• ‘Quality’ in the age of social media: is it only in the eye of the beholder?

    My current research interests revolve around new approaches to interpretation and mobile content and experience development at museums and cultural sites. One of the key learnings I’ve taken away from this work is that social media is not about the technology, but rather about a kind of engagement that creates “a relation, a sense of collectivity, a coming community”. (Szylak 2009) This has led me to ask questions like, “What is a Museum? Who is a Curator? In the age of social media.”

    Particularly in fine art contexts, we see a lot of tension between the expertise of the curatorial/museum voice vs. the ‘citizen curator’ and crowdsourced content. Although ostensibly an advocate for a ‘social media’ kind of curatorial practice, I have been fascinated to find that I’m not immune from this conflict: at times I find myself coming down, rather awkwardly, on the side of ‘quality’ and the curator’s authority. At others, I am inspired by the courage of artists to take risks and even fail very publicly as a means of opening up new ways of seeing and engaging others in dialogue.

    So at the moment my thinking about this is taking me down the direction of a deep semantics of the art experience: if art’s unique role is to give us a way of articulating and reading something that we cannot express or understand through any other medium, then in the age of social media we can start to talk about art as platform, born of collaboration with the very audiences for whom the work is intended – as a radical form of social media.

    Similarly the curatorial role in an art context can take on a very particular inflection – something akin to opening up new ontologies for audiences, which requires both a certain expertise and authority, and a strong dialectic relationship with the museum’s audiences. In order to realize the power of the art object and experience, art interpretation needs to be about more than filling in gaps (in knowledge, in language) but also about opening up spaces in which new meanings can emerge…

    Perhaps these insights are also applicable outside of the fine arts field? I’d like to hear what the ThatCampers think!

1 Comment

  1. Very thought-provoking.

    I’ve been exploring the ways that fan writing often employs narrative structures that are characteristic of oral literature. Scholarship on the oral tradition largely considers these narrative strategies to function as memory aids, allowing a storyteller to perform a long work without a written text.

    But fan writers don’t need memory aids to tell a story, and the two genres also have in common the quality of being able to easily interact with their audiences. I haven’t gotten as far as hypothesizing how or why an interactive creative environment would produce certain kinds of narratives, but I think it must be connected. I’m curious to hear what the artists you referred to, who invite public involvement in their work, have discovered about how it impacts their art.

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