Social media grew out of the idea that friends should be able to connect with friends and share their interests over the internet. They could let them know what they’ve been doing, post photos, share links, etc. It was all about letting your friends know about something that excited you.
“The new Brad Mehldau album is killing.”
“Matrix 3 blows.”
“Check out these cute kittens: www.youtube……”
“New photos from vacation.”
These are all things that the sharer finds exciting and suspects will be interesting to his/her friends otherwise they would never be shared. It’s basically e-word-of-mouth. Instead of gathering around the bubbler to talk about the latest episode of Twin Peaks, people are discussing the latest episode of Lost on web-forums, Facebook, and Twitter. In both cases, it’s the stimulating content and not the discussion platform that inspires viewers to engage.
Institutions (museums, orchestras, non-profit arts organizations, etc. ) all have good content… somewhere. They need to make sure that the content can be easily shared. To me, an institution’s ideal Twitter presence wouldn’t include them writing any tweets or even having a Twitter account. The presence would consist of tweets by people who found their content, got excited about it, and shared it with their friends. I know I will definitely check out everything that my friends send me, whereas I might not check out everything that a museum tweets. A museum will say that everything it does is awesome – they’re trying to sell you something. If I’m shopping for something online I’ll probably read the product description but I’m definitely going to read the user reviews. A user review tells me the truth. It’s unbiased. Is this hard drive going to crash in a month? Does this TV actually look like cross-processed film (i.e. do the colors blow)? These are the types of questions that are answered by reading user reviews. A museum tweeting is merely a museum tooting its own horn – it’s a product description. My friend’s act of tweeting/posting/sharing is like a positive user review on a product.
So how does the institution get involved in the “conversation?” By supplying the content driving the conversation. If the content interesting, clear, relevant, and accessible to the visitor and if the visitor feels like s/he “discovered” it, s/he will want to share it. Should a museum tweet or post on Facebook? I guess so, but only to provide access to content and not because they feel like they should or because everyone else is doing it. Twitter is what’s hot right now but next year it will be something else. Focus should be on the content, not the technology.
A few months ago I purchased a cheap electric guitar on ebay. I have no idea how to play guitar. Nevertheless, it’s been integral in the music that I’ve written since I bought it. It really forces me to slow down and play simple things that I wouldn’t play on the piano. You can get real comfortable on your primary instrument–so comfortable that you can end up feeling like you’ve exhausted your options when really there’s so much more you could do.
I guess what I’m saying is I’ve been on a simplicity kick recently. Combined with my untrained guitar playing I’ve been listening to a lot of music that focuses on developing simple ideas. The group AlasNoAxis led by Jim Black is really the pinnacle of what I’m talking about. Before I get into AlasNoAxis, I want to talk about the leader for a bit. Jim Black is one of the most amazing drummers that I have ever heard. He has had bands with any number of incredible musicians including Kurt Rosenwinkel, Tim Berne, Dave Douglas, Andrew D’Angelo, and Ellery Eskelin. Black has the ability to play pretty much anything you could ever and never think of. But it’s his creativity and critical filter that separates him from other technically amazing drummers.
AlasNoAxis features Jim Black on drums, Chris Speed on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Hilmar Jensson on guitars, and Skuli Sverrisson on basses. I’m constantly blown away by the way these guys take a simple melody or rhythmic idea and make it the greatest motif you’ve ever heard. Of course, some of their songs sound like the craziest, most insanely difficult thing you could possibly play but again, Black’s critical songwriting (and the band’s playing) ensures that every twist makes sense and is neccessary to the overall composition.
In retrospect, I’d like to revise my statement about me being on a simplicity kick. I think I’m on more of a make-sure-it-has-a-purpose kick. Now more than ever people get caught up with what they can do and don’t stop to ask whether they should in the first place. Nine times out of ten, the anwer is going to be “don’t do it.”
Here’s the first track off of the album Habyor entitled Talk About.
And a video of them playing Maybe off of the album AlasNoAxis.
Koven’s answer was “to provide a stage upon which a multiplicity of interactions can occur” and he echoed the answer that Jeffrey Inscho from the Mattress Factory gave, “to provide more questions than answers.” While I do think that a museum can and should act as a “stage” for many types of interactions and I do think that a museum should raise questions within a visitor or a population I do not think that either of these are the primary function of a museum.
