Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Web 2.0 gives a new meaning to works-in-progress

You can't see it till it's finished
David Byrne, "Artists Only"

There was a time when writers, musicians, artists went "deep in the shed" (search this page for a definition) and emerged, months or years later, with completed masterworks.

No more. Now books, records, presentations, etc., are previewed and assembled online, for all to see. First drafts, alternate endings, even books created with input from the audience are de rigueur. In a recent "Fresh Air," from National Public Radio, drummer Paul Motian remarked on how appalled the late pianist (and perfectionist) Bill Evans would be with the "complete box set" (including alternate takes, restarts, etc.) of the Village Vanguard sessions released in 2005.

In some way, this trend echoes the time-honored academic approach of circulating drafts of scholarly papers among a group of peers for comment. Of course, now the peer group is everybody with an internet connection.

It's another way, I suppose, in which we are more exposed to the world. Our privacy is reduced, at our own initiative. But it's fun, too. Not in an exhibitionistic way, but in a trusting, welcoming way. With more of our foibles, mistakes, and misunderstandings out in the open, perhaps we are more human, and the distance between us shortens a little bit.

(Photo: Talking Heads Japanese newspaper article by artlung via flickr. Creative Commons attribution license)


Raymond said...

Thanks for noting the first drafts of my book. At first I found it scary to post early drafts, which have so many imperfections, both small and large. I've been hoping for lots of feedback on what I've written so far. What feedback I've gotten so far has been very helpful to me!