Future Shock and the Challenge of Promoting the Arts on the Internet

A partial transcript of Episode 17 of THE ART MOVEMENT. To listen to the full radio show, CLICK HERE.

Last week, I talked about the Millennium Bug, which was an early scare of the internet age that threatened to end existence as we knew it on earth. I also implied, however, that its manifestation as a cultural phenomenon was equally related to the fact that people were worried about this overwhelming emergence of the internet and new technologies.

And humanity does have a tendency to deal with new things as a problem and people tend to try to think of a way in which they can protect themselves against innovations. Even the person who is the most open to change will, at some point, greet a facet of evolution that will make her or him want to turn into a ball, like a hedgehog.

And that concept reminds me of something that I read years ago. Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, which was written in 1970. It’s an amazing book where he essentially says that in the future, which is now, people who don’t understand technology will become obsolete. And they will get future shock. And that’s essentially a lot of the fear that exists today, is to become obsolete as a result of not being existentially able to cope with this future shock.

Here is how I see it. Essentially, the internet is a space. But it is a vast space, so vast that it is almost impossible to visualize it as a space. It’s even hard to conceive the internet as a space. And because it is so vast for the majority of people, what people tend to do is they tend to remain anchored to what is familiar to both to them as individuals and to them as part of a collective. Which is why, despite the fact that the internet is rightly praised as a place where people can learn about so many things, the tendency is to reward those who talk about the familiar rather than what is new to them.

And certainly, this is the case when it comes to art. And I speak from personal experience; I may take days to gather enough material to write an article about a lesser known artist like Valentin de Boulogne, who was a major figure of the Baroque era but certainly not the first name you read about when you read about the Baroque era.

But no matter how good my article is, it is not going to get as much attention as a piece as incredibly un-revealing as the one that recently came out on Leonardo having a quick eye, which literally made the rounds in all the top websites all over the world.

So, as a content creator of the arts, it can be a very disheartening experience to work your ass off, to proliferate discoveries within art history or even contemporary art only to see it get little recognition or make very little difference at all. Or to see that a banana stuck to a wall with duct tape or the latest Banksy thing is still going to get more exposure than just about anybody I have interviewed for Matt’s Art Chat, for example.

And so, that’s when as an arts promoter it can really get disheartening and be pretty hard. And this is not a new problem and of course, is not only attached to the arts but also to science or philosophy or politics. And it is a problem that affects the way in which information and education at large is distributed and the tone in which it is distributed. And it is a problem that is essentially related to our own fear of venturing out into the unknown, which is related to the fear of being alone, which is related to fear of becoming obsolete.

Which may also account for why such sayings as “Pioneers die with arrows in their backs” and “curiosity killed the cat” are still prominent to this day.

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