Saturday, October 12, 2013

Art for Ourselves or Art for Others?

Kermit the Frog sings "The Rainbow Connection" and wants to make millions of people happy...
There has always been a difference of opinion regarding why we make art.  Do you, as an artist, create a work of art - be it music, painting, sculpture, play, novel or anything else - for  yourself?  Or do you create it for others?

I have met many people over the years who blog, and I recall a good many of them say they blog for themselves - not others.  In some cases they create their blog as a kind of therapeutic exercise for themselves, putting their thoughts and feelings out there on the screen to fill their own needs.  If others come along, happening to read these thoughts and in turn have opinions - it really doesn't matter, because the blogger writes the words for himself or herself only.  Other peoples' opinions and reactions are ultimately unimportant.  The act of artistic creation is an expression of the artist's soul, and as such is ultimately truly  meaningful for them alone.

Some visual artists use pigments or clay or a myriad of other mediums to bring to life a figment of their imaginations.  It is said some cannot exist without transforming these feelings into a vibrant visual representation.  These souls create painting after painting and keep them to themselves, holding on to them as they would their own innermost thoughts.  Similar stories and actions echo throughout the artistic world.

But still others use their talents to create artistic works for other reasons, not simply for themselves.  True, all artists must draw from within to ensure originality, but for some that's not the only goal or encouragement.  For a playwright, the sound of audience laughter, or crying, or even abject silence, is a sign that the story he has written has touched someone in a profound way. Some musicians create a composition, or play a concerto, because they know that by putting just the right notes in the right combination they can change another person's life.

So which is better?  I have my own reasons for the things I do, and the reasons I work to create art in my own eclectic and unusual ways.  I can give my opinion on which I prefer, and defend it if necessary - but I really would just rather hear what other people have to say.

You out there, you who are an artist.  Why do you create art, and who is it for?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Top 10 Things I Took Away from Social Slam 2013

I figured I'd better open up The Inn again, since apparently it's fashionable again to blog--(oops, that's #7)

Anyway, in the spirit of one of things the things I learned at Social Slam 2013, held this afternoon in Knoxville, TN, here is my top 10 list of the most important, the most relevant, the most memorable (are those enough keywords?) things I learned today.

10)  There is still a growing "factionalization" of Social Media sites (I think I just coined a word).  No matter how much we hear the mantra of cross-channel and multi-channel content creation, some Social sites still have their major supporters and major detractors.  I personally still rarely use, nor see much value with Pinterest but it still has a large and vocal following.  Google + remains a mystery in it usefulness to me, as it does a lot of the crowd but some still swear by it.  I enjoy the rich business connection potential and useful Groups and other professional connectivity of LinkedIn, but some declare it little more than useless.  Some still decry Facebook and even Twitter, and there are still some hardy Instagram users out there.  Some fierce possessiveness still exists, and middle ground on some platforms seems difficult to achieve.

9) Vine is still basically a novelty.  Since half of the smart phones out there still can't run Vine (it's not available as of yet on Android devices), only the Apple contingent has access to it.  And of that group, it seems few consider it more than a souped up Animated GIF creator.  It may have its uses, and its greatest popularity may be yet to come, but not yet.

8) The most powerful force on the internet is not content, it's not community and it's not Mark Schaefer.  It's snark.

7) Blogging keeps circling back and forth and back and forth as being the most important Social Media tool. It seems to come and go in cycles, and now it's back again.  I think there's a reason for this, and I explain it in #1.

6) Nobody still has anything good to say about Klout :(  C'mon folks, if it's all you got, it's all you got.  Throw me a bone, here...

5) For all its good intentions as to putting the Social in Social Media, for me Social Slam remains a decidedly online-only event.  I rarely manage to bring another person from my work team with me to the event, and most of the local people I know that come to the event or are in the Social Media Knoxville group either organize the event, work the event, are speakers, or come in large groups of their own from PR houses or local media.  As such, I only spoke to a very small handful of people in person - the vast majority of my interaction during the day was through Twitter and using #soslam.  I realize I'm speaking totally for myself here, as someone who is a big introvert in large live social activities where I don't really know anyone.  I'm not making an actual complaint or offering up some kind of solution or suggestion, just that people like me exist and it would be nice if I could find a way to interact with more people I don't know at the event.

Caveat: This time of year I'm almost always working on a show, so my evenings are filled up with rehearsals and I wasn't able to make either the "night before" or "night of" parties.  Again, Your Mileage May Vary, but the actual social events weren't available for me.

4) If your presentation is lacking, the audience will turn on you.  There were a couple of presenters today who seemed to either wander far afield from their stated topic, or whose comments on stage began to border on insulting and unkind.  The attending community recognized this and reacted in kind online.  A living example of a community in action, both live and online.

3) Content is still, always has been, and always will be, king.  And I love the fact that this one nugget of truth is still held tightly by all who profess to see the value in Social Media and websites in general.  With all the talk of platforms and factions and tools and channels, good (great!) and interesting content is always the goal.

2) Raw, emotional, personal first-hand eyewitness accounts of 9/11 can still hold an audience enraptured and close to tears.  And it reinforced the idea that authenticity in content will attract and hold readership. But most importantly, damn, I hate that day.

