co-creating contemporary culture

November 18, 2007

Ben Cameron’s keynote address to the Southern Arts Federation contains some of the most compelling insights into the state of contemporary culture and how co-creation is an invitation rather than a threat. Read the complete presentation here.

But just when we think we are beginning to catch up, the economy has shifted again. Those who wish to survive must think, not merely of experience, but of participation—an economy where value will no longer be consumed but where value will be co-created. Let me say that again: in the future, value will no longer be consumed. Value will be co-created.
We already see the power of consumer participation in other industries. The monolithic power of the restaurant critic has been shattered by Zagat where the collective consumer passes judgment and defines a restaurant value. “Dancing with the Start,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “American Idol”—all are predicated on the active involvement of the consumer.
We are clearly witnessing a veritable tsunami of creative energy unleashed through technology. We are seeing the emergence of a class of amateurs doing work at a professional level—a group dubbed elsewhere as Pro Ams—a group whose work populated You Tube, independent film festivals, dance competitions and more. And knowing that we graduate 400,000 MFA’s in this country every year, this highly skilled, professionally capably yet a vocationally artistic pool is destined to increase—a time predicted perhaps by our Secretary of State, a trained concert pianist who continues to play chamber music with professional musicians, even as her career has called her elsewhere.
This sense of co-creation is an invitation—an invitation to dismantle irrelevant distinctions between professional and amateur, a status once exalted as more precious than professionalism, capturing as it does in its etymological roots the love of practice. This is an invitation to dismantle arts education programs and replace them with community engagement programs. This is an invitation to seeing our mission, not in creating products to be consumed, but in offering experiences that will serve as springboards to our audience’s own creativity—to nurture what Henry Jenkins calls a Convergence Culture, utilizing multi-platform narrative and marketing, inviting everyday people to reassert their right to actively contribute to their culture, channeling creative energies to come together. This is a call to a field to see ourselves, not as presenters, perhaps, but as activators, engagers, animators of creative energy.

Hat tip to Andrew Taylor