14 May 2012

Author Ruth Mitchell

One of the results of the explosion in size of the World Wide Web is that the different branches of the arts are increasingly working in the online space to present themselves as digital media - thereby engaging a broader and possibly larger audience than may have been possible before. If you or your organization are in one of the arts fields and you don't have some kind of unique or shared web portal then you're probably either endearingly eccentric, independently funded or just not that serious about world domination.

Portals! But the portal that the Arts Council launched at the beginning of May is not just an ordinary art portal. This one has been skilfully crafted from the finest media ingest, been suffused with fresh metadata management, wrapped in wild transcoding, and the web publication and device targeting has been hand selected from the most tender parts of the BBC and then lovingly WordPressed together to create what could only be called a "broadcaster in a box" - this is The Space. The Space has a six-month mission to explore strange Wil Selfs, to seek out Tracy Emin and new versions of Shakespearean plays, to boldly peek into John Peel's record collection, where not many men have peeked before. In fact I would contend that John himself might very well have described it as 'rather nice'; if he'd been able to muster up any enthusiasm to comment after seeing the astonishingly woeful end of season league table, that is.

With the economic downturn and cuts in central government arts funding, organisations and individuals are inevitably using the Web to make direct contact with their audience and/or customers. Technological developments and safer payment methods have allowed some entertainers to eliminate many, if not all, the barriers to their market. However, as the panoply of choice competes for our attention mutating into white noise, the search engines will willingly take up the slack and decide they know what we like and by golly that's what we'll get. This will usually be the same as we've had before - bromide to the creativity. You may even find yourself stalked across the Internet hounded by products that you may have previously briefly viewed - by the way, if anyone would like an only once worn pair of pale blue Dr Martin ankle boots with zip and buckle fasteners, all reasonable offers will be considered.

Having previously embraced the freedom and choice given to us in the early days of the Web we are reaching the point and some have already reached the point of choice saturation. Further, Ian Lesley suggests in INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine that, "We no longer 'surf' … it has become too vast to cruise without a map," and we simply follow our repetitive virtual paths. So, increasingly organisations such as the Arts Council who are able to operate outside of the narrowing commercial motives of the marketplace appear to be taking up the responsibility of bringing together the diverse works of quality that will be necessary to ensure that our cultural life can still continue to open up genuine innovation. These will be the fresh new works that ensure future growth.

Apologies if this article was played at the wrong speed.