Fig. 1. Amanda Palmer TED Talk
A fellow student on H818 The networked Practitioner found this 13 minute TED talk from Amanda Palmer who secured $1.2m in crowdsouring to record an album. I reflect on the significance of her life story and perspective on asking for, trusting and giving. It isn't a collaborative endeavour where the crowd take part, but rather closer to a performer seeking recompense from an audience that permits them to do more of the same.
I doubt 'crowd funding' will kill of the X Factor.
Personaly I get what she is saying and will press on with a crowd sourcing project - a few people saying they'd put in $200 encourages me. I need to raise about $20,000 to digitise video 'archive' I shot as an undergraduate in the 1980s. That's just the start of it. Self-funding short-films that cost £10,000 to make for £500 TV rights doesn't work for anyone. In 1999 when I started to blog 'we' paired up with a designer who did the platform and coding for free ... but we'd ask for donations.
These generally came from the same people who were trying to make a go of this new medium so I guess the funds were circulating in a closed community - or, what I think is the case, for those who create there are 96% others who partake, or consume.
Like the trobadors.
What Amanda Palmer expresses IS common to much that is created on the web, certainly, for its earliest days of 'share and share alike' that I had felt had long gone. This sense of connection with people though comes from pleasing that fraction of a huge population.
Fig.2. Amanda Palmer in her days as the 8ft Bride living statue
Personally I have never given money to a living statue, though I have never shouted abuse at them either. I have however busked in my teens, even getting into bars and restaurants to do a set and by default found people wanted to pay me when I sat in parks drawing and would do portraits - I couldn't part with the drawings as I needed them for my A'Level portfolio. But I personally liked the sensation and drew satisfaction for doing something that others enjoyed that they couldn't do themselves - perhaps this explains my love for performance and theatre, another activity I long ago quit in favour of efforts to get and keep 'that job' that people yelling from cars would talk about.
I wonder if this too explains the inclination of educators to 'do it for free', at least from the security of tenure with a college, school or university?
My father in law is an 85 year old academic who has 'given it away' all his life, going way, way beyond allotted 'hours' as a tutor ... the consequence is that he does have hundreds turn out to 'gigs' and 'fund raisers' for his net project. So, interestingly, I think there is a lesson here that has a good deal to do with openness in education.
This isn't the same as collaboration though.
An audience gives their time, their presence, or food, or a sofa to sleep on - even money when it is asked for, and even inspite of not asking for it in the case of the $10 from the bloke who burned Amanda's CD that he had been given as a gift.
Openness, I wonder, from characters such as Amanda, is a psychological need for some and a requirement in society. We are still, as human beings, pre-urban, pre-monetised, where in a self-supporting community a community of people could meet all their needs - including the need to be entertained and taken out of our heads. Perhaps an anthropologist would describe Amanda Palmer as a natural 'witch doctor'. Amanda wonders if 'the internet is taking us back, about a few people loving us enough' - to a sense of shared society and community.
I like the comparison between sleeping on someone's couch and crowd surfing (though it wasn't her on the couch in this story). THAT is more usual, and I've done this too, hitching through France in my teens (again), on more than one occasion we were taken home, given a meal and either allowed to put our tent up in a garden or given the couch to sleep on.
So how does this explain or justify 'crowd sourcing'?
It comes down to trust. Which also means having a thick skin or ignoring some of the vitriol written in the comments to this TED lecture - nothing like controversy to get the fingers typing.
'The perfect tools won't help us (I'm paraphrasing) if we can't face each other and give and receive fearlessly and ask without shame'. Amanda Palmer, TED Talk 12:11
But will this mean that like Cacofinix some musicians will play even when they don't have a commercial future?
The number of buskers who deserve my £1 are rare ... sometimes I give them £1 because I admire their nerve. Sometimes they too should keep quiet - they might get more as a living statue. I'll have to go and listen to Amanda Palmer's music now. This isn't sustainable for the film industry ... how can a movie costing $200m make its money back on handouts? Or is crowdsourcing and handouts an alternative means of funding?
I'll know when I've tried it.
If educators are funded by the state, from taxation, are they living on hand outs? Is the BBC a product of this culture of hand outs too? If during a MOOC participants are asked to pay what they can afford will this permit those who can't pay to continue thanks to the largesse of those who can and want to?
I'm off to make a donation to a friend who has spent his life writing - and to a lesser or greater degree getting published. How else can we enjoy commentators?
Couchsurfing IS my father in law staying with his former pupils whenever he travels to north America or continental Europe - they want to put him up, and on a lecturer's pension he couldn't travel otherwise. He didn't need the Internet to develop this crowd either - though it makes it easier to be in touch these days.
In education the Amanda Palmer as lecturer would put on a free gig and then take the hat around - those who could pay might pay over the odds, those who couldn't pay would have the benefit of her talk, while those who could pay but don't make up that fraction of society who habitually take and give nothing back anyway.
To what degree have religions relied on the largesse of followers? A hat being passed around at a gig? The hat going round after a performance by a juggler in Covent Garden ... or the collection box going round after a church service?
Thought provoking in its controversy.
I've not seen so many NEGATIVE comments coming out of a TED lecture before either.
Some Music (think 'Hazel O'Connor, Breaking Glass 1980):