Blueskying a Social Media Platform for the Arts

Hosted by
the Social Media Narratives Class
Art and Technology Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Facebook and Google Groups
November 7 - 12, 2019

Tommer Peterson
Theatre Artist and Designer

image of Tommer Tommer Peterson is an independent theater artist and designer. He is currently at work developing a new movement play, City of Refuge, premiering in June 2020 at ReAct Theatre in Seattle. In 2017-19, he performed in the 600 Highwaymen production of The Fever in Switzerland, Germany, Romania, The Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia, Ireland in New York City at the Public Theater, and LaMama. He is the author of the plays, Just Wait a Yottasecond, Va-Va-Va-Voom and No One On Board Took Notice, and co-author, with KJ Sanchez, of the documentary plays Night at the Opera, and Duck Soup. He previously served as deputy director of Grantmakers in the Arts, development director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience,and communications coordinator of ArtsWire. He was a fellow on the United Stated/Japan Exchange Fellowship program in 1989-90.

as large and open a tent as possible

Apologies for the late start, I was traveling last week, and am just now home and able to participate.

I am a theatre artist, and spent a good part of my earlier career working in organized arts and cultural philanthropy. In the early 90s, Iwas part of the team (along with Judy Malloy) that developed ArtsWire, the first national online network for the Arts. I am mixed-race First Nations and White. In Canada, where my family comes from, we are called Métis.

So…here are a couple of thoughts to start... I would not be so bold as to call this a “statement”. This is more of a brain dump. Blue-skying Social Media Platforms for the Arts I am suspicious; maybe hesitant is a better word, of the phrase “for the arts”. Inherent in this description is the idea that the arts are something that a line can be drawn around, that there is common shared definition, that we even know them when we see them.

The phrase “for the Arts” carries a suggestion of an inclusivity and breadth that is not easily achievable.

Admirable and effective institutions like Americans for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, numerous schools and museums for (and of) the Arts, reinforce this limited view by the work they support, recognize, embrace, and include. The institutional bias is unavoidable. It is naturally easier to address institutions. They are visible — they have professional staff whose job it is to make them visible. And one of the outcomes is that, by default, arts institutions collectively become the entire universe. And, that universe then is largely white and Eurocentric in its world-view, and to a lesser degree, in its constituents.

I may be digging myself into a semantic wormhole, but claiming this territory is a kind of uber-binary (sorry) act. As soon as we circle up and all put our arms around one another, we turn our backs on others.

All that said, some discussion on what we mean by “for the arts” should be a consideration as we jump into imagining platforms, technology, and the like.

At its core, the idea of establishing a platform for the Arts is wonderfully bold and arrogant.

As we envision new platforms, let’s not start with the mainstream art and cultural expressions and then “include” others, let’s built as large and open a tent as possible.

I also wonder if Social Media is a destructive force to some specific cultures?

The topic of cultural appropriation / cultural transgression / cultural transference / cultural evolution is something that I am thinking a lot about these days. In general, we lack a common set of definitions, and the term “cultural appropriation” is used indiscriminately to describe a wide range of events in this sphere, some culturally destructive, some neutral, and some with vigorous hybrid potential.

Indigenous cultures are most often on the short end of the stick in these transactions, but the whole picture is significantly more complex. Getting to the point….social media plays a major role in the most destructive of these transactions, exposing and sharing cultural content outside its original context and meaning, to world-wide audience that is largely under informed on what they are experiencing.

Copyright protections and other protocols offer little to protect indigenous cultural material, images, and traditions. When individuals and communities venture online, we often find assets and content stolen and mistreated.

Is this the real world?

I expect that there are other participants on this panel who have thought more deeply about this, and I’d love to hear from you. I am interested in the idea that inherent to all online social networks and platforms is the illusion they represent the entire universe, and so become perceived as “reality” by participants. This stretches from “I read it in the Internet, so it must be true” to the ways that Facebook, Twitter, etc. influence public opinion (and elections) by the sheer volume of content provided on a particular topic or issue.

Similarly, the availability and use of online communication tools, does not not include the entire population. The internet is largely an urban experience. Here are some stats on geographic distribution:

§ As of year-end 2016, 92.3% of all Americans have access to fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, up from 89.4% in 2014 and 81.2% in 2012. Nonetheless, over 24 million Americans still lack fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
§ Rural and Tribal areas continue to lag behind urban areas in mobile broadband deployment. Although evaluated urban areas saw an increase of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps mobile LTE from 81.9% in 2014 to 90.5 % in 2016, such deployment in evaluated rural and Tribal areas remained flat at about 70% and 64%, respectively. Approximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on Tribal lands still lack mobile LTE broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps.
§ Approximately 92% of the population has access to both fixed terrestrial services at 25 Mbps/3 Mbps and mobile LTE at speeds of 5 Mbps/1 Mbps. In rural areas, 68.6% of Americans have access to both services, as opposed to 97.9% of Americans in urban areas. With respect to fixed 25 Mbps/3 Mbps and 10 Mbps/3 Mbps LTE services, 85.3% of all Americans have access to such services, including 61% in evaluated rural areas and 89.8% in evaluated urban areas. It would be interesting to see this type of breakdown by age, race, education, etc.

Transcript of Tommer Peterson's Facebook conversation
for the Issues in Social Media for the Arts 2019 panel

Judy Malloy:
Introduction to the Panel

Overviews, Ideas, Histories, and Observations

from Artists/Designers

Deanne Achong
Artist and Designer

Tommer Peterson
Theatre Artist and Designer

from Policy Makers and Advocates

Juana Guzman
National Arts Consultant and Arts Advocate

Dal Yong Jin
Professor, School of Communication at Simon Fraser University

Richard Lowenberg
Founding Director of the 1st-Mile Institute, and of NM Broadband for All

Marisa Parham
Professor of English, Amherst College, Director of the Immersive Reality Lab

Ellen Sandor
Founding Director of (art)n, chair of the Gene Siskel Film Center

from: Artists/Educators

Adriene Jenik
Artist, Professor of Intermedia in the School of Art, Arizona State University

Tom Klinkowstein
President, Media A LLC, Professor, Hofstra University, Adj. Professor, Pratt Institute

Wendel A. White
Photographer, Distinguished Professor of Art, Stockton University

from Curators and Critics

George Fifield
Founder and Director of Boston Cyberarts

Isobel Harbison
Art Critic and Lecturer in the Department of Art

SAIC ATS Class in Social Media Narrative
Vee Nyah Culton, Terrell Davis, Adriana Guillen Santalla, Samuel Han, Xavier Hughes, Yoon Joong Hwang, Olivia Paige Johnson, Mara Iskander Mirzan, Keun Mok Park, Richard Park, Wayne P. Tate, Ruby Hana Williams, and July Yoon

SAIC ATS Part-time Faculty: Judy Malloy