Archive for November, 2010

Digital Serfs or Service?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Tim Berners-Lee

The Economist magazine recently published a short essay questioning whether we are all on the road to becoming serfs — digital serfs. The latest trends in consumer technology are converging toward inter-connected “life tracking” devices and applications. You can already document most aspects of your daily life from conversations to activities. One step further is the promise of cloud computing, which creates an easier way to store, deliver and consume our needs and wants.

Is it right to have our heads up in the clouds? After all, if Aristophanes could make us understand (and laugh at) the dangers of his culture’s popular and dominant sophistry (see The Clouds), shouldn’t we be skeptical of our future life in a cloud, especially one controlled by a few companies?

Will we rely on too few companies to integrate our life in digits? Will we be digital serfs to the new regimes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and a few others? In the near future, will choosing between them be more like choosing a nationality rather than just a team? Will we need digital passports to travel from one online nation to another?

And, it’s not just the companies. As Tim Berners-Lee, the Web founder, recently wrote in a “Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality” in Scientific American, “Governments — totalitarian and democratic alike — are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.” And they can rely on the networks we build and populate. After the street protests in Iran last year, the government used social media to circulate pictures of the protesters to encourage the public to identify the faces. Surely, it is too many governments’ dream to be able to track every citizen’s social network, communication, habits, and activity.

The good news is that the very mechanisms used for corporate or government control are the same ones we can use to shine light on the control. In other words, as Berners-Lee stresses, the genuine power lies with individual action and a communal understanding of service:

Now is an exciting time. Web developers, companies, governments and citizens should work together openly and cooperatively, as we have done thus far, to preserve the Web’s fundamental principles, as well as those of the Internet, ensuring that the technological protocols and social conventions we set up respect basic human values. The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine.

Serve to create: that’s a good slogan for any digital life.

- Bill Reichblum

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace

Old Story of Ugly Politics

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Censorship

Photo by sylvia ortiz domney — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Here we go again.

When governments demand loyalty, be wary. When governments go after the arts, be very wary. When governments go after the “foreign” elements in the arts, sound the alarms.

As posted in KadmusArts Culture News this week, Helen Shaw writes in Time Out about the shifting landscape of free expression in Hungary. Fidesz, the political party currently in power, has demanded that all cultural institutions post a government authored public manifesto to show their support for the national interest. The government has also advocated content recommendations for the arts. Haven’t we been down this road before?

Hungary, of course, is one of the historical cradles of internationally significant culture. The Magyar identity extends far beyond Hungary’s borders. Bánffy, Bartók, Esterházy, Kertész (André and Imre), Korda, Ligeti, Molnár, Solti, Szabó, and Tabori, to name just a few, still inspire today’s Hungarian artists as well as the world’s cultural life.

However, it appears as though Hungarian nationalism is more about identifying enemies than about celebrating accomplishment.

Back in January 2008, the Hungarian Spectrum covered the selection of the multi-talented Robert Alföldi as director of the Pécs National Theater: “Tamás Balikó, who was also among the competitors, accused the [selection] committee of cheating. And if that wasn’t enough, he added: ‘I, as a fifty-year-old, Lutheran, taxpaying citizen with three diplomas, a heterosexual theater director and a man, can state that cheating is a sin.’ It is impossible to find out from Balikó what his Lutheranism and heterosexuality have to do with the case. Except, of course, if he thinks that there is something wrong with Alföldi’s religion and sexuality.”

Do we really live in a world where being Jewish and gay is still so problematic? Do we really live in a world where governments still feel the need to control artistic work?

Hungary’s Géza Csáth once wrote, “…I somewhere read that the greatest happiness is the one that doesn’t build on hope.” We don’t need to hope for governments to change; we only need to point out the historical consequences of what happens when they don’t.

- Bill Reichblum

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace

Smarter Audiences. Better Art.

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Antonio Pappano

Art for art’s sake is so last century.

