More stories from the crossroads of technology and culture...


Increasingly, artists are using technology to break down old hierarchies

From The Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2011

On Christmas, Damon Albarn offered a new album to fans of his band the Gorillaz at no cost; he'd made the 15 tracks on his iPad during an October tour. New Year's Eve saw MIA release a new mix tape which begins with the phrase "we chose the right format," an ideological swipe at the idea that pop is served best by the industry-marketing machine. A few days later, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips told a reporter of the group's plan to record and share a song a month instead of producing another traditional album. "We want to try to live through our music as we create it," he said, "instead of it being a collection of the last couple years of our lives."  These are just a few examples of musicians defying the norm as pop continues to evolve away from product and toward process. This is part of a larger trend, touching all corners of the culture. Increasingly, artists across genres and media are excitedly experimenting with ways to break down old hierarchies between high and low, casual and formal -- even finished and unfinished work.  David Hockney's been selling works realized on his iPad; film and television bigwigs Joss Whedon and Bryan Singer are creating online serials that reflect the intimacy and healthy amateurism of YouTube. Blog-to-bestseller authors Julie Powell ("Julie & Julia") and Emily Benet ("Shop Girl Diaries") proved that sharing daily intimacies can draw in more than casual readers.  And more established writers, including Susan Orlean, Margaret Atwood and Roger Ebert have proved that social media can at least approach the realm of art.


Crowd-sourcing erases the line between art and audience

From The Christian Science Monitor, January 14, 2011

It used to be that artists painted, sculpted, or collaged images drawn from the world or their imaginations into original compositions.  Beginning around 2002, artists began experimenting with how Web 2.0 culture (browsing, sharing, producing, and aggregating data) could merge with art.  Now the notion of art as an expression of one person's vision is crumbling, invaded by art as a group activity.  "There's definitely a groundswell for this type of work," says Randall Szott, coeditor of a journal called 127 Prince.  The impulse to work collectively is not new. "The '60s avant-garde was very interested in eliminating the boundaries between artist and audience," says Andrea Grover at Carnegie-Mellon University. "Having the audience become cocreators is not a new impulse. There's simply a new platform."  While some might see wiki-art as outsourcing the artist's unique vision to a mob of amateurs, Mr. Szott disagrees: "One person's 'dumbing down' is another person's 'making it accessible.'" According to Sharon Butler at Eastern Connecticut State University, "It's actually 'smartening up.' Participatory art becomes more conceptual, less craft-driven, and more idea-driven. It speaks to you intellectually."  It also can inspire creativity in people who might never dabble in art.


London opera companies to present first cinema & TV transmissions in 3D

From The Guardian, January 8, 2011

New ground will be made in the increasingly competitive field of opera and cinema when the English National Opera's new production of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia is beamed out live in 3D.  The ENO is collaborating with Sky Arts on something of a broadcasting first. On 23 February those people with a 3D TV will be able to watch the opera live on Sky 3D while those without will be able to see it live in 3D at about 15-20 cinemas.  The broadcast will pip the 3D - but not live - cinematic release of the Royal Opera House's production of Carmen on 5 March.  The move in to 3D by the UK's leading opera houses reflects the runaway success of opera at the pictures which was pioneered by the Met in New York. It is part of a wider ambition of attracting new audiences - the loose message being that you don't have to be old, rich or posh to enjoy opera.  For people without 3D technology the production [of Lucrezia Borgia]will be broadcast live on Sky Arts 2 (HD) and be shown in 2D at other cinemas at a later date.


In the UK, 'Classic Album Sundays' reclaim the live listening experience

From BBC News, January 18, 2011

A growing number of music-lovers unhappy about the way album tracks are enjoyed in a pick-and-mix fashion have decided to take action.  "Classic Album Sundays" treat our best-loved records like great symphonies and are being set up in London, Scotland and Wales. Groups of music fans sit in front of a vinyl turntable, with the best speakers they can afford, dim the lights and listen to a classic album all the way through. It is a topic that has been making the papers. Pink Floyd went to court to try to protect the integrity of albums such as Dark Side of the Moon. For music critics such as Neil McCormick of the Daily Telegraph they were totally justified. "These are works of art at their greatest level. You can pick up a Dickens book and read a little bit of it and get some pleasure but you will not get the same pleasure as you would picking it up and reading it from beginning to end."  But to Peter Robinson of the website Pop Justice this is [merely] the past speaking.  "Most albums, you've got a pretty good idea. The bad songs are pretty bad, you know. We're busy people. Let's just get rid of them."  Every album he owns is split, analysed and re-ordered. This, he says, is progress. The listener is in control and we do not have to sit through bad music.


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A new service allows nonprofits to raise money through credit & debit card swipes

Posted on, January 11, 2011

For all the swiping you do with your credit and debit cards, shouldn't something good come out of it (other than new shoes)?  Enter SwipeGood, a service so simple it's hard to believe it didn't exist before.  Once you enroll one of your cards in the brand new venture, SwipeGood will round up the dollar amounts on all your purchases and at the end of the month donates that spare change to a charity that you've designated.  Spend $20.54 at Target one day? At the end of the month, the extra 46 cents could go to [a] favorite cause, all without you having to do anything.  Steli Efti explained that he and his two co-founders talked a lot about the process of giving to charity. "It's a process that seems to have a lot of friction in it," he says. "Most people want to give," he continued, "but there's so much decision-making that sometimes we don't end up giving even though we intend to."  Efti and his partners started playing around with the concept of donating loose change, then began thinking about how they could use advances in technology to scale the age-old approach.  The average SwipeGood user will end up contributing about $20 to charity a month, Efti said.  After launching with just American Express cards and a handful of charity partners, SwipeGood is adding major banks and the ability for users to choose their favorite nonprofits. 

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