I guess my biggest issue with Koven’s answer is that pretty much any place can be a “stage” for different interactions–a coffee shop, a sidewalk, Home Depot, a museum. I feel that this answer says that a museum is just a place where stuff can happen–a venue for interaction–which to me means that anyplace could be a museum. What is it about a museum that differentiates it from a coffee shop or a Home Depot? Some might say, “nothing,” but then why even give anything a name or a label.
My issue with Jeffrey’s answer is that questions and answers are so black and white. A question asks about what you don’t know. An answer tells you what you don’t know. (Also, why more questions than answers? Why not just “to provide questions and answers” and leave the count to a case by case basis?) Maybe I’m being too literal with this answer but shouldn’t museums stimulate more than (A) questions and (B) answers?
Why can’t a museum’s primary function be to stimulate thought and inspiration from art and science? It’s all within the root of the word: muse. A muse causes you to think or inspires you. In Greek mythology the Muses are the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, “each of whom presided over a different art or science.” Museums should be shrines to those things in the arts and sciences that cause inspiration or thought. I’m not saying that the only way for someone to be inspired by the art is to see the “real” art. People find inspiration in different ways. Some are inspired the moment they see something and don’t need to understand the history or process that led to that particular work of art. Others might find something bland and interesting until they learn about the artist and the process is what inspires them.
Let me stress that I’m in no way saying that this inspiration can only come from a physical interaction with the work of art itself but rather that it can happen anywhere the museum chooses to be–online, print, film, etc. A museum should be an entity that protects and displays (through many channels) the things that stimulate thought and inspiration.
Lots of people create best-of lists for the year that’s about to end. I find that these lists aren’t always true to their title.
“Top 10 albums of 2008”
“Best movies of the year”
“Books from 2008 that you should’ve already read”
Some of the winners on these lists really are amazing and are absolutely in the top 10. Many others are only on the list because of all the hype around them and whoever created the list wanted to look like he or she was totally with it. Often I find that when the buzz dies down I’ll throw some album that was on my top 10 list on my CD shelf and not pull it down ever again–the album just doesn’t hold up over time.
That’s why I’m going to talk about the best albums (in my opinion of course) of 2007 and postpone my 08 list for a year. These are albums that I still put on and enjoy. It’s only been one year but I like to think that if I’m still listening to these albums after one year I’ll be listening to them still in 10. We’ll see… we’ll see…
I was introduced to Au Revoir Simone by my old co-worker and member of the music cognoscenti, Michael Hill. Each one of these tunes are gems with melodies that stick in your head and come to surface when you’re least expecting.
2. Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low by Sea Wolf
Stumbled across this one at my old job while going through some donated CDs. All I can say is that this EP is perfect in every way. It’s almost impossible to decide which track to put up but I guess I’ll go with this one… but seriously, do yourself a favor and get this. Unfortunately, I find their full-length album lacking but this EP still kicks ass.
He’s done it again. Mr. Bird has created a beautiful cohesive unit that can be broken up into equally beautiful smaller units (also known as tracks). He’s also revisited older songs of his in a way that builds off of where they already were. And I almost forgot, Andrew Bird is really smart.
These guys never cease to amaze me. This album has probably grown on me the most over this past year of all these albums. This one’s a bit less “experimental” compared to Hail to the Thief and more just good songwriting that’s come to be expected from Radiohead.
To be honest, I’m not really a big Deerhoof fan. The Runners Four doesn’t really click with me though technically it is an amazing album. Friend Opportunity, on the other hand, clicks on all levels. There’s enough pleasing harmony to balance the discord and there are some really catchy melodies thrown in there too.
Cast Off Crown
Though I wouldn’t say it’s had as much of an impact on me as her album Little Things, there’s still so much that can be said about Hanne Hukkleberg’s sophomore album. This album is a bit more mature… a bit darker and more serious. It’s sort of like (and maybe I just get this from the wind-like sounds on the first track) a storm that whips around your house late at night–intense and beautiful.
Well, that concludes my best albums of 2007 list. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening and reading. I’m curious which albums you all think have held up through this past year and which ones were all hype.