And so as the 60s finally come to an end, and the millennial generation takes the first steps towards wanting to respect their elders, we start to think about how the fractured arts services can hold it together for the next decade as we work out how much to salvage from the old business models and what to leave behind.
The current strengths are community focused.
My peers and I were on the generational border, we grew up watching and wanting to be watched. The Idols were put before us and we were Audience to their well practiced and well supported (walls###) creations. But now new informational connections forged through technology and the ‘hallowed interweb’ have long since breached our silent viewership and we are all speaking freely, mocking idolatry and sharing more realistic communications.
Initial questions around the utility of spurious personal updates were reactions to having been used to focused and projected channels of media and art that (not wrongly) told us of their innate value. We had the time to listen but didn’t realise that value was earned through great effort and time spent in development. Now our messages are constant, simple and of little importance to most, but that doesn’t make them worthless.
Initial reactions to the internet were mixed of course but for some, myself included, there were hopes that the path to idolatry had been made easy. Naive enthusiasm has a wonderful energy and many skills, ideas and knowledge were developed in the resulting race to realise our childhood dreams. But now as the dust settles and the internet’s Super-Unicorns push out vast swathes of average media, we on the border look to provide sparks for community togetherness and like minded moments that can mean absolutely everything (like our Idols once did), but intimately, only for a few.
Community is built on communication, combinations of words, sound, sight or ‘other’, an experience of closeness is perpetuated through knowing we’re together and the internet has provided new forms of closeness that are an integral part of this community infrastructure.
The interweb delivers everything ‘right now’ and that’s great too because now is when those with the invisible future need something to hold onto. Uncertainty can lead to that. It’s not a time to dream of earning special status, that takes ‘like-forever!’, and there’s no longer a veil of broadcast manipulation to hide behind.
If the internet reminds us of anything with its provisions it is that everyone can be special for a moment. It’s a different kind of attention though, a basic human need to be ‘special’, not idolised, just loved. Audiences can idolise but they cannot love, you need to really know someone for that and you cannot be known to an audience, only watched. The internet connects us to the few who make us special to them.
“Participatory please” is the carrion call of a digital native. If they like something, the younger generations want to be a part of it, but not simply Audience. They have the means to join in – not just technologically but because they don’t compare themselves to superstars so they actually realise they have the means to join in. Basic human creativity, camp fire and cave man stuff, folklore for the future. They don’t think they’re special because they know faithful popularity is created through either a veil of deceit or abilities earned over time.
The current growth in arts movements returns us to togetherness and (more importantly) equal status. Communities of People, looking inwards and making sure we’re all together as individuals and connected as a group.
The internet only compliments community.
The fluidity of the digital networks and shallowness of the interactions provides connection where there is distance, either initially as a relationship commences or as a bandaid for times apart. But #tags and 🙂 can only connect us to a certain depth. Images and videos are certainly helping deepen connections, but Internet relationships won’t sustain without realworld support. Organisations might worry they’ll lose relevance if their facebook posts get lost in the stream, but I haven’t posted anything on facebook for months and my friends still recognise me in the street and invite me to parties. That’s the kind of relationship building we should be aiming for. Where you get invited to the parties for no reason other that you’re wanted and/or missed.
So we hold onto one another in the real world too, we the developing arts organisations. Small groups of likeminded individuals in every corner of the country forming communities around art and togetherness. Telling stories and doing good deeds for support.
Of course the internet still entices the idea of renown and new more distant connections are being forged by the groups themselves, eager to tell the world of their endeavours. New bonds will be formed based on realised similarities of regular arts activities but with revitalised rules and modern values. Soon we’ll start to connect in the real world too, to each other and what remains of the old institutions, and that’s when strengths might come to be generated from these bonds. Mistakes will become a serious fear as we start to realise we now have something to lose and the systems will be put in place once again to maintain the stability. Institutions 2.0 will reign supreme…
In the mean time it will be up to us to provide for ourselves as we grow these new institutions to protect those who will follow in generations to come.
I want in part to be told what that will be and what to do, but know all too well we won’t know until it’s happened.
Then we’ll manage it as our own special creation, while others watch – until the 60s come back once more, and the kids break down our walls.
I wonder if we’ll let them