Thursday, June 17, 2010

BBBC Day 5 Art Linden in da house

NOTE:  Today's topic is anything I want it to be so we're talking about Art Linden.

Somewhere in the excitement of the Linden exchange fluctuation, instability, panic, I mean normal market cycle I missed the blog post on the Linden Endowment for the Arts. I bet you did too.

Linden Lab announced that it was establishing the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) program to help "support, encourage and highlight" Second Life® artists and their work in February and it's been pretty quiet since then. Big announcements followed by lengthy gaps of silence are fertile ground for speculation.

There was scant detail on the initial blog post about the Endowment, but in May by CEO Mark Kingdon (M Linden) speaking at the Metameets conference talked about his perception of myths (his word) he was tracking in the blogosphere.

The first of these myths, as Mark described, was the perception that the Lab was focusing on new users versus existing users and that the Lab had an undue focus on social tools versus tools for the creative class (his words). Mark acknowledged that he helped create that myth and wanted to debunk it.

70 chickens in every pot
During his Metameets talk Mark ackowledged "the creative class is a powerful force" and pointed to shared media, the (future) mesh import capability and the Linden Endowment for the Arts were all indications that the Lab was supporting the current creator class of Residents.

Mark outlined that the LEA was a division of labor model; the Linden contribution overall was going to be land "maybe 70 sims, or something" for a new arts center, the selected LEA committee would curate works and the creative class would of course, create. I think it's fair to say all a lot of people heard out of that conversation was "70 sims", but then again there wasn't a lot of other details.

Oceans 11
Other than a sneak peek of the initial meeting, the make up of the LEA committee has been largely a tinfoil hat game, but as of today the mystery players have been revealed. 

The current LEA consists of a band of eleven made up of: a former arts blogger, art gallery and installment managers, a variety of artists, and a music composer/producer. The list and bios of the LEA committee members can be found here.

Gooooooal (sorry, too much #WorldCup)
Yesterday's blog post from Niko Linden shed more light the goals of the LEA:
  1. Provide a starting point for artists in Second Life and for those interested in art to make connections and display their work
  2. Encourage and cultivate art and artists within Second Life
  3. Foster community, creativity, and innovation among artists and all residents interested in art.
  4. Provide a way for artists to not only sell and promote their art but also to choose to donate it for linden preservation (optional)
  5. Collaborate with existing art regions, galleries, exhibits and performance spaces to help nuture their valuable participation in SL arts
I like the starting point for artists goal. This was the kind of thing I imagined when I talked about world views and developing resonant experiences for new users. It makes a real connection between a new comers "Hey I'm an artist, where's the art?" and Second Life as a means of artistic expression with communities of artists and art lovers.

I really like # 3 and # 5 as goals, but they are a bit tricky to measure and is likely going to be a contentious matter to the larger Resident population if it's not completely transparent.  In the past, things like closed groups, exclusive memberships, embargoes, lack of breadth or coverage, and half measures have served as anti-patterns, but I trust the LEA will sort that out right from the beginning.

As for # 4, don't artists already have a way to sell and promote their art?  Why isn't that in world, via classifieds and storefronts or via XStreetSL, as it is for all Residents?  What's unique to "art" that doesn't apply to every other virtual good? This has me befuddled.

The new maths:  70 sims - 100 employees = 4-5 sims
The last bit of today's announcement is a note that the arts center will open with a central hub joined to 4-5 sims with room to grow. I don't know if Mark heard the Resident rumblings about the initial size of the commitment of "maybe 70 sims, or something", or if it seemed exorbitant in light if the recent Linden Lab layoffs, or if it's just easier to start small and scale as you go.

No matter the reason, it seems the LEA is off and running and I am looking forward to the first TBA bi-annual art show.

Free Financing *for those that qualify
I'm not really sure how I feel about the LEA conceptually. I love the arts and creativity of Second Life - it's what keeps me here - but I despise artificial classifications. How does one qualify as "an artist"? Are artists good curators? What makes a good curator?

I don't think the Lab can host every bit of "art" from everyone that wants to apply - so that's where the LEA committee comes in. I am admittedly wary of curation by committee as a model of success, but how would you measure the committee's success?  How will people react when their art application is denied, or how will the LEA interpret the curation guidelines? I cannot imagine that this is going to be an easy job for the eleven members of the LEA.

About that Endowment idea
Many towns, cities, countries, etc spend money to preserve, protect and promote local art. It's a symbol of the culture and can be an economic driver via tourism. But I still have a few unanswered questions about the endowment idea in general. Will there be a Linden Endowment for the Humanities? What about one for Education? Will role-play communities follow? I can't see why you would stop at the "Arts" when the landscape of Second Life is so rich.

My inclination at the moment is to lobby for an Endowment for Preservation of Resources Unique to Second Life. (Hint: I think that would be Residents ;-) .)

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