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August 1, 2005

Understanding teens on-line

A new study from the ever-interesting Pew Internet & American Life Project explores the emerging behaviors and perspectives of teens on-line (lots of media coverage available, on ClickZ or through AP feeds...the full report is available on-line, as well).

As you might expect, a large majority of teens use the Internet (87 percent, up from 73 percent in 2000). More than half go on-line daily, and half of families with teens have broadband access at home.

Of particular interest, however, is the apparent decline of e-mail as the favored means of connection, and the continuing emergence of instant messaging. Says the report:

Teens who participated in focus groups for this study said that they view email as something you use to talk to “old people,” institutions, or to send complex instructions to large groups. When it comes to casual written conversation, particularly when talking with friends, online instant messaging is the clearly the mode of choice for today’s online teens.

But for those in the business of social connection and face-time (like the lively arts, or object-based art), there is a slight ray of hope for our future in the physical world.

Even with their great affection for technology, teens still report, on average, spending more time physically with their friends doing social things outside of school than they report interacting with friends through technology. An average youth between ages 12-17 reports spending 10.3 hours a week with friends doing social activities outside of school and about 7.8 hours talking with friends via technology like the telephone, email, IM or text messaging.

If you don't have a teen of your own, you might want to borrow one from a friend to watch how the next generation of audiences manages their personal and institutional connections.

Posted by ataylor at 6:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 2, 2005

Do movies matter beyond the gossip they fuel?

Neal Gabler had a provocative but flawed commentary in the LA Times on Sunday, built on the premise that we're now more infatuated with the backstory of entertainment (personal trials, break-ups, star behavior) than we are with the entertainment itself. Says Gabler:

Movies, television and DVDs are attracting fewer patrons because people, especially young people, value being entertained less than they value knowing about entertainment and entertainers. Movies have become what director Alfred Hitchcock called a ''MacGuffin'' -- a red herring that triggers a plot but has no other inherent value. Like MacGuffins, movies have little inherent purpose except to be talked about, written about, learned about -- shared as information.

It's not a new argument, or a new concern. And Gabler doesn't claim it to be. Gossip and backstories about creative icons have buzzed for centuries, in most established art forms you can think of. Scandal, itself, has been a social entertainment since the dawn of the soirée.

But Gabler's conclusion that creative content and creative experience are now irrelevant in the face of ''the inside scoop'' seems more a play for hyperbole than reasoned analysis. There has always been tension and balance between the content of an experience and the context surrounding it -- in the mediated arts or in live attendance. That balance may shift in the face of communications technology or social trends, but it never skews entirely to one side.

Back in 2000, co-founder Michael Hirschorn told the New York Times Magazine, ''I think in a broader cultural sense, the creation of content has become more interesting than the content itself.'' While ''interest'' and social chatter may, indeed, be turning its gaze to the backstory, there's still plenty of meaning and power in the moment of experience, as well.

What you know and what you feel are both part of an engaging and transformative moment -- whether at the movies, or in the theater, or at the museum, or in the home. Gabler seems to confuse a shift in that ecology with its implosion.

Posted by ataylor at 8:53 AM | Comments (3)

August 4, 2005

Art as the 'last cartel'

A fun article in this month's Wired magazine explores the life and work of Bansky, a self-described ''art terrorist'' who, among other accomplishments, snuck his works into four of New York's major museums in a single day. Says Bansky:

''Art's the last of the great cartels....A handful of people make it, a handful buy it, and a handful show it. But the millions of people who go look at it don't have a say.''

He claims a major motivation of his work, in the high arts and elsewhere, is to "show that money hasn't crushed the humanity out of everything."

Posted by ataylor at 5:58 AM | Comments (0)

August 5, 2005

More on the professional-grade amateur

I wrote a few weeks back about the rise of amateur culture, and the possible coming boom in creative content produced by non-professionals. Bob Baker's extended discussion of the trend led me to this report by Demos on The Pro-Am Revolution, subtitled ''how enthusiasts are changing our economy and society.''