Classical music audiences who dress up, fall asleep, and then give a standing ovation? Dance audiences whose reference point is the time they were in a Martha Graham class? Theatre audiences who think it’s ever so cutting edge to watch something with no story, no characters, and no ability to articulate a language? That’s all so yesterday.

For the sake of art, art’s imperative is to create informed audiences.

As posted in the KadmusArts daily arts news feed this week, a study of 24 to 36 year olds attending classical music concerts came up with an obvious, if too-often overlooked summary: young audiences blame their own lack of knowledge as an obstacle to enjoying the music.

In other words, the less you know about something the less you can enjoy it. Sure, the knowledge transfer can be supported by educational systems and family habits. However, the primary responsibility lies with the artists and arts organizations themselves.

Audiences need context. They want to learn. After all, the very reason audiences go to a live event is to expand their palette of knowledge, experience, and understanding — of our condition and of themselves.

A few words in a program is no longer good enough. Easy access to the digital world means that it should be easy for the arts to provide a knowledge base for their audiences before, during and after the performance.

Antonio Pappano has the right idea. The music director of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilla hosts a TV series tracing the history of Italian opera. His passion is infectious. His teaching is inspiring. The combination makes one want to rush out and buy a ticket.

Even rock stars are doing the right thing. They often give their fans a backstage experience and introduce songs by talking about what inspired the writing. Their art makes us feel as though they are singing our own stories of love, loss, and gain. The days of having high art accessible only to the cognoscenti did no one any good.

Unfortunately, too many artists and arts organizations are too focused on how many tweets they’ve posted, how many friends they have, and how hip their social network is. That’s a mistake. It feels good, but it does nothing to build a paying audience.

Let your audiences take care of the social network. The obligation of the artists and their organizations is to give audiences something to talk about, something to post, and something to share.

- Bill Reichblum

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace

Art is Hard. Respect is Good.

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Howard Fishman

Do you have what it takes to be an audience member?

Have you ever thought about just how hard it is to get up on a stage, stand in front of a group of strangers, and tell a story? And not just any story, but one’s own story?

KadmusArts features established, as well as up-and-coming festival artists everyday. We highlight a wide array of artists, including those whose work is devoted to building peace, who try to capture the spirit of ancient culture, and who overcome incredible obstacles to create, to name just three examples.

Last night, I caught the performance of one of the thousands of artists who has been featured on KadmusArts.com, Howard Fishman. You can hear one of Fishman’s great songs as the accompaniment to our 2009 Festival Year in Review video. Fishman has just released three new albums at the same time: one inspired by his time in New Orleans; one by his time in Romania; and one by that old muse of all perfect poetry, love.

In addition to a startling combination of wisdom and innocence in his writing, he has a purity of performance. There is a direct connection between the audience and the stage. His band gives you the feeling that it would be the same spirit whether performed in a small club or in a large arena. They are that good. So, too, was the audience.

Good art happens when an artist is not only willing to tell you their story, but when an audience is willing to listen. Think about how hard it is to have the courage, determination and creativity to be an artist. The easiest thing to give back to an artist is respect, a willingness to see, hear, and feel what they have to offer.

We seem to be living in a world where giving others their due might be slipping away. Common courtesy can go a long way to helping make someone’s world a bit better. Being willing to respect others can go even farther to making everyone’s world a bit better. You don’t have to like all art, but there is value in giving some respect to all artists, at the very least for what they are trying to accomplish. Not all artists will — or should — succeed. But, there is something genuinely noble in the attempt. After all, there are still too many places in the world where an artist is not allowed to sing, tell, or show their story.

On a cold night, a group gathers in a basement to share someone’s story, hear some music, and maybe even capture a little enlightenment. That’s not such a bad way to spend a few hours.

From the audience to the artist, give a little respect and you might get back a whole lot more. So, what festival are you going to this week?

- Bill Reichblum

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace