Activism is not a noun

By Douglas McLennan

I want to take on Bill Osborne's comment that the premise of this blog is that artists are not involved in activism. They most certainly are, and I don't think that anyone here has said that they aren't, even though there's been much discussion about the extent of artists' roles in policy debates.

I'd also like to challenge his assertion that:

especially in the USA, the very act of trying to be a creative artist at all is close to being a form of activism, if not subversion, because it often challenges our nation's narrowly defined orthodoxy concerning the primacy of the marketplace.

This seems a bit over-dramatic to me (okay, a lot). We live in a time when more people than ever before are calling themselves artists. And indeed, with the availability of cheap digital tools, there's been a democratizing bubbling forth of creativity we may never have seen before. Kids are making movies, writing and recording music, mashing up the things they see (and hear) around them. In the physical world, record sales of musical instruments further attest to this. So to say that being an artist today is subversive is just not true. 

It is the fact of this burgeoning expression that forces us to reevaluate the rules that have underpinned our systems of creative production. In June, Facebook users shared 25 billion pieces of content with one another. More and more people have an expectation that part of engaging the creative experience is being able to pass along pieces of experiences that were meaningful to them. Just this fact forces the need to reexamine the rules for passing along. 

Bill's second assertion that:

The blog's second, and more specific premise, is that artists are not actively involved in the debates surrounding net neutrality, even though these policy decisions will strongly affect them. This second part of the statement is untrue.

This is also wrong. First, there's a big wide world beyond classical music for which issues about net neutrality have a big direct impact. If I'm a filmmaker and the free access to my audience is impacted that matters to me. There are a whole string of other content issues issues that play out beyond simple access and net neutrality that are of no small importance to artists. 

Second: For classical musicians, net neutrality is not just about selling CDs(!) It's about operating equally in the cultural marketplace and the ability to build audiences and communicate work. Those traditional digital audiences might be small right now, but they're important. And behind the scenes and for educational purposes, having an open internet ought to matter deeply to you. Limiting bandwidth and allowing privilege to some content over others ought to matter to all artists.

July 20, 2010 8:31 AM | | Comments (0) |

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