The System is Flawed, Please Try Again
Jeff Howe has posted another excerpt from his book (and if you’re interested in Crowdsourcing and you’re not reading it – bad puppy, bad, bad puppy. Frankly, it’s just so well written and interesting.)
Howe provides the example of M dot Strange a filmmaker who made his own film and career and used blogs, Youtube etc. to propel himself and his film into notoriety. Here are my thoughts on Howe’s excerpt:
The statement “fuck the system” (thank you Belmont) is not so much anti-establishment, as a comment on how the system is extremely flawed. As you wisely pointed out, choosing not participate in the system is a far cry from choosing not to participate at all. Many people have made and established their presence and careers online – outside of the mainstream conveyor belt.
OK, I am being a bit harsh and my opinion is, of course, somewhat biased – I am basing it on my own (and some of my friends’) experiences navigating the performance world for many years But it is impossible to ignore the fact that rather than being a potential vehicle to bring in exciting new content and performers into the arena, the system often becomes an obstacle course – stacked strongly against originality in every form. It is less about “what you can do” than weeding people out based on assumptions about what they can’t do and what they are not. It’s a viciously hierarchical system – and what someone can offer is an afterthought, frequently a non-consideration. There’s too much noise for the signal to get through.
What is wonderful about Crowdsourcing (and Social Media, in general) is that a part of the artistic obstacle course is being removed. Certainly this concept began, as you mentioned, with the advent of more accessible means of production (digital cameras, video recorders etc.) but the exposure wasn’t entirely there until Web 2.0. The value is becoming about what you do, rather than “who” you are or who you know. E.g. is your design any good (Threadless)? How about your music (Sellaband)? Failing that, is it popular? So, certainly there are pointless cat vids and frat stunts on Youtube (that’s no different than the mainstream which has no shortage of enduring stupidity – “Americas Home Videos” and the like, anyone?) – but the beauty is that a talented creator can get all the exposure he needs with a carefully executed social media plan. A talented and personable filmmaker, who doesn’t have the backing or funds to publicize and get his films into theatres can do what Belmont has so aptly demonstrated: make his work and profit outside of the mainstream. And if you don’t want to go it entirely alone, there are options as well – an unsigned musician can use something like Sellaband to fund and record her album with top people, which might have been untenable without the site and the opportunity it provides.
Most aren’t saying “Fuck the System” because that’s cool – they are saying that because they feel left out – and with good reason. For most participating in Crowdsourcing and social media, they aren’t necessarily eschewing the advantages of “a” system – they are advocating the need for more participation, greater openness, less restrictions – and being able to produce and/or watch material that has meaning to them. Amen.