[Photo of The Experience Studio. Those sixteen small panels on the right are actually my cartoons.]
In my latest “Crazy Deranged Fools” newsletter that I sent out earlier today, I wrote about “The Kinetic Quality”:
We’ve always seen the Kinetic Quality working in marketing, working with brands. “By buying Brand X, I feel hipper, cooler, sexier, more secure, more in control” etc etc. But what I’m finding out is, this also works with art. To me, the interesting thing about art is not the usual “Heroic, absinthe-soaked, vision quest lone individual archetypal artist crap”, but how the art is USED by the person who has it hanging on the wall. What’s it actually there for? Decoration? Showing off? A conversation starter? An ice breaker? A way of telling a story? Something to brighten up the room? A symbol of social status? An expression of individual worldview? An expression of emotion? A totem to remind oneself of something inspirational and/or important? Perhaps a bit of all these?
So I’m seeing two worlds collide here: The internal, solitary part of making the art, and the external social part of how the piece of art is actually used.
Art? Used? Is art actually allowed to be “used”? Would the Art Police allow that? Instead of calling them “Patrons”, can we call art buyers “Users” instead? Would you be offended if I called you that? There’s no wrong answer…
Potential Energy turning into Kinetic Energy. I guess one of the reasons I’ve always had such liberal licensing terms [“Want to use my stuff on your PowerPoint Slides for free? Sure, go right ahead!!!….”] is that I like seeing my work being USED. If people like my work, that’s great. But if they can actually find it tangibly useful, even better.
Soon after, Tony Kirton of The Experience Stuido sent me the photograph above, with the following note:
We positioned the your cartoons at the entrance of the studio, to kick-start a relevant conversation. Never failed!
It’s little mental trick that Kathy Sierra taught me- Don’t think of them as “Customers” or “Patrons”, think of them as “Users”. Whatever thing you’re selling, it’s not what it does that’s interesting; it’s how people use it that’s interesting. “People Matter. Objects Don’t.” Exactly.
I’m not sure what to call my customers… sometimes, I call them buyers, sometimes customers, sometimes “posse.” Users is as good as any other term and I do like the ideas behind it that you and Kathy bring to the term. It’s important, I think, to take the experience of the art and it’s end use into consideration when creating it.
On the other hand, most of my art these days has an actual functional component… firebowls are for fires and socializing, chairs or fences solve problems of seating or privacy. But of course, a person can get a much cheaper firebowl, chair, fence. So the art is what makes the sale, or the connection, the function is just a matter of good design.
So I guess I very much think of people as “users” but I’m not sure I like the term as a label for them. In one to one conversations with them, they’re people or friends. In terms of bookkeeping, the buyer category is different from the inquiry, prospect, maybe, never or repeat buyer categories.
Couldn’t agree with you more.
And on a slight tangent, your post kind of ties in with my ideas about Twitter: Twitter’s been successful because it’s not really about what it does (after all, it doesn’t really do that much), it’s much more about the ways people have *chosen to use it* – from inventing hashtags, to different styles of tweeting, to creating numerous apps around its API, and so on. Consequently, users feel more involved and invested in its success, even perhaps feel a little affection for it (to the extent of tolerating its glitches and breakdowns, for instance; even throwing ‘fail whale’ themed parties) – more affection at least, than I’d most people feel toward Facebook and its more top-down approach.
The more people can involve themselves, interact and influence what you offer, the better. Definitely. Whether it’s art or anything else. That is to say, art doesn’t have to have a specific use,* but when it does it just makes the piece even better, makes the connection even stronger.
*actually, I’d tend to argue that all art is useful in some way, but this comment’s long enough already.
but WHAT are they saying?
So you send the newsletter and then repost the best part on your blog? Hmm, 😉
I really like this concept as it is part of why people create I think. Why would one want to create to have their creation static and disconnected from Life? Whatever problems someone has with the word “user” or the word “creativity” are pointless as they are just semantics. The substance of what you’re saying is brilliant and wonderfully distilled as always.
I know I want to build a whole triiibe of users of my social objects, blah blah blah. Words. Sheesh.
Let the work, the creations of our actions, be the point of connection between people and people and their culture.
So if the purpose of art is to connect people with culture, does that mean culture is something other than art?
Art has always been used and useful, especially for propaganda & PR. Some of the use of art is pretty intangible though- changing people’s lives, feelings, relationships, understanding of God and the world, through its beauty and impact on our perceptions etc. Traditionalists sometimes call that “education”- not sure that word covers it completely.
There’s always been a lot of bullshit surrounding art too, and posts like this are valuable for cutting through that- glad you’re doing all this, Hugh.
Who else misses Kathy’s blog and kick ass visuals? She had such an ability to smack you with a salty visual to illustrate her point.
So how are users of Stormhoek USA going to kick some ass? Maybe that was the hook of your labels from days gone by? Anyone bringing a bottle of red with “buy this or the puppy gets it” wants to chat, starting with the red, then moving on to whatever is on the top of the priority list.
I prefer ‘participant’
From my personal viewpoint only, of course, as an art collector (putting aside that I am an artist) I don’t like the word “user”. Mainly because I don’t think I use art. I buy art that affects me, and as it is on my walls (or floors or shelves) it continues to affect me. I do nothing to the artwork, the effect one way from the art to me – so I suppose the art uses me! It’s not even decoration because I simply put it in sight lines with little thought of anything else around it (which is why some is on floors).
Which is not to say it’s a wrong word, might be perfect for you as an artist. Daniel is right, it’s all semantics and personal reaction to a word.
But I don’t like the word “patron” either, which seems old-fashioned and implies strictly a fiscal relationship.
As an artist I haven’t really found a word that I am happy with. In my art business I use the words viewers and collectors interchangeably. They’re the ones I’m most comfortable with and I also feel “viewers” addresses those who admire the work and enjoy it at exhibitions even if they don’t buy it. Because frankly I think they’re important too! I create a visual object, so people looking at it is the most important factor artistically.
Of course art has users – and many uses.
Anyone’s use of art is their reaction to it and what they do with that reaction. Sometimes that is to be inspired, motivated, smile, be happier that day, spark a tangential thought….and so on. Sometimes the reaction is to buy the artifact and sell it again to make monet.
Cave men used art for magic – so do we, it’s just different magic.
Does it even matter?
No artist paints or creates thinking about how a bazillion viewers or the single person that buys it could possibly “use” their art.