Tag Archives: Facebook

Say something nice

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Data breach is probably this year’s new phrase like fake news was last year. Facebook’s role in the latest iteration of campaign meddling and user- info-loot-bag-free-for-all has people making declarations all over various platforms regarding whether they will deactivate their account or keep their account but delete all extraneous apps etc. or that they are outraged that a free marketing online business used their data. Really? I think I’ve had maybe a hundred conversations online regarding the fact that no, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t your friend, he’s a rich technocrat who is using your activity on Facebook to boost its stock price and create ad money – and I’ve had these conversations now for five or six years. Being shocked by such revelations I am not.

My only thought or reaction to this data breach is what my brother Matthew said this past fall when he was showing me the dozen six hundred-page tomes he was reading, that nature is ordered, has systems, and humans are chaotic and consistently cause chaos. Raised Catholic and taught that man had dominion over everything, I always thought the opposite. That humans brought order and systems to the chaos of the natural world. But now that I think about it  the opposite is far truer and far more helpful. What the f*%k are we doing exactly?

The thing about spending most of one’s time contemplating and creating art is that you can open yourself to the idea that everything is absurd and trying to find sense in anything people do is a waste of time. Some people are helpful, others are not. It can actually be this simple. The older one gets the easier it is to believe this too.

Facebook users have now exposed this ‘people are chaos’ theory to be pretty accurate. While many people on Facebook just want to see their grandchildren or show off their pets/cooking/travel/renos/work/popularity, there are a large amount of users who are on an outrage campaign, believing everything they hear, open to all sorts of conspiracy theories and generally ruining it for the rest of us. I said to someone this morning, it’s like what we used to say in theatre, a show is only as good as its weakest link. This current chaos is sewn by people who are using the platform to extol their own uncertainty and fear – it’s a digital Lord of the Flies if you will.

Ridiculousness abounds on the internet because the people who share it are not thinking, they are in a state of confused chaos, they don’t stop and reflect. It is all about reaction and then the exponential impact of reaction. Auto correct and the fact that people can’t spell or sometimes write exacerbates an already heated melee. I’m lucky, I’ve had very little trolling and many of the discussions I’ve participated in since the early days on Facebook have been friendly albeit not always in agreement but friendly nonetheless. I don’t hate Facebook for turning the other way while Cambridge Analytics went to town on mining user info; I feel oddly complicit. I’m there to begin with so what the f*%k am I doing?

This group of Peterborough artists and arts supporters have used social media to create a bonafide cultural movement. A good example of how to use Facebook.

I think instead of freaking out over the data breach it may be time people started thinking about every post they make. I actually do this. I manage social media accounts for an environmental advocacy group; I have to comply with their mandate and protect their brand. I am careful about what I post. This has bled into my personal postings as well. Everyone I know that does this kind of work is very careful online. It is a form of digital literacy; we’ve learned how to use the platforms and how to protect ourselves on them. Everyone should do this.

But I have spoken in this blog about digital literacy before and I continue to do so into what seems is a void. People hate social media for it’s negativity, trolls and general sense that the world is a vacuous place full of miscreants. But people love social media for how it projects how they think they are perceived and in my feed some people are constantly fabulous, brilliant, brainy, gorgeous, hilarious, popular, in the know, fit, successful, do yoga all the time, travel and treat their dogs like humans.  Or they like to tell me what I don’t know or how I have things wrong. It’s like people are normal and then become Ayn Rand online. I gravitate toward those who think that life is less than perfect which I realize says more about me….

The best use of social media and the best way to calm the ills of our world is to be helpful and share helpfulness. This has always been the case with humans and it always will be – because humans create chaos regardless of them being online or not. Chaos is what we do so why not help each other drag ourselves out of darkness with usefulness. Or at the very least if you can’t say something nice….

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Five years

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

I got pretty excited when I saw that a Hill & Knowlton document was making the rounds on social media. In it there is some great numbers regarding how economically fruitful culture was to Canada, and that the arts actually contributed more to our overall GDP than forestry. Forestry! Take that resource extraction based economy.

But then I read that the stats were from 2010. That’s five years ago.  Now five years means nothing in terms of art’s impact and influence, I still get wobbly when I look at art work made over a thousand years ago. But five years is a long time in the life of a contemporary artist. In Canada our public gallery system is on a three year funding system so most of us have exhibitions two or three years from now in order to get into that funding cycle. Five years also marks how long many of us can show a particular body of work. It’s not too often you walk into a gallery and see contemporary work that’s eight years old. It happens but curators and dealers want new things. Five years is about the amount of time you can finish a BFA and an MA give or take a year or two. Five years can be just enough time to reflect on work made that long ago and rethink its importance to you. Five years is significant in the life of an artist.

Think for a second what you have done in the last five years. I did a residency in Yorkshire, England, exhibited there two years later plus I had thirteen exhibitions here in Ontario as well as two trips to Cape Breton for workshops and exhibiting. And that is just the art stuff I do. Add the rest of your life, like the fact that two new people were created in that time (my niece and nephew) and you’ve got a heap of busy.

The song Five Years from this album is a great dystopia anthem that scared me as a kid. But then five years was a millennia to a seven year old.
The song Five Years from this album is a great dystopia anthem that scared me as a kid. But then five years was a millennia to a seven year old.

Since 2010 a lot has changed in the art world. While the Hill & Knowlton document is still relevant there are many other factors by which measuring the health of the art world needs to be taken into account. 2010 marked the year that many of us who were selling our work saw our buyers completely disappear. In that time I have met artists who have gone back to school to get an MFA, moved out of places like Brooklyn because they can no longer afford to live there, watched the rise of administration and curatorial fields take up a lot of economic space, witnessed the stagnation and reduction of funding in the Canadian art world, and been a participant in activism that vies to keep art from being dragged into entropic capitalistic consumer interests.

This sea change is palpable to anyone who works in the art world and yet it is only now in the most marginal places being recognized as a potent epoch that changed anyone making art forever. Possibly the most disconcerting idea that has cropped up in this time and perhaps this has happened because of this entropic backdrop is that people are now concluding that art can be used like a service. Art has moved from individual experience to communal experience to consumer experience with end users who want to be fully engaged without commitment like they do on Facebook. I don’t blame the public for this; I blame the art world for allowing itself to be pimped up, Tweeted out and instagrammed through a vortex of commodification without any regard for its own self worth.

People fight oppression through organizing and uniting themselves. It is the only way to do it. This will never happen in our current art world. There are too many vested interests in keeping it a murky and untidy place. There are too many artists who think they are undiscovered geniuses who act like they have disdain for the mainstream but would walk a red carpet in a nano second if they got the chance. We blew it essentially.

For the next five years I plan to work toward dignity and integrity. Although sometimes I wonder why I care about artist’s rights when in fact so many of them don’t care themselves, I have to remember that I am not working for those who can afford the luxury of indifference. I work for those who do care. We are small in numbers but we are smart, creative and understand that everything can change even in five years time.

Pic from Wikipedia