Probably the most interesting essay I ran into this week was “Romancing the Looky-Loos” by Dave Hickey. It was interesting primarily because I wondered if it was still relevant today.
Social media has changed the art scene irrecoverably. It is no longer "LIVE and in-person.” It is no longer intimate. But, it is the future of sharing art and making money as an artist. So, is social media about luring spectators or inviting like-minded people to participate in something they are passionate about? I think it is both, and in many ways making a living as an artist has always been about both, but in the age of social media, spectating and participating go hand-in-hand. You can't hate the spectators like Mr. Dave seems to; you need them in order to have any chance at earning participation.
Social media creates a venue for people to participate and share. The best example I can think of are these Tik Toks where one artist begins a tune and other artists build on it. That is participation and it is amazing. My part is spectatorship. By the time I see a video, it has been viewed a million times and remixed a thousand times. I may see three or four different versions, but I only see them because the reach is so high. I may only get the opportunity to participate because the reach is so high.
Social media cultivates a mindset of rapidly consuming a lot of material. "Liking" is not participating, but it is extremely valuable, even a measure of success. Likes are so important that some users pay for them because likes beget more likes. Likes increase your reach and as a result, increase participation even if only a little.
Without a doubt, there is much more spectatorship on social media than participation, but the fact that they go hand-in-hand leadsmarketing experts to suggest that you focus on reach over participation, precisely because reach leads to brand loyalty. Today "Romancing the Looky-loos" is a part of building a community of passionate, like-minded people.