1) There's nothing new under the sun.  As a long-time online healthcare marketing professional, I've attended several annual sessions of's Healthcare Internet Conference over the years. As such, I've seen the most popular and most emphasized topics range from simple website design to blogging to podcasts to multimedia to social to mobile and beyond.  I've also recognized points in time where the online world was catching its breath and really waiting for "the next big thing" to hit.  I think Social Media is at that point now, and Social Slam is caught up in the waiting game as well.  None of the main speakers or breakout sessions (that I attended) addressed to any great extent anything really cutting edge or new in either technology, innovation or cultural change.  Facebook and Twitter subjects still dominated the tool discussions, and other new online cultural changes were hard to find in the presentations.  Some years I go to these conferences and can scarcely contain myself from jumping right into all the new things and apps I wanted to try out.  Other than several good, new things from Google I hadn't heard of that my friend @shanerhyne spoke of, I would be hard pressed to really name any particular new items of interest to follow up on.

Mind you, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it's really not a bad thing at all.  It means that we can take a break from discussing the latest uber-popular platforms and concentrate on the core topics - the big "C's": content, culture, and clarity.  I came away with a lot of confidence and excitement of the possibilities of how I can improve my content creation - both at my job as Website Coordinator for a large local healthcare company, and for my personal online projects.

So, congratulations, Social Slam - I think 2013 was another successful year for this event.  I think it struggled more to find timely "content" for its presentations than it has in previous years but in a way that was ok.  It left the door open to talk about the subjects that really mattered - finding ways to bring genuine, authentic content that you or your organization are passionate about, to those out there who share the same interest, and using those connections and intersections to form, maintain and grow communities.  And that - not Plussing, Liking, Following, Pinning or snarking - that's exactly what it's really all about.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Billions and Billions

This story is, to coin a phrase, fascinating:

An Alien Earth May Be in Our Cosmic Back Yard

"Looking at thousands of red dwarf stars in the Kepler field, the lead investigator (Courtney Dressing from the Center for Astrophysics) found several dozen stars with candidate planets (probable companions that have not yet been confirmed). Out of those, she found three that were about the size of Earth, as well as being in their stars’ habitable zones, the right distance from their stars to have liquid water. Accounting for planets with orbits that don’t let them transit from our view, what she found is that 6 percent of red dwarf stars have Earth-sized planets at the right distance from the star to be potentially habitable.

That’s 1 out of 16. Out of 75 billion stars. That’s a lot of Earths. In fact, using that number and applying some statistics, Dressing and her team calculate that on average, in this part of the galaxy, Earth-like planets are only 13 light-years apart. That’s a long way to walk, but in galactic terms, that’s incredibly close. Only about three-dozen stars are known that are within 13 light-years of Earth. Could one of them bear a planet like home?"

It boggles the mind that, finally, soon, astronomers in the next 1-2 generations may actually be able to confidently say whether life might exist on other planets throughout the cosmos.

If we can determine the likelihood of life-bearing worlds, we can determine the likelihood of life.

Planets have to fall under certain criteria to have the potential to bear life as we know it. They have to be in a certain habitable "zone" around the sun - within a certain range of radii, to get that "not too hot, not too cold" effect, so liquid water can exist. Likelihood of greenhouse effect, density, etc - all these traits of worlds should eventually come into focus as better and better detection techniques are developed. Eventually, hopefully, astronomers will be able to point to some planet orbiting some star under some particular conditions and say, "Yes, it as a statistical probability that life exits on that world."

Of course, until we are able to visit such a planet (or, miraculously, contact it's inhabitants) we can't know anything for absolute sure. Heck, we live right next door to Mars and as of early 2013 we're still not sure if life ever existed there at all. But we know exponentially more about the possibility of Martian life now than we did even 15 years ago. I would predict if life on Mars exists, or ever did exist, we'll likely know for sure within the next 20 years. We're that close. So based on this article we're also very close, statistically speaking, to making a good, firm prediction about the probability of life on planets outside our solar system.

After years and years of fictional speculation about people loving on other planets around the galaxy - after imagining the lives of people living on Vulcan, Tatooine, Gallifrey, Arakis, Centauri Prime, Caprica, Tangaroa, Krypton, Hala, Aiur and many others - to imagine that the basic building blocks of such a larger universe, habitable planets, may actually exist and that we may confirm it in our lifetime is staggering.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


It seems to be that the nicer person you are, the less authority you project or command - no matter what your position is. It's something I deal with a lot.  And not very well, I might add.

I deal with conflict very tentatively - I'm either too nice (I want people to like each other, and to like me) or, since I'm unfamiliar with the more negative aspect of command, I overstep and become a jerk.  

It's a very tight balance I walk, and as such end up not getting anything done when I really need it to be.

If I'm in a position of authority in some project, and those working for me are not getting the job done or making unreasonable requests, I'm more apt to let it slide.  Or do it myself.  Or compromise, compromise, compromise - rather than take a chance on someone not liking me.

But the first moment I stand up, I do it in such a way that feels - to me - like I'm supposed to do: laying down the rules, requesting all to follow them, and expecting they agree and understand our roles.  But what happens is I'm seen as "brash" or "talking down".  I don't know how to do it - I don't know how other people do it.

Well, I do, in a way. It's called charisma, and confidence.  You can't have confidence without success, and you can't have success without the charisma to command.  I have no real charisma, except that which is bound up in my "niceness".  And that has no real ability to command respect - even when my position requires it.  So it's a deadly circle that I see no hope of ever escaping.

Well, there would be one way - abandon the niceness, and worrying about whether people like me.  But that would mean completely throwing away who am I and becoming a jerk full time.  Which totally defeats the purpose.

So I'm stuck.  The cycle continues.