The report offers a fascinating spin on the traditional amateur/professional dichotomy we've taken for granted (professionals create exceptional work, amateurs are lovable hacks). It's a bias that lives in many industries, and certainly in the arts. The Demos report sketches out a third alternative in the amateur/professional spectrum, the ''Pro-Am,'' described as ''innovative, committed and networked amateurs working to professional standards.''

From software design to international policy to astronomy to art, Pro-Ams are creating exceptional work outside of the professional world. And, as my early weblog suggested, they are likely to be a growing force in cultural production, distribution, and consumption for the coming decade.

Give the paper a skim to see how your professional-grade organization might respond to or engage this emerging and passionate group.

Posted by ataylor at 8:11 AM | Comments (2)

August 8, 2005

RERUN WEEK: Comfortable being out of balance

August 8 - 12, 2005, is 'rerun week' at The Artful Manager. While I'm on vacation, enjoy some favorite entries from the past.

PBS ran a great series on contemporary art a while back, art:21, that was rich with metaphor and insight into the creative process...the process we managers are supposed to be supporting, nurturing, protecting, enabling. But it struck me, during the segment on performance/scupture artist Janine Antoni, that discovery and creation are the greatest energies arts organizations have to draw from, and also the ones so easily crushed by our corporate metaphor.

The corporate metaphor we all seem to carry in our heads is about command and control, about best practices, about efficiencies, about escaping 'crisis management' and the burden of always 'putting out fires'. Contrast that to Antoni's discussion of tightrope walking, which she learned in the process of creating her work "Touch" (excuse the length of this quote, but it's more than worth the space):

"So I practiced tightroping for about an hour a day and after about a week I started to feel like I'm now getting my balance. And as I was walking I started to notice that it wasn't that I was getting more balanced, but that I was getting more comfortable with being out of balance. I would let the pendulum swing a little bit further and rather than getting nervous and overcompensating by leaning too much to one side I could compensate just enough. And I thought, I wish I could do that in my life when things are getting out of balance. You know when you have a hard day and one bad thing happens after another? I sort of learned that I could just breathe in and sort of set myself back up onto the rope.

"The other thing that was really fascinating is I started to learn the bottom of my feet in a way that I had never learned before. If the wire is just a millimeter to one side or the other I can feel it in my arms. I started to learn all kinds of things about the skeletal structure. About my sternum and my sacrum and how to keep them in balance. It was quite a beautiful process, learning to walk on the rope."

What if, instead of trying so hard to control, contain, even out, and reduce conflict, we actually worked to become "more comfortable with being out of balance," and used that energy to our advantage?

Posted by ataylor at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

August 9, 2005


August 8 - 12, 2005, is 'rerun week' at The Artful Manager. While I'm on vacation, enjoy some favorite entries from the past.

Sometimes when we try to talk our way out of a problem, we end up reinforcing the problem...or even making it worse. Such is the case with 'the box,' that clever phrase that rose to prominence at arts conferences and conventions in the '80s and '90s, and that lives on today. Thinking 'outside of the box,' or 'beyond the box,' became a professional pastime of arts managers and keynoters over the past 30 years, usually making its comeback during tough economic times. True to form, ‘the box’ is back with a vengeance.

The frustrating reality of negating something, however, is that you actually strengthen its hold. If I suggest that you NOT think of a giraffe right now, what pops into your head?

Okay, now don't think of the walls around you that block your creative thinking, ignore the barbed wire between you and an integrated response to your current challenges, and whatever you do, don't feel a sense of helplessness and loss of energy in your professional life.

There, didn’t that help?

With all the focus on ‘the box,’ we often forget that there is no box. It’s a fiction. It’s a metaphor. It's a catchy phrase for a conference brochure. There certainly can be limits that keep us from seeing a wider world of possibilities—limits like social and psychological blind spots, inflexible assumptions, groupthink, and entrenched ‘common knowledge.’

But these limits are much more maleable, variable, and actionable than 'the box' implies. Perhaps the first step in thinking outside the box is to stop talking about the box. It's a construct that we constructed ourselves, and we only make it stronger by plotting our escape.

