Obama, Millennials, and the Ideals of Web 2.0
After Barack Obama won the election, my elation clouded my journalism. I was incapable of thinking about anything else. So when it came time to write about an event in Charleston called Kulture Klash, I had to figure out what it meant amid this historic change.
Kulture Klash is really an arts party like the kind commonly organized in New York. I’m told the place to go is PS1, but I’ve never been there and never been to one of those events. Kulture Klash, and I’d imagine events at PS1, are about diversity, creativity, and having a lot of fun. KK injects a radical social dimension into the arts and the arts give rise to a radical social dimension, mostly because the kind of art you’ll find there stems from street art — break dancing, graffiti art, aerial skating, juggling, hula hooping, etc.
In the wake of Obama’s victory, Kulture Klash seemed to have more significance than just an arts party. It seemed to embody a new set of ideals, a grass-roots and egalitarian value system shaped and given expression by the internet and social-networking sites. When all was said and done, more than 2,000 people had gone to Kulture Klash. In a Charleston context, that’s an enormous crowd and an important step in local arts.
Tim Wu, in a review of Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet (And How to Stop It), aptly notes that what makes our age special, in technological terms, is its “generative” nature: “‘Generativity’ is a central notion in his book, and he means what it says: that the Net has made us all mini-generators — not of electricity, but of information and innovation. Who today is not at least sometimes an online analyst, poet, or publisher, even if just of Facebook updates?” (Read Wu’s review in full in The New Republic.)
In a piece in a November issue of Charleston City Paper, I attempted to draw a connection between Obama’s win, the ideals of Web 2.0, and this generative nature among those born after 1980, those who not only gave YouTube and Facebook their current cache, but who also expect interactivity in whatever they do. I suggest that this is a turning point.
Of what, I don’t know. But something is turning. You can feel it.
Creativity is a part of their lives. Millennials don’t just dream it. They be it. Kulture Klash’s website tells why the event matters: “For the sake of art and community.”
“We want everyone to have a voice, everyone to get involved,” says Gustavo Serrano. “If we can tap into everyone’s imagination, who knows what will happen?”
The idea of a bottom-up, idealism-based community of creative types, like Kulture Klash, goes back to the ancient Greeks.
Today, it can be found in knitting circles, jazz ensembles, open-source technology like Linux, crowdsourced knowledge consortiums like Wikipedia, community arts projects like the recent The Future Is on the Table art exhibit at City Gallery, and even in pick-up games of basketball (which is, because of its reliance on the integrity of individual players, Barack Obama’s favorite pastime).
These have characteristics that challenge the old guard of established arts professionals whose minds were galvanized, like Clinton and Bush, by “great disruption” of the 1960s. These characteristics include participation over presentation, collaboration over competition, amateurism (in the best sense of the word) over professionalism, and process over product.
Grassroots creativity is an old idea (Walt Whitman exulted the inventive potential of diversity), but the difference now is scale.
Ninety-five million Americans are applying the ideals of Web 2.0 to the real world, including their approach to the arts.
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American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
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NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program
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