This Week: Hard to imagine there are arts headlines to compete with election news, but here goes: Science tries to explain why we’re ideologically segregated… It’s not just politics – arts and entertainment don’t really know what their audiences want… Even the most-respected arts coverage is being cut back… Infighting on the jury of the National Book Awards point to how deeply we’re divided… To end on an upbeat note, read Lin Manuel Miranda on the power of arts education.
- Any Data To Help Explain Why We’re So Ideologically Segregated? Why yes. “Increasingly, our cultural divide is also a geographical divide, as mobile Americans choose to live among people with similar ideological beliefs. But why? A research study published this summer provides a clear answer: It’s far more emotionally comfortable. “Living among politically dissimilar others has a psychological effect on people,” write psychologists William Chopik of Michigan State University and Matt Motyl of the University of Illinois–Chicago. People in such circumstances “find it difficult depending on others, and taking the perspective of others.”
- Look, We Have An Audience Problem: Maybe you’re not interested in TV or movie ratings. But they are relevant as we understand the dynamics of what the larger culture sees. Right now movie and TV ratings are broken. The industry doesn’t really know who’s watching what. Netflix and Amazon, for example don’t reveal ratings. “If Netflix or Amazon can control how our perception of how popular a TV show is – how many people are watching it – that controls the TV industry. So that controls what kind of shows the viewer ultimately gets to see. Right? And there’s other people, actors and producers, they want to get paid. And they also want people to recognize that they’re creating shows that are popular.”
- We’re Losing Our Traditional Arts Media: Yes, it’s a story we’ve been hearing for a while now. Arts coverage in many cities now is non-existent or a shadow of what it used to be. But now the stalwarts, the Major Publications that have been go-to sources for cultural news and criticism are in trouble. Last week the Wall Street Journal announced it was downsizing cultural coverage. This week there’s a report the New York Times will be following. “The revamped Arts front page will have no more than three stories (there now are sometimes as many as six) anchored by an oversize photograph, according to sources who have been apprised of the changes. Critics have been urged to stop covering events least likely to appeal to online subscribers: indie movies having brief runs in art houses; one-night-only concerts, off- and off-off-Broadway shows that aren’t star-driven, cabaret performances, and small art galleries. Many of the Times‘ contingent of freelance contributors, who provide much of that coverage, are likely to meet the same fate as the regional freelancers last summer.”
- We Have A Disruption Of Cultural Consensus – Even Among The Elite: An extraordinary piece about the dynamics on the jury gathered to choose the winner of the National Book Awards. “When two friends of mine were on recent panels, discord was so intense that each judge picked one finalist, the kind of situation that can produce unpredictable horse-trading and compromise winners. Corruption can also enter in. The year I was a judge, one colleague tried to give the award to a family friend. Another judge supported the writer with whom she shared an agent.”
- Finally, Uplifting Testimony From Lin Manuel Miranda About The Power Of The Arts: The arts superstar says that arts education saved (and defined) his life: “The impact of arts education on my career is complete, total, and it saved my life. I no longer thought of school in semesters; I thought of it as: we do a play in the fall, we do a musical in the winter, and we had a student run theater group called Brick Prison which we would do in the spring. I was a writer with a deadline because I really wanted to get a play into Brick. That was the focus of my creative efforts for as long as I can remember.”