Posted by ataylor at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2005

RERUN WEEK: Reintegrating our organizations and ourselves

August 8 - 12, 2005, is 'rerun week' at The Artful Manager. While I'm on vacation, enjoy some favorite entries from the past.

Choreographer/dancer Liz Lerman has always provided a broad and engaging perspective at any professional conference I've seen her present. A friend (thanks Becky) recently forwarded this 2001 keynote address she gave to a performing arts educators forum (available as an Adobe Acrobat file here). I'll just let it speak for itself:

I think there was a time when people danced and the crops grew. I think they danced as a way to heal their children. I think they danced as a way to prepare for war�we know that because we know some of those dances. I think they danced when they had to examine complex questions that they couldn't answer any other way. I think that dance was a way to address the mysteries.

When I think about that time, I like to ask this question. Who got the best parts? If it is so important for the crops to grow and the rain to fall, whom did they trust? I think maybe they trusted the fattest person, the person with the most weight. You would think so�it would make sense. Or the oldest person, the person with the most wisdom. I'd like to imagine that they had a set of values in place that led them to understand why a particular person was dancing before them. And I'd like to think that everyone understood the dance. They didn't have to read about it in the paper the next day and have it explained to them. And I don't think it was because it was simple dance. I think that the dancing was highly abstract. There was no dumbing down in those cultures. The reason everyone understood the dance was because they all knew the dance.

Read the rest, it's well worth it.

Posted by ataylor at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2005

RERUN WEEK: The problem with purpose

August 8 - 12, 2005, is 'rerun week' at The Artful Manager. While I'm on vacation, enjoy some favorite entries from the past.

So I get this pizza pan as a gift...I'm pro-pizza, to be sure. But when reading the promotional copy on the pizza pan, I find this:

Sensible and sublime, practical and whimsical, the objects envisioned by the world-renowned architect infuse our daily lives with joy.

Then I'm in Starbucks buying my mega-venti semi-caf no-foam mocha vanilla caramel latte and read this on the name badge of the attendant behind the counter:

Magic Moments: One human being at a time.

Then, I see a promotional flier for an Apple iPod:

What does music mean to you? Maybe it's an escape from your daily grind. A place you go in your mind that is free, rebellious. A place where you get lost in stories of love. Joy. Pain. Rhythms and melodies that rush your blood. Make you drive faster. Walk quicker. Bob your head. Dance like a freak. Shake your head and spin. Or just close your eyes, smile, and remember when. It's powerful stuff.

It used to be that the purpose and mission of nonprofit cultural organizations were unique in their communities. Other folks did the selling and crass service of consumer needs; we provided the more noble things in life. Nowadays, I can have my daily life 'infused with joy' by a pizza pan (it's a nice pizza pan, I'll admit), find 'magic moments' in a coffee-purchase experience, and be moved by the power of music by a fancy computer drive with headphones.

It may be time to pull out the old mission statements and crank them up a few notches. The big boys are swimming in our pool.

Posted by ataylor at 7:24 AM | Comments (1)

August 15, 2005

The hot potato of public/private partnerships

For the [very] few who are interested in how major new cultural facilities are financed and funded, there are interesting conversations on-going in Madison, Wisconsin. The Overture Center for the Arts -- half done now, to be completed in April 2006 -- is attempting to regain its financial footing after a good idea met a bad stock market over the past few years.

In short, the donor's original $100 million gift to support the construction of the facility was not spent on the construction directly, but rather placed in a trust and used to support $115 million in low-interest bond debt. The borrowed funds were used to build the facility, and the trust was to remain and grow to not only pay off the debt at the end of their term, but also provide on-going operating support (I know, half of you are asleep already, but stick with me).

Problem is, that debt needs to be refinanced now to avoid dissolving the trust. Says the article:

...without refinancing that debt, the trust, which has grown to $106 million, will be liquidated in the next year to pay for construction and Overture will be forced to somehow cover a long-anticipated $250,000 to $1 million annual shortfall for operation and maintenance starting in 2006....

If the new refinancing plan is rejected and the trust is liquidated to pay for construction debt, the city would have to decide in the next year whether or not to buy Overture for $1. In that case, the city would either run Overture itself, hire a private contractor to handle it or let the current operator, the quasi-public Madison Cultural Arts District, do so.

