Over the past week, I've been posting every few days about the future of the arts. None of what I brought up here was meant to be ground-breaking, but rather, was meant to be a summary of some key trends of the current moment that will likely have a profound impact on the arts (even if the trends aren't in and of themselves all that profound). I was hoping to spark some interest in the topic, and in the book where these thoughts first appeared: 20 Under 40.
In the original chapter for 20 Under 40, I ended with a conclusion that I won't print in its entirety here. Briefly, I argued that with these changes and trends come great responsibility for artists and arts organizations. We have a chance now to help shape the future not just of the arts, but of society. As I said in the book:
Perhaps the greatest threat to the digital future is society’s lack of imagination. What is needed most now is an ability to imagine what might come next, instead of trying to bend digital change to fit preconceived notions of the world. Herein lies the heart of why the arts sector must take the lead in these debates by experimenting with what’s next in technology.
The arts sector is well positioned to put forth innovations that harness the demand for participatory culture, for relationship and community building, and for connecting audiences more directly with artists. Such innovations can help people find the art and culture they desire and curate experiences that lead to discovery. They can help insure that democratic critical discourse remains an important facet of our cultural experience. Unless the arts sector takes an active role in creating the future, a new era of digital sameness may be the best we get, and our society will be the poorer for it.
My hope is that this chapter, and this series of articles on it will help spark some dialogue about the role of the arts in our future. You can check out each of the posts here, or buy the 20 Under 40 anthology here.
Editors Note: Oops, I forgot that I had promised to hint at three more key trends that I didn't cover in the book. This last bit was added after my original post:
I didn't have space in the chapter to cover the 10 things I think are vital changes. Here's the final three:
8. Diversity - The US is much more diverse than its current cultural marketplace. Arts organizations pay lip service to diversity all the time, but not enough is being done and audiences are changing and expect more options.
9. Global - We are a globally interconnected society now. I have more in common with people who share my tastes and cultural interests in Iceland (or Kenya, or....) than I do with my neighbors. Arts organizations need to think of whether they serve a global audience (not all will) and how they can do this more easily. Corporations ignore the state now, and perhaps so should we. In addition, we learn about and expect to interact with more global culture.
10. Remix - It's not just for music and video. Remix as a concept is seeping into other areas of culture and needs to be explored, encouraged and embraced by more arts organizations.
Bonus 11. Mobile - Ok, this one is obvious. Do I need to explain further?