artists fight over the scraps. As I have heard you say, the real cultural public policy decisions on media ownership, copyright, trade policy etc, are largely made outside of the NEA's gaze. And these issues have enormously more impact on the culture than the few millions dangled in front of the NEA.

I think a big part of the struggle here is to figure out how citizens can have more of a voice in these public policy issues. This is far more important than the small grant funding the NEA has at its disposal (though of course I don't want to minimize the value of that direct support for art). Right now the default winners on cultural policy are companies like Disney, who own issues such as copyright. As you so shockingly point out, a great deal of our cultural heritage is under the lock and key of private interests and we (artists or audience) don't necessarily have access to it.

But here's my problem. We're in the midst of a revolution in the ways culture is produced and distributed. A very big part of this revolution is the breakdown of traditional channels and institutions, the empowerment of individuals to be more creative and find audiences for that creativity. The traditional powers of centralization are being overtaken by more efficient dynamic network effects. The fragmentation and the constant rewiring of that fragmentation, it seems to me, increasingly resists attempts to generalize or common-ize the validation of culture.

Many of us are still thinking of culture or information or communities in terms of centralizing places like websites or institutions. But I see culture and communities atomizing and networking in organic ways that make sense for the moment or the place, then melting away and reforming around the next idea that makes sense. This is the power of the creative revolution that gives artists the power to create and distribute in ways they never were able to before.

So. Any list you might make of expression would necessarily have to be fluid and ever-evolving. It might be unworkable. Better, I think, to take up the suggestion below of tackling costs, barriers, and access. In these at least, there are some principles that could be articulated for the public good. But how sexy is this? How do you create and rally a constituency around them?
January 27, 2010 1:55 PM | | Comments (0) |
So today comes word of approval of the TicketMaster/Live Nation merger. Together these companies control 83 percent of the concert ticket business in the US. The government set some conditions before approving the merger, but these do little if anything to mitigate the fact that one company will control a huge piece of the nation's concert business. So where does this fit into an Expressive Life equation? Is this a cultural issue or a markets/monopolies issue or both?

tickets.jpgI get that expanding the frame still means having a list of who's on the boat and who's off. But even after one determines whether frying eggs is on or off,  it seems to me that an expanded list means expanded difficulty in determining desirable rational policy. Authors versus Google books. Musicians versus recording companies. Concertgoers versus TicketMaster. Where do you come down?

It's difficult enough when it's just the non-profit sector and there seems like even the semblance of a commonality of model. There are many issues where cultural policy for the public good seems easy (access to cultural heritage being an obvious one) But how do we expand the frame to deal with something even so fundamental as the ticket business without making a mess?
January 26, 2010 8:32 AM | | Comments (0) |
While I'm very much in sympathy with Bill's attempt to change the language to better frame cultural policy, I wonder if language is yet up to the task. If "the arts" and "culture" as terms used to mean something, it's no longer clear that they mean those things today. I don't think it's a PR problem so much as it is a revolution in the public space (whatever that now is) driven by huge changes in communications and information technology.

If it is Bill's intention to enlarge the traditional frame (which to me it seems it is) then where's the constituency for enlarging it? At this point "the arts" or worse yet the "arts community" have become muddied terms not because they've become too narrow, but perhaps because they've become too broad. From an artistic point of view, contemporary composers have difficulty enough figuring out which genre of music they're said to be writing in let alone worrying about community kinship with painters or video game writers. From a cultural policy perspective, it's unclear to me that even though the case has been made over and over that issues such as broadband policy, copyright and heritage are critical to our creative future, that many are willing to take them up.
January 25, 2010 10:59 AM | | Comments (0) |
January 23, 2010 7:24 PM | | Comments (0) |
Are the terms "Art" and "Culture" tough enough to frame a public policy carve-out for the 21st century? Are the old familiar words, weighted with multiple meanings and unhelpful preconceptions, simply no longer useful in analysis or advocacy? In his book, Arts, Inc., Bill Ivey advances "Expressive Life" as a new, expanded policy arena - a frame sufficiently robust to stand proudly beside "Work Life," "Family Life," "Education," and "The Environment." Is Ivey on the right track, or
January 23, 2010 4:39 PM | | Comments (10) |

Adrian Ellis; Alan Brown; Andras Szanto; Andrew Taylor; Bau Graves; Douglas McLennan; Ellen Lovell; Bill Ivey, William James; James Early; Jim Smith; Lewis Hyde; Marian Godfrey; Martha Bayles; Nihar Patel; Russell Taylor; Sam Jones; Steven Tepper

January 23, 2010 4:33 PM | | Comments (1) |
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This Conversation Are the terms "Art" and "Culture" tough enough to frame a public policy carve-out for the 21st century? Are the old familiar words, weighted with multiple meanings and unhelpful preconceptions, simply no longer useful in analysis or advocacy? In his book, Arts, Inc., Bill Ivey advances "Expressive Life" as a new, expanded policy arena - a frame sufficiently robust to stand proudly beside "Work Life," "Family Life," "Education," and "The Environment." Is Ivey on the right track, or more

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Jesus Pantel commented on Naming and Constructing the Frame: I'm still mulling over the term expressive life and I seem to understand it...

Research commented on Can we add Creative to Expression?: Consider that 'Creativity' is a given; it is common and shared with all lif...

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Scott Walters commented on RE: What's in and what's out?: And that list, put together by "arts professionals," is exactly why the ter...

James Early commented on Let's Switch to "Expressive Life!": WE ARE THE ONES WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR! I weigh in on the conversation lat...

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