Push-Pull and the Republic of the Arts


“Meet John Doe”

The openness and free-flowing nature of the Internet has brought vast changes. Other technologies have teamed with it to enable the creator inside all of us to flourish beyond the wildest dreams of just two decades ago. We can reach more people with our creations than ever before, reach them swiftly, with the click of a mouse and the blink of an eye.

Prior to the invention of the Internet, the vehicles for displaying creative content were limited to a few, select gatekeepers. It was not a democracy of talent. It was an oligarchy of the invited. Contests were held and salons were created to herd the lucky few to certain destinations. Some true geniuses managed to be included among the herd. Luckily enough for posterity. But the world will never know how many brilliant artists it lost because of that herding process, that funneling, that sometimes arbitrary denial of brilliance and beauty.

Gatekeepers of one kind or another always decided who was included in the pool, and who ultimately survived.

The Internet revolution now makes it possible for millions of writers, artists, musicians, photographers and movie-makers to bypass the salons, the limited-access contests, the patronage systems and so on . . . to bring their wares directly to billions of people. I see this as a great thing. But it has its downsides, and its own limits, and the likely trajectory is that new gatekeepers will come to the fore, and that these gatekeepers will not always be democratic, diverse, open to the brilliant and the beautiful. Eventually, a new class of “taste-makers” will arise, aided by the self-serving, by corporate and government entities, by those who can co-opt the next-great-thing. This, of course, is already happening, and has been for years.

However, unlike previous societal and artistic revolutions, this one spread too quickly and too widely to be snuffed out without a truly cataclysmic and coordinated reaction. The genie, in effect, is already long out of the bottle.

Still, it will take vigilance, the proverbial eternal vigilance from all of us to protect this freedom, to make sure it is not slowly, subtly co-opted and commodified. We each have to work hard to prevent the reimposition of gatekeepers and the oligarchy of the invited.

From the movie clip above. Part of Gary Cooper’s great speech:

Why, your type’s as old as history – if you can’t lay your dirty fingers on a decent idea and twist it and squeeze it and stuff it into your own pockets, you slap it down. Like dogs, if you can’t eat something, you bury it! Why, this is the one worthwhile thing that’s come along. People are finally finding out that the guy next door isn’t a bad egg. That’s simple, isn’t it?…It may be the one thing capable of saving this cock-eyed world. Yet you sit back there on your fat hulks and tell me you’ll kill it if you can’t use it. Well, you go ahead and try. You couldn’t do it in a million years with all your radio stations and all your power, because it’s bigger than whether I’m a fake, it’s bigger than your ambitions, and it’s bigger than all the bracelets and fur coats in the world.


Push-Pull and the Republic of the Arts
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