When Democratizing Isn’t Good

When Democratizing Isn’t Good

On Tuesday I wrote a post called “Democratizing Spelling”.  It had to do with how Google is using the websites they’ve indexed and the search terms they’ve received to decide how a word IS spelled instead of using a dictionary to look up how a word SHOULD be spelled.  I noted that it’s interesting because if we all just decided to start spelling tomorrow as “tomorow”, Google would adapt even if everyone from Webster’s and American Heritage disagreed.

In the case of spelling this is probably a good thing.  The dictionary should be a reflection of the spelling that’s in place.  There are times though when it is better for a few people to tell the rest of the world what SHOULD be.  If the internet starts saying 2 + 2 = 5, should we just change the accepted value?

One interesting potential example of this was made very public this morning when Kickstarter announced that they may give more funding then the National Endowment for the Arts this year.  For those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter allows artists (and entrepreneurs) to announce a project and then people can give money to allow the submitter to begin work.  In exchange for the donations, the artist promises to provide a reward back to the donor.  If your project was to build a product your reward may be  to send each donor one of the products if it’s an artistic creation you may offer a signed copy or a ticket to the unveiling.

On the surface this sounds like another great example of the democratization of something typically reserved for a pretentious few.  My first response was, let’s just get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts but then I got started thinking.  Wouldn’t that be the same as turning art in to TV (where the masses choose the shows that are aired simply by whether they tune in or not).  How many times per year do you think the National Endowment for the Arts funds an Arrested Development… a piece of art that would not have gotten the funding by “popular” demand (the show got canceled), but would years later be enjoyed by so many (check its DVD sales some time)?  How many times do they fund documentaries… important pieces of art that educate, inform, inspire but that people wouldn’t “pay” for?  I’m not saying that Kickstarter is bad, just that there’s probably room for a PBS in the world of art.