Crowdsourcing and the Evolving Relationship Between Artist and Audience
The artist and audience relationship is evolving as a result of technological advancement. The internet is the most recent technological manifestation of this as artists and audiences are using crowdsourcing, a method of harnessing the power of many in order to perform a task, in the creative process. This research project interrogates the current and future relationship between the artist and audience. This is accomplished through my exploration of the relationship between the artist and audience, the historical technological arc of that relationship and by providing examples of creative endeavors that utilize crowdsourcing. The artist and audience have a reciprocal relationship that can be explored by using different methods. One is the theoretical approach, which sees the audience as a critical part of the artistic process because without it the artist’s creation is never fully realized and remains a part of the artist’s internal creative process. Another is through practice, like in Boal’s (1985) “Theatre of the Oppressed,” where the actors interacted with the audience by coaxing them into becoming part of the productionTechnological advances are a key aspect in the evolution of the relationship between the artist and the audience. New tools create new environments for both the artist and audience and redefine the ways in which the two relate. The phonograph and the radio both are examples of technology that have affected this relationship. The phonograph introduced a new way for the audience to access a performance and provided an opportunity to expose audiences to a broader scope of music than what was offered before. The radio also provided the audience the convenience of listening to a performance in a location of their choice, but the radio provided a different way to be part of an audience community. The most recent technological advance is the internet, and especially Web 2.0. This development allows people to connect with one another in extensive and profound ways. It has carried over to the artist and audience relationship where the audience is assuming a new role. In this new role they have the same advantages that the phonograph and radio allowed but they can go beyond some of the previous boundaries and interactively create content and become part of the art. Crowdsourcing, as mentioned previously, is a method of harnessing the power of the crowd in order to perform a task, and is one method that both artists and audiences are engaging in to produce art. Crowdsourcing was fostered in the new environment of disintermediation/decentralization that Web 2.0 facilitates. This environment is where the gatekeepers of the old infrastructure have lost their power due to the internet, and new technologies and networks have presented the public with seemingly unlimited choice and flexibility. There are also those that see a danger in crowdsourcing. This danger is that crowdsourcing can adversely alter the creative process by redefining the role of the artist and the audience and also that expert knowledge will be devalued while the views of the “crowd” will be revered. Some creative endeavors engage audiences as active and willing participants in artistic works. Others tap the knowledge of the “crowd” to create their art without cueing the audience into their participation in the artwork. Creative endeavors such as Ridley Scott’s new project, ‘Life in a Day’ (Sweney, 2010) and Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir (Whitacre, 2011) are two examples of a fully engaged audience. “Bicycle Built for 2,000” (Koblin & Massey, 2009) and “Narcissus Regret” (Eyelevel BQE, 2010) areexamples of art that didn’t cue the audience into the process. While the latter works are crowdsourced, they differ from the previous projects which invited aware participants into the creation process. The relationship between artist and audience is affected by crowdsourcing not only in regards to the creation and facilitation of arts experiences but also in regards to funding those experiences. This approach of using crowdsourcing to fund artists is called crowdfunding. Crowdfunding occurs without any intermediary: artistic entrepreneurs “tap the crowd” raising money directly from individuals. Crowdfunding helps fund creative projects by utilizing Web 2.0, and facilitates a financial relationship, between audience and artist. The audience’s ability to have a louder voice and greater impact, along with their use of Web 2.0 tools have brought crowdsourcing and crowdfunding forward as a legitimate and now common place method for artistic creation. Artists and audiences who can successfully negotiate this tension are most likely to create work with lasting value.