This week: a great example of the de-monetization of audience, the deadening burden of being a critic, some contradictions about how we use data in the arts, why technology is complicating our fetishment of original art, and remembering a time before words were processed and forever changed how we write.
- Cautionary Tale: I created a video. It went viral with hundreds of millions of views, but without my name. There was nothing I could do. This fascinating story, by choreographer Alexandra Beller, illustrates the broken relationship between the size of your audience and getting paid. Traditionally, audience size translates into earning money. No audience, no money. Massive audience, get rich. But the connection between size of audience and making money has broken down, and we haven’t figured out a new currency scale. “I watched, fascinated, as it got picked up and spread by Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Perez Hilton: 50 million views, 200 million, 300 million views on each site. Then it started getting posted by less famous sources, and I noticed my name was no longer on it, but advertisements were. I was soon contacted by a licensing company.”
- We need good critical writing. But is there something deadening about contemporary criticism? Writing critically is a mindset. Approaching art as a critic is a mindset. But the mindset can also be a trap, and leave a critic with a vaguely dead feeling. Lisa Ruddick makes her argument ethical and ideological. “Is there something unethical in contemporary criticism? This essay is not just for those who identify with the canaries in the mine, but for anyone who browses through current journals and is left with an impression of deadness or meanness. I believe that the progressive fervor of the humanities, while it reenergized inquiry in the 1980s and has since inspired countless valid lines of inquiry, masks a second-order complex that is all about the thrill of destruction.”
- Data! We love data! But maybe not so much… For example, we talk a lot about the benefits of the arts, and the claims can be aggressive. But a new report points out that many of the claims lack evidence. Then there’s the Arts Index, created by Americans for the Arts and directed by Randy Cohen. It’s an extensive measure of arts activity and production in the United States, and a noble attempt to get standardized data that can chart trends and the overall health of the arts industry. This year’s report, for example, shows the impact of the 2008 recession and how the arts have recovered. But this is the last year of the Index. It was meant as a ten-year project, but it won’t be renewed for lack of continued funding.
- Fetishizing Originals (But Why?) There’s an argument to be made that original works of art are special. Unique. But what if they aren’t? Technologists are now able to scan antiquities and recreate them exactly. This makes them potentially more accessible to more people. But it also helps preserve them from danger of damage. But who owns the recreated objects? “An entire swath of startup enterprises have been based on the simple principle that what one group or storm destroys, an endless array of new technology can re-create, making copies that are more enduring, sustainable, and user friendly than the original antiquities that inspired them.” Maybe we need to rethink our fetishizing of originals?
- It wasn’t so long ago that a word on the page was a word on the page: Easy to forget in the age of computers that there was a time not so long ago when committing something to paper meant a real commitment. No changing words or sentences or paragraphs on a whim. Word processors not only changed the way we write, but the process of thinking about writing. In 1983, a dazzled Michael Crichton told Merv Griffin that, “When you type, the words appear on the screen … you can move around on the screen, change what you’ve written, pull blocks of text, put them elsewhere. You have complete freedom.” His disbelieving glee was shared by many, but some writers reacted differently… the development of educational programs.