Disruptive Innovation in The Arts

By Limor Shiponi

Through the past year I’ve seen so many references to the “democratization” of the arts by aid of technology and social media, that eventually I had to set my mind to look into these declarations.

Paraphrasing on the definition of Democracy on Wikipedia:

Via technology and social media, the governing structures of the arts have moved to a form in which all eligible participants have an equal say in the decisions that affect the artistic expressions in their lives. Technology and social media allow them to participate equally – either directly or through elected representatives – in the proposal, development, and creation of artistic formats and content. This encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of artistic self-expression.

How do you define ‘eligible participants’ in relation to using technology and social media in the arts? part of the definition will have to be – have electricity. Well, 20% of the world’s population doesn’t. Another part will have to be – own some sort of a personal computing device and have internet access. Track data about the digital divide and you’ll realize the number of ‘eligible participants’ narrows down. Not so democratic… anyway, I won’t be too tough on definitions.

I know what people mean because I read it everywhere. Taking an example from storytelling, people declare that finally the authority has been taken from the hands of literary dictators and put into the hands of everyone to express themselves. With the aid of a mobile app you can now ‘create’ a story in minutes and share it with the world; in a couple of months you can turn into a ravishing transmaedia storytelling artist and work your way into lucrative productions; you can pay for a technology that will multiply your ‘storytelling’ power enabling your content to pierce the sky of the internet. Cool.

But all the above have nothing to do with storytelling or with any other art. It’s just taking a piece, a feature, a symptom and calling it the entire thing. It’s taking the idea of disruptive innovation and twisting it completely.

According to Prof. Clayton Christensen, disruptive innovation “transforms a product that historically was so expensive and complicated that only a few people with a lot of money and a lot of skill had access to it, a disruptive innovation makes it so much more affordable and accessible that a much larger population have access to it.”

Well, seems to me that historically, the arts were much more accessible before priorities changed in favor of science and technology. Governments need to return into the systems all the budgets that enabled education in the arts with the tools, skills, core definitions and processes of the arts.

How is that for disruptive innovation?

Limor Shiponi Storytelling

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