Without the trust, the building will be beautfully completed, but severely underfunded for its operations. But the city is balking at essentially co-signing the loan on the refinancing deal.

There's lots of talk in the nonprofit world about productive public/private partnerships to achieve social and societal goals. But usually that talk is happy and hopeful because it's unfocused and abstract. Financial risk and longterm responsibility have a way of adding weight and humility to the mix, and will be the true test of what kind of partnership we have here in Madison.

Posted by ataylor at 7:43 AM | Comments (1)

August 16, 2005

ANOTHER RERUN: What, exactly, are we sustaining?

Sorry to say that I'll be disconnected again for a few days, as I make the long drive home from Boston to Madison. Please enjoy (or ignore) another blast from the past while I'm wandering without Internet connections.

An interesting sidebar from the Discovery Channel web site suggests that the human race is too big to be sustainable [the original link has expired]. According to the researchers' algorithm, there are 1000 times too many humans, as compared to a representative sample of other species. Said report co-author Charles Fowler:

"It is probably not unrealistic to say that nothing less than a full paradigm shift is required to get there from here....It requires changes in our thinking, belief systems and understanding of ourselves."

While the report falls into the Chicken Little category a wee bit (somehow, humanity keeps on going despite its bizarre imbalance), it does hold eery parallels to the arts and culture world. The word 'sustainability' is cropping up everywhere these days...among foundations seeking to support 'sustainable' projects (usually meaning revenue-generating), among arts advocates seeking to preserve the current state of the nonprofit arts, and among consultants smelling a new trend in the water.

These conversations in the nonprofit arts world rarely define what 'sustainability' means, or how we might measure it over time. Worse yet, the word has become attached to an organizational strategy (how do we make our region's symphony, museum, or folk arts festival sustainable?), rather than an ecological strategy (how can we sustain our community's access to a broad range of creative experiences that includes these traditional ones?). With such a focus on individual organizations, we often miss the things we are actually trying to sustain: a dynamic cultural life, multiple levels of engagement for many citizens, opportunities to explore, create, discover, remember, and engage the creative process.

In the economics and ecology worlds, 'sustainability' is a property of a whole system, not a specific organism or organization. What you 'sustain' in such disciplines is not individuals, but outcomes...a dynamic economy with breathable air and drinkable water, for example. According to the most-cited definition of 'sustainable development' in the world economy world:

"Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
--Gro Harlem Bruntland, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987

In an ecosystem, things are born, things grow, and things die. In fact, ecosystems run into trouble if all three of these things are not on-going: if you work too hard to preserve standing trees, you crowd out future growth and emerging plants, for example. To carry this metaphor to the arts world, we might find our time better spent exploring how to create a context in which a full spectrum of creative and cultural activity exists in our community, rather than the sustainability of its single, long-standing institutions. These organizations still serve a vital purpose, mind you. And I'm not suggesting we kill them off to feed the roots. But focusing only on their sustainability is a short-term strategy at best, and at worst, a myopia that could damage the longterm health of creative communities.

There's a world of discussion out there about creating contexts for sustainable development, social evolution, and world ecology (try this Google search for some examples). It would be wonderful to learn from these fields as we in nonprofit arts and culture stumble into our own 'sustainability' discussions.

Since the Discovery report suggests that we're living on borrowed time anyway, we might as well use that time where it's most useful.

Posted by ataylor at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2005

What does it mean to ''stand on your own''?

A recent local editorial about the debt refinancing of Madison's Overture Center (discussed earlier this week) uses an interesting phrase, which lives at the end of the excerpt below:

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is right to express reservations about signing on to a new long-term funding scheme for the $205 million Overture Center for the Arts.

The Overture Center is an absolute gem, which will yield tremendous benefits for the city and its citizens. But there are serious questions about how much the jewel box is going to cost the taxpayers of a city that supposedly received the center as a gift.... some point, Overture will have to stand on its own.

These are certainly days of fiscal restraint for any government, and assuming new and vague financial risks is always worthy of a public conversation. But that last phrase, ''Overture will have to stand on its own,'' frames that public conversation in an odd and unproductive way.

