Art, says writer, technologist and blogger, Darren Barefoot, is the profound, and the profound is that which is deep, timeless and shared. We’ve seen people make profound statements in painting, music, architecture, the book, even radio and television, he said at this year’s Northern Voice . But he asks, Where’s the Art in Social Media?
There are several reasons for the paucity of the profound: crowds aren’t wise, says Barefoot. Artists may turn professional and leave social media before we discover them. Maybe artists just don’t yet have the feel of the new medium, although the Japanese are trying their hand at writing SMS novels. Some are racking up big sales: Rin, a 21-year old writer, tapped out a story, If You, that sold 400,000 copies when it went to print.
But, sales is certainly no measure of the profound either. Maybe, Barefoot suggests, social media discourages profound thinking. Social media is certainly shared and, as we’re lately starting to appreciate, it is timeless, though not exactly in the sense that Barefoot is talking about. However, social media is not very deep. Social media tools like Twitter ask “What are you doing?” which, said one in Barefoot’s audience, encourages “me-ophilia”, not reflection on the profound.
Lastly, it could be that that the profound is just too hard to find because we are awash in images, video, music and text and we haven’t the ability to sift through it all and make sense of it. The power of expression in social media, as an artistic medium itself, is in the aggregation of things, says Barefoot. He points to the Where the Hell is…Matt? videos by self-professed deadbeat dancer, Matt Harding. Although there are moments in individual videos that are moving–when the crowd in rushes in to dance with Matt, for example–we sense something profound about humility or our shared humanity or the diversity of people when we take the videos collectively.
What social media needs–and this was the common thread in all the sessions I attended at Northern Voice–is a curator, someone or something to make sense out of the endless stream of data that is pouring into the web. “No one goes to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the ‘Ten Most Recent Pics Posted to the Gallery'” said a wag in Barefoot’s audience.
I think we’re seeing a new role emerging for K-12 teachers: that of (web) curator. This is different from knowledge-giver and different again from gatekeeper. Fulfilling that role will require a skill set similar to that of a gallery curator and, above all, it will require wisdom.
The question now is, what are we doing to cultivate those things in new and in-service teachers?