It’s an unquestionably popular trend: asking your audience exactly what they want so that you can deliver it to them. If the age of the user is truly in its heydey, it means the democratization of many processes, including those traditionally dominated by the elite minority.
When I was editing a literary magazine as a graduate student, the selection process began with several students and professors sitting around a table in a coffee shop discussing work that had arrived by the basket-ful from career writers and amateurs alike. This group of academic readers would deliberate over the course of several weeks and eventually pass off the very best submissions to some notable author who had graciously taken the time to select winners for our contest and featured pieces for our journal. All-in-all the decision of what lived and what died on the lit mag cutting room floor was determined by a crowd of about 20 or so people. That paradigm (as we’ve discussed before) is changing. And it’s changing across all art forms.
Currently, an installation at the Brooklyn Museum entitled Split Second is on display, an installation entirely curated by the crowd. More that 4,500 people selected from an original pool of 185 Indian art works. And while Brooklyn Museum carefully tracked the selected art work, they also carefully tracked the demographics of the participants. They were hoping not only to learn what art work to display, but why certain pieces appealed and to whom. The exhibition opened in July and has received a great deal of attention for its unique approach to selection. It’s not the first time Brooklyn Museum has turned to the crowd and it probably won’t be the last.
Obviously, the practice of viewing and reviewing items is not limited to the arts. In can apply to anything – from high fashion to your search results. But is there a balance to be struck between the opinions of the expert and the requests of the crowd? What is the future of quality control in this crowd-driven society? What does this ultimately mean for the audience that it serves?