Nonprofit cultural facilities and activities exist to balance the whims of the commercial marketplace, not feed from them. They offer a broader range of options and resources to a community and its citizens than would be available in a pure market system. And they provide a vitality and voice that neither the public or private sectors can sustain (I'm not saying that nonprofits are more noble, but that they are essential to the ecosystem). To sustain this complex role, cultural nonprofits require earned income, certainly, but also individual donors, volunteer labor, active board governance by community members, corporate support and sponsorship, foundation initiative, and municipal support.

Contrast that complex web of connections with the premise that Overture or any cultural nonprofit ''stand on its own,'' and you begin to see the disconnect. Successful and dynamic cultural facilities can only stand with the help, effort, and resources of many, regardless of who paid for their construction. Government is an inextricable part of that collective, and in fact, is often the crucial agent and enabler that makes it work.

So, let's certainly have a public discussion of the role and responsibility of government in the mix, but let's base the conversation on assumptions that have some relationship with reality.

Posted by ataylor at 9:20 AM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2005

Our version of 'nature vs. nurture'

There's an article archetype in the press every few years, about how difficult it is to fill the top slot at America's leading museums, and about whether boards should search for business leaders or art scholars to plug the hole. This time around, the article is in the Wall Street Journal.

In a nutshell:

Who should run a big art museum? Executives with corporate skills that could help them manage these multimillion-dollar institutions through major expansions? Or leaders with traditional art-world credentials?....

Some art-world veterans insist that running museums is not like running for-profit businesses. Museums have long been accustomed to covering their operating costs through their endowments rather than through retail operations or ticket sales. According to [Maxwell] Anderson, currently a principal in cultural consultancy AEA Consulting, the average visitor costs a museum about $80, substantially more than the typical price of a ticket -- meaning that museum directors must spend energy raising funds to support a business premised on losing money.

With 15 art museums across the U.S. currently searching for new directors, the conversation is likely raging in boardrooms from coast to coast.

There are two shortcomings to this shorthand -- the idea that business savvy and aesthetic credibility are mutually exclusive qualities that require a proactive choice. First, all cultural nonprofits are businesses...just of a certain kind. Whether trained or not, whether they admit it or not, successful leaders of these institutions have qualities of business leadership.

Second, aesthetic sense and sensibility are not exclusive to those who have followed the academic/curatorial track. The fostering/filtering systems of academia have certainly been tested by time (and haven't always passed). But who's to say that a leader who traveled a different path isn't serious, thoughtful, responsive, and sensitive to the requirements of the art?

While it's fun to set up a false dichotomy and to vigorously debate two sides of an argument, it's likely more productive to admit that there aren't two sides at all.

Posted by ataylor at 8:35 AM | Comments (2)

August 22, 2005

The new MBAs are here

Orientation begins this week for our new batch of MBA students in Arts Administration at UW-Madison. I'm guessing my posting here will be fairly patchy as we welcome the new folks to our program, and get them settled in for two years of arts/business boot camp.

Posted by ataylor at 12:26 AM | Comments (3)

August 24, 2005

Defining the artist

There are a bundle of initiatives out there working to make communities or organizations more supportive and encouraging to artists. But often, these efforts are missing a crucial cog: a definition of what they mean by ''artist.'' I'm not suggesting that there should be a single definition that we all claim as true (that would be a significant waste of collective time). But, rather, every initiative needs to define the target group for their specific purposes...and define it out loud. Without that clear and common definition of the target, it's hard to know if you've succeeded.

Back in 2002/2003, the Urban Institute took a reasonable shot at it as part of its report on Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structures for U.S. Artists (project details available on the U.S. Artists Report web site, where you can also download the final report). Their definition might provide a useful start.

For the purposes of their initiative, the Urban Institute included as 'artists' all adults who:

  1. have expert artistic skills;
  2. have received artistic education or training (formal or informal);
  3. attempt to derive income from those skills;
  4. and are or have been actively engaged in creating artwork and presenting it to the public.

