New media artists comprise the de facto unpaid R&D division of ad agencies and this is not sustainable. Artist and engineer Golan Levin illustrated at ETA why problems persist and proposed ways to work together.
New media who? There is a real diversity of artistic practices today. New media work is often created by independents as a way of exploring new technologies. These artists don’t have headquarters, just laptops. They work in makeshift labs and at hack-a-thons.
New media artists have had a tremendous impact on culture and most are not in it for the money. They cannot maintain cultural currency if they have to wait four years to patent work; they want to engage now. Their work asks important questions and often speculates what the future might be.
Take the 1980 Aspen Movie Map. With the help of a small federal grant, one MIT lab explored representation of place through multimedia. The result was a visualization of the streets of Aspen, Colorado. The project was awarded a Golden Fleece Award for wasting taxpayer money¾but the idea stuck and today we have Google Street View.
There are many ways artists apply work in various contexts and people will recognize when work is not authentic. Chris O’Shea’s 2009 “Hand From Above” was a public space intervention whose concept appeared a short time later in a Forever 21 billboard, prompting backlash. Graffiti Research Lab’s 2007 “All You See Is” laser project had 40 times the online views (with 1% of the expense) that Red Bull Cola’s rip-off did.
Why should you care? Your reputation is on the line. These artists are not obscure. They are among the most wired people on the planet and their fans will support them. It is also a matter of time before awards juries will catch on.
You might have to, or want to, work with new media artists one day. So, how can everyone get together better?
Before you hire someone inferior, try the real person. No one likes to be copied poorly. Most artists just want to be contacted.
Share the credit and everyone wins. Don’t wait for a backlash. Acknowledge ideas right away.
A license fee will cost a fraction of your budget. It can also build goodwill.
After your campaign is over, open source the code. It’s a valuable way to earn points with the community. Some artists will charge less if you let it go. What would you do with it anyway?
5. Donate Money
Collectives such as Processing, Arduino, Open Frameworks and Cinder are developing tools to help you create. Small groups of people run these; support them.
6. Donate Effort
Hire a developer full-time to contribute to the creative community. You will benefit by receiving the contributions of other developers; they will have mainline access.
7. Buy the artists, not the art.
See someone whose work you like? Ask them what else they can do.
8. Practice Responsible Management
Keep a record of where ideas come from. Maintain credibility in perpetuity.
Stop trolling creative applications and start bringing artists into the fold. It’s the right thing to do and your reputation and your business will be rewarded.
You can view Golan's slides here.