Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Evolution of the Relationship Between Artist and Audience

The relationship between the artist and the audience has evolved dramatically, specifically in the last decade, due to social media and other technological advances.  Not only is the threshold to an artist's personal life more readily available to their following than ever, but the audience's reaction to their work is extremely accessible.

The later is a great tool for an artist who's performances are not on stage to be able to hear where in their work elicits "ooh"s and "ah"s.  Live tweeting is a huge part of this.  Fans of a television show will post their reactions on Twitter while the show's being aired, discussing their favorite and least favorite parts with other "tweeters".  The live tweeting culture has transformed the entertainment world from an isolated chasm that is a lonely T.V screen, to a shared experience.  "Now, thanks to "second screens" and the social media they convey, the TV audience can talk among themselves. As they engage in the new pastime of virtual co-viewing, they can express their likes and dislikes in a massive, global back-and-forth." (Shazier Moore from Standard Examiner).  Not only does this allow for a brand new form of expression and social connection, but it helps the writers shape the show in analogue with its fans.  "But the Twitter feeds aren't just to promote new shows, new episodes and teasers -- [Paul] Lee..." (ABC Entertainment President) "...went on to say what the networks get back from it: 'We literally get feedback before, during and after launch. It is a critical tool for us to understand how our audience is responding to our shows.'"

On the other hand, this excessive sharing leaves the internet littered with spoilers -- which, of course, makes many people who have yet to tune in, angry and feeling robbed of the surprises that are the saturation of entertainment.  Daniel Carson from Pajiba says: "Live-tweeting a show, or offering instant plot feedback as if everyone in the world watched with you, is representative of the "First!" culture that's sprung up online in the past decade-plus, and it's pointless. If you really want to talk spoilers online, get a blog and direct people there via Twitter."  He also talks about how live tweeting ruins the viewers experience of actually sitting down and watching the show; when their eyes are glued to their phone coming up with witty hashtags, they're no longer invested in the show itself.  And of course, this lack of focus ends up ruining the experience for other viewers around the world.

Along with the conversation among viewers being opened up, artists and celebrities are now able (and encouraged) to interact with their fan base.  "There's been a noticeable push to get stars interacting with their fans on Twitter, and Twitter even has celebrity outreach teams and "help" pages to get those TV stars and personalities started and in on the conversation in a smart way." (Maggie Furlong from HuffPost TV).  This isn't just happening on Twitter either, and this isn't just a T.V thing.  Instagram and Facebook are also huge social media sites where celebrities post updates on their whereabouts, upcoming album releases, tour dates -- and most importantly, "selfies." See Miley Cyrus' Instagram.  The "selfie" has become a huge mean of making the interaction of celebrity and average human intimate, letting fans in on their personal lives, and showing the world they are just like us: self centered and bored.  
The "selfie", like Twitter and other forms of media synergy between Artist and Audience, is a great way for celebrities to relate to their fans.  See James Franco's NY Times article: The Meaning of the Selfie.  

Not only have our computers changed our own experience of the entertainment world (ie. live tweeting), they have created a whole other branch of entertainment in and of itself.  There is a whole segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live called "Mean Tweets", where a celebrity reads aloud mean tweets written about them and occasionally mutters a witty response -- sometimes the tweets are even sung.  There was one episode on Jimmy Kimmel where the band "The Decemberists" sung various Youtube comments, and The Tonight Show has a segment called Hashtags where Jimmy Fallon picks a hashtag like #AwkwardBreakup and people tweet responses with that hashtag, and he reads them out loud on the show.  None of this would be possible without our expanding technology and online culture.  

Personally, I don't think we have to decide whether the brand new -- and ever growing -- technology based relationship between the artist and the audience is "good" or "bad" -- whether it's beneficial to the entertainment industry or detrimental.  One can't argue that the easy access of a variety of opinions due to social media doesn't bring the artist's perspective closer to that of their readership -- but there is no doubt that so much sharing can spoil the experience for others.  It is effortlessly clear that the ability for celebrities to share so much with their fans online creates a tighter and more intimate bond between Artist and Audience, deepening the liking for our favorite stars.  

However -- is it possible that being too invested in the lives of strangers is dampening our own life experience and making it harder to enjoy what's in front of us?  Is live tweeting ruining our experience of the show itself?  Is it possible to be too connected to those outside our immediate scape?  These are questions I can't begin to answer because like most things -- it just depends.  There are infinite ways to use the tools we have; infinite ways to abuse them and infinite ways to use them profitably.  There is no doubt that the relationship between the artist and the audience has evolved incredibly due to technological advances, and it is up to us to make as best use of this as possible.  The power lays not in the hands of the social media itself, but in the hands of the people using it.