Among that group, ''professional'' artists are those that actually do derive a portion of income from their skills [as an acoustician acquaintance once said, ''all you need to be an acoustician is a client''].

If you need a definition, it's not a bad place to start. Who's got another? Let me know by posting a comment below.

Posted by ataylor at 12:10 AM | Comments (3)

August 25, 2005

How to gross $100 million and still lose money

KCRW's The Business has a great interview with Hollywood CPA/Attorney Steven Sills on the 'creative accounting' of movie blockbusters (it's about 3-1/2 minutes in on the audio file). His clients come to him asking how a movie can gross $100 million at the box office and still show up as a loss on their profit participation statements. Says program host Claude Brodesser:

You think studio films are filled with special effects? You should see their balance sheets.

It turns out that much of the time, the client doesn't fully understand the complexities of movie income and expense streams, and the long list of players ahead of them in line to grab a chunk of the pie. In other cases, there's true mischief going on at the studios -- loading on costs to a successful film to be sure it doesn't make any money on paper (a common complaint in the record industry, as well).

Another interesting challenge is how to audit transactions between companies that are owned by the same conglomerate -- for example, when Disney sells a television production to ABC (which is part of the same company), or resells it to the Disney Channel overseas. Who's to say that transaction represents the fair market value of the production?

It recalls the conversations between symphony musicians and symphony management about how the apparent riches of an institution still require pay cuts. It also mirrors the current struggles of regional performing arts centers, and their decreasing margin on blockbuster touring shows (most owned by a major media conglomerate). There, too, a community will ask: ''Didn't you run two months of The Lion King to sold-out houses? How could you possibly still need a donation from us?''

While the scale of the discussion may be a few decimal places off ($100,000 vs. $100 million), it's comforting to know that the nonprofit arts aren't alone in their confusion and consternation in allocating costs and revenue to creative process. Come to think of it, if the movie studios really want to learn how to book a loss on a major production, I know a few nonprofits that could show them the way.

UPDATE: As an extension of my entry last week -- responding to an editorial in our local newspaper about nonprofit financing -- I wrote a letter to the editor, which is now available on-line. Thought some would be interested.

Posted by ataylor at 8:52 AM | Comments (2)

August 26, 2005

Maybe we're trying too hard

For those cultural managers who make every extra effort to provide context, background, depth, and framing around their upcoming productions, in an effort to engage the potential audience with meaning and purpose, this story out of the U.K. will likely drive you mad.

The new play by film director and playwright Mike Leigh has sold out before it opens...and nobody knows anything about it. The working title of the work doesn't add much insight: A New Play by Mike Leigh. The actors have been rehearsing off-site. The marketing department is in the dark. For publicity, there's a poster with a palm tree on it.

And yet, 16,000 tickets are sold.

A spokeswoman in the article insists that the shroud of mystery is not a ploy, or a gimmick, but just a by-product of Leigh's way of working -- in highly improvisational and immersive interaction with his actors. Says the spokeswoman:

''Mike Leigh has always worked this way. It's not like he's come over all grand recently -- he's just trying to get the best out of his actors. He doesn't want to break into their own world and interrupt their soul-searching, and doing PR would weaken that. It's not at all a publicity stunt. We're not trying to hype it up. We really don't know what to expect.''

We all know that the lure and power of a well-known and well-respected artist can sell tickets, regardless of what is to be presented. But usually, there's at least the patina of product description required to close the sale...providing that sense of purpose to the managers and brokers in the process.

If all art sold this way, the bulk of us would be out of a job.

Posted by ataylor at 12:30 AM | Comments (6)

August 29, 2005

Do-it-yourself Beethoven scholarship

Thanks to Media Influencer, I stumbled on this CNET story on two Beethoven enthusiasts working to explore the unperformed archives of the composer's work. Says CNET:

Mark Zimmer, a tax attorney in Madison, Wis., and Dutch composer Willem Holsbergen are the creators of the Unheard Beethoven Web site, a sprawling digital archive of unfinished, unrecorded and often unpublished work by one of classical music's towering figures. With painstaking care, they're systematically turning Beethoven's most illegible scrawls into digital scores that can be downloaded and played by any computer, with the ultimate goal of bringing to life virtually every note the composer put to paper.

