Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nobel vs. innovation

I read an article the other day about how some older Nobel Lauriets believed the internet was dumbing down culture. As someone who has been on the internet since ~1992, and have been embracing it ever since, this unnerved me. A large part of my life is spent on the internet performing various tasks. Different people belong to all sorts of cultures, and I belong to the internet cultures.
I look forward to the next internet meme, not the next eposide of Friends (yes, I know it's off air now.) When I went to talk politics I go online and say what I have to say. When I take pictures off my camera, I quickly upload them to my picasaweb album. I also spend countless hours a week reading blog from around the world, mostly regarding technology.So what is the problem that these Nobel winners have with the Internet?
Similarly, author Andrew Keen argued in his new book, The Cult of the Amateur, that the internet was killing culture and assaulting economics.
"[Anyone] can use their networked computers to publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays, and novels," Keen wrote in the book.

The problem that have is that amateurs are out there putting out art. Being amateurs, the art is what most would call sub-par. I mean, what kind of world do we live in if the average person is an artist? What happens when kids are more interested in art put out by some random kid on the street with a crappy video camera than someone else who went to school and fought their way through to publishers to get their contetnt out?
What happens is innovation in ways that the established industry is incapable of concieving. Take for example chocolate rain. This video has received millions of hits in a matter of months by fans all over the world. The popularity of this very odd song has landed this guy performances on network television, record contacts, and made him an instant international star.
Without the internet this guys music would have never made it past a couple of friends who may have mused at it for a while and then lost in a trash can.
But this is probably the fate that Andrew Keen would like to see this kind of art recieve. Why? Because he is an art snob. Art, to him, has to fit predefined hooks and follow certain rules.
The truth is that art has never done this. The new is always scary to the old. Think of swing. This music was truly the devils work, according to the old crowd at the time. Then along came rock n' roll, which was thrust in to the mainstreem by the Beatles. Surely the Beatles are trying to corrupt our children. Then metal followed by rap. Each time the older generation doesn't get it and cries fowl. But, like Bob Dylan says, "You better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone, for the time they are a-changin'" I like to remind this to old hippies when they complain about todays music.Andrew Keen and company's way of art may still have relevence as timeless quality work, but has no place in the new cutting edge world of art. What's worse, though, is his mind set regarding amateur work. This mindset has no place in any time period. Amateur artwork is especially important, and should be encouraged. And every amateur has the right to put his or her stuff out there to be judged by the community.
The great thing about the community is that every amateur has easy access to the community, and the community has a large share of amateur critics to rate the work. If the work is crap, people will tell the artist to piss off and the work goes nowhere. If the work is entertaining, the artist gets his or her fifteen minutes of fame. This really works out great because the critics and consumers are the same people. In the traditional system, the art has to first pass the publisher, is then reviewed by the critics, and whether or not people consume the product can depend on the ratings the reviewers gave it. The new system is more of a meritocracy, versus the old system that basically amounts to cronyism.
Someone I met online and have since met in person, wrote an elegant essay on exactly why anyone and everyone should be submitting their own content.
are thousands upon thousands of good writers out there — people who could be
improving the quality of what we see here everyday. But we won’t ever experience
what they have to offer because there’s nobody to bring it to our attention.
What are the odds that their stuff is going to be randomly “discovered”? Not
good. The only only option is for them to drop the socially ingrained
false-modesty and present it themselves. Remember that writers submit their work
to publishers; they don’t wait for it to be found. Artisans have shows and
invite lots of people, and academics submit to their respective journals. In
short, submitting original content for peer review is crucial in any community
that values intellectual progress.So to all of you who think you have something
to offer — show us. Getting someone else to submit it for you is more shady than
doing it yourself, and it’s not going to be discovered on accident. If you’re
doing anything to increase your chances of being seen (SEO, word-of-mouth
promotion, etc.) you’re already playing the system. Accept this and have the
balls to submit your own material if you think it’s worth reading.
So to the old Noble Lauriets and their old way of thinking, I saw good riddance. The internet, and it's art, is here to stay. It will shape the future and redefine everything (which will probably be the five thousandth time art has been completely redefined by new culture) and will eventually become old and irelevant by the time it's my turn to be old and grumpy.

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