Monday, March 2, 2015


This video is a mashup of various clips of Obama I found on Youtube played along with Jason Derulo's "Wiggle."  It's fair use because I'm not selling it and all footage I got was already online and in public access.  My intentions of this piece is just to make people laugh; I took two very different things (the president of the United States) and a dumb pop songs about butts and put them together, in hopes that the juxtaposition would be humorous.  My video is very different from the referenced work, and the song and the footage were definitely not made for each other.

The process of creating this was pretty simple.  I went on Youtube and searched "Obama dancing" and got various results -- some of them actual clips of him dancing, and other's photoshopped version -- and put "Wiggle" over it.  I replayed the clips over and over and edited to the music.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Film Genres - Borrowing vs. Stealing

I very much enjoyed reading both articles, "Copywrong" and "Something Borrowed", and watching the documentary "Good Copy Bad Copy."  I agreed with both of the authors on the points they made and found everything they said extremely fascinating.  I came away from this assimilation of knowledge and cerebration, confused in many ways, but decided in one: People steal every day and that's okay.  BUT there is a very very very very fine line between good stealing and bad stealing.  Stealing that is progressive and gives the culture something new, and stealing that benefits nobody but yourself.  And it's our job, in this technology robust world, to figure out just where that line is.

I do think that many artists borrow as a fundamental part of the artistic/creative process and I believe they should have the freedom to do so.  Everything has been thought of under the sun so it's impossible to not steal or "borrow" things when you're an artist.  Like both articles essentially said, it is hard to define "steal" and "borrow" and there is a slim grey area between knowing when what you're taking is public property (words, colors, notes) and to what extent of combining those words, colors, notes, etc. does it become private property, or something that you cannot take?  Everyone is allowed to use the word "let" and the word "be", but is naming a song you wrote "Let it be" copyright infringement?   It is hard to give this question a yes or no answer, but I do believe that it would be nearly impossible to make art if there was no inspiration -- and when you're inspired, no matter what you say, you are stealing something; whether it's from one place or a million places, whether it's a concept or an entire composition.  That being said, it is not okay to publish an entire article or copy an entire book and name it as your own.

The authors in both articles talk about the differences between "derivative" borrowing and "transformative" borrowing -- derivative meaning you're taking something and using it to create the exact same thing, and transformative meaning you're using it to make something else.  In the article Something Borrowed, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that derivative borrowing is where we cross the line into theft, and transformative borrowing is merely using something as a source of inspiration.  Gladwell says: "Old words in the service of a new idea aren’t the problem. What inhibits creativity is new words in the service of an old idea."  Who ultimately determines which kind of borrowing -- derivative or transformative -- is right and which is wrong? Good question. The answer is: the law. We can talk about this until we are blue in the face, but at the end of the day it's the court that puts the thieves in prison for stealing and un-cuffs the "inspired artists."

Appropriation is not limited to art and writing.  People are constantly stealing ideas, inventions, and material things.  So much in life is stollen.  When you name your baby Sally, you are stealing that name from a person you met named Sally or a book you read involving a character with that name.  When you wear a fedora you are stealing Jason Mraz's signature look.  What's the difference between selling Crest toothpaste as your own and using it to brush every morning?  Stealing is part of our daily routine, part of our culture -- and more importantly, how artists (and how we) survive.

I am not saying that if somebody stole a piece of writing of mine and published it, I would be unmoved.  In fact, I would be furious.  What I am saying is you can't pronounce stealing as always wrong or always right; it literally depends on the specific situation.  Think prohibition.  Drinking was completely outlawed and everyone went INSANE.  They said: Drinking is "bad" for you.  But guess what?  Drinking is neither "good" for you or "bad" for you; it's all about moderation and looking at every situation on it's own podium.  Some things just DEPEND, and I think this is what these articles are saying.

I am constantly being influenced by other people's work.  I have never outright stolen someone else's anything, as in taken their work word by word and claimed it as mine.  I do, however, constantly look at other people's writing styles (Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Donna Tart, Charles Duhigg) and imitate them in my own voice.  I look at filmmakers I admire (Vincent Gallo, Woody Allen) and copy their sense of humor or shot styles, while telling my own story.  This is all transformative borrowing, but not even in the full use of the word, because I'm not actually taking anything.  There is such a wide range of the word appropriate and if being "influenced" is apart of that spectrum, then everybody steals every day.  Influence is everything; everything is an influence.  If we write a story about a bagel, are we stealing from the guy who invented bagels in Poland back in 1610?  

Authorship is constantly being redefined, especially now, during the boom of technology.  There is a whole art form called "sampling" where people take music from ten, twenty different copyrighted songs and fuse them into one mp3, and BAM it's now theirs.  What if that mashup becomes a hit?  Do none of the original songwriters get credit?  If you take a photograph of a painting, who owns it: you or the painter?  This is the age of the remix, the mashup, the reinvention, and it's almost impossible to define who the actual creators are.  Who gets credit?  I think we all do.