While the site seems to have slipped out of active updating (the last significant entry is from November 2004), it's a fabulous example of the power of the Internet and technology on the long tail, that endless stream of creative works that aren't perceived as valuable or profitable enough to find their way to recording or performance or even publication. With reduced production and distribution costs (okay, they aren't live performances...but computer-music versions), even the most obscure works can find a moment to be heard.

While some scholars and performers might say that the unpublished and unperformed works were that way for good reason, it's fascinating to watch the traditional filtering and authority system turned on its head. And, it's fairly clear from the web site's introductory text that that was entirely the point:

This website endeavors to make all of Beethoven's unrecorded music readily accessible to the public. Now YOU may judge for yourself as to whether these pieces deserve a wider hearing and the ability to join the repertoire.

Posted by ataylor at 8:58 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2005

From the ''you're already doomed'' department

Researchers at the University of Michigan have some helpful insights if you feel like you're making less money than your were likely too short as a teenager. According to their study:

Using data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and Britain's National Child Development Survey, [researchers] found that each additional inch of height at age 16 is associated with a 2.7 percent increase in wages among white American men and a 2.6 percent increase among white men in Britain -- regardless of occupational choice.

The researchers then make the massive leap to explaining why this correlation may be true, suggesting that ''those who were relatively short when young are less likely to participate in social activities like athletics, school clubs and dating that help teens hone their social skills -- skills that eventually will help them secure good jobs as adults....'' [The study also correlates participation in sports and clubs with higher income as an adult.]

Other than depressing those who were vertically challenged at age 16, this study suggests at least two useful insights for the cultural manager:

First, there's a huge difference between correlation and causality. When we do our own research (audience or otherwise), it's fairly common to believe that when two variables move together, they must be causally connected (there's even a latin phrase for this, so you know it's important: cum hoc ergo propter hoc). The researchers seem to be making this logical jump when they conclude the correlation of height and adult income are causally related (one drives the other). [As a friend likes to say: ''studies show that when people open an umbrella, their feet get you should never open an umbrella.'']

Second, there's an interesting nugget of insight in the report that might help us rethink our own research. Most audience and demographic data gathering focuses on who our audience is now (where they live, what they earn, what they read, etc.). But for determining possible cultural preference and consumption patterns, it might be more useful to know who they were as they were forming their cultural tastes (in the early teens). Perhaps we could benefit from some sort of retroactive psychographic service.

A third insight might be to target tall 16-year-olds as future donors and board members, since they'll eventually have all the money. Problem is, they're all currently busy with athletics, school clubs, and dating.

Posted by ataylor at 8:47 AM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2005

BlogDay 2005

In recognition of BlogDay 2005, an initiative to encourage bloggers to recommend other bloggers on August 31, 2005, I'm posting some pointers to other places. To spread the love, I won't include links to my neighbor ArtsJournal bloggers (except for that one), despite their worthiness and intriguing posts. Instead, I'm suggesting five that might be off your usual path:

  • The Social Software Weblog
    A round-up of new technologies and initiatives in social software (blogs, flash mobs, social networking, mobile phone systems, etc.). Great for insights and fresh perspectives on how people interact through technology (or might soon).
  • BoingBoing
    A cross between a blog and a directory, providing seemingly endless links to bafflingly interesting things on the web: A ''freedom primer'' about slavery from 1864, freshly scanned and posted on-line; a post about the upcoming ''speak like a pirate day'' (September 19, if you must know); a Dutch library lending out people for interesting conversations; and that's just a few from the past week.
  • Information Aesthetics
    Where data meets art...a collection of links and commentary on innovative ways of presenting information -- practical and otherwise.
  • MarketingVox
    News and trend-tracking in on-line marketing.
  • Charity Governance
    Deeper than most would care to go into nonprofit governance and policy issues...but it's my job, ma'am.

So many other worthy blogs, but according to BlogDay protocol, I'm only supposed to provide five. If you're interested in following even more recommendation trails, try the BlogDay tag on Technorati.

Posted by ataylor at 12:50 AM | Comments (0)

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