fall out

A quick station announcement: I’m posting somewhat regularly on my tumblr, which you can find here: http://whatitwhat.tumblr.com/. I haven’t had much time for composing my own thoughts, but I try to keep up with cat videos, etc.

A few things on my radar today:

1. The Times published an interview with Sree Sreenivasan, the new Chief Digital Officer at the MET. This should particularly interest my Arts Administration students, although the general interest reader may be curious about the ways in which old brick-and-mortar (arts) organizations are trying to incorporate online/digital material. Two tensions in the piece: the first concerns Sreenivasan’s qualifications and the other concerns how well “the art experience” works as digital media. The introduction proposes Sreenivasan’s qualifications lie in his work as a journalist, professor and CDO at Columbia, while his own answer emphasized his outsider’s role (as “fan”). Later in the interview, we do get some sense that he’s a frustrated fan: it was a “one-way love affair.” Presumably, the standard museum experience left him wanting, under-stimulated, less engaged than he would find ideal. So, can digital media, used well, turn one-way love affairs with benchmark arts organizations into sites of mutual affection? The interview suggests: as long as some people don’t get railroaded into an intrinsically, intellectually corrupt way of engaging art, to wit:

One of the worries in museums is all the people looking down at devices instead of looking up at the art.

The silly idea that pre-digital museum-goers were wildly, totally, and intellectually absorbed by the art but digital audiences are (because they are weak-spined? silly? less smart? less ‘cultured?’) under threat of losing that quality experience because they’re taking pictures of the art is…well, worth arguing about, I guess. But I wish those arguments didn’t so often (always?) relay on ancedata instead of actually working to develop measures of engagement that aren’t wickedly classist.

2. Lou Reed has died, and is bitching about something in rock and roll heaven. I’m tempted–particularly after a rout of “remember when New York was creative, energetic, not-so-rich” conversations to follow with some trite pronouncement: MY NEW YORK IS DYING. But my New York, whatever that is, would be resolutely determined not to fall into rosy nostalgia. Fuck the past.

3. An online, ungated piece from the New Yorker on Iron Mountain, a huge bunker of archived materials including the Sony master recordings (Or, some of them. Hard to tell from the article.). The profile is rosy and celebratory, and I can’t figure out why.  First, Iron Mountain managers haven’t managed to make the place fireproof (major fires in 1997 and 2005). What would be more important about a valuables storage space (after the security) than climate control and fire-safeness? Second, Iron Mountain keeps losing the things they’re saving. They lost a bunch of IBM data in 2012, and they lost a bunch of Louisiana college applicant data in 2007, to name just two incidents of many. So, they accomplish neither climate control nor security. The final concern I have is really with the federal government’s failure to realize that these Sony master recordings (and those of other entertainment companies) are a part of our cultural heritage and should be protected as such. We shouldn’t be relying on private companies to archive these materials because the need to cut costs could result in ineffective preservation and we’d lose part of our history. The best comment I’ve read on this topic is Bill Ivey’s book Arts, Inc. Instead of a puff piece, we need a serious, engaged, and critical piece about the preservation of our entertainment heritage. I work pretty cheap, all things considered. Holla!


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