Have a read of this interesting piece by The Guardian's art critic, Jonathan Jones. Titled 'Art criticism is not a democracy', the piece makes two fascinating points relevant to any field...
ONE. Criticism matters. As Jones argues, "iI nothing is properly criticised, mediocrity triumphs".
TWO. No one is going to declare you a critic (or an expert). Instead, it's an exercise in arrogant self-promotion balanced with honest self-assessment. Here's how Jones puts it, "I don't believe my views on film or TV or music are worth anything special. But I do believe – actually I know – that my instinct for what is valuable in art is unusually sure."
I take a simple lesson from this. Everything is worth challenging and criticising, and no one is going to give you the permission to do it. Your choice is whether you want to be someone whose opinion on something matters and what you're going to do about it.
Lots of stuff going on in the world and no time (or energy) to write about it recently.
Chris Anderson's new book, Free, sets up interesting discussions about the old-world of scarcity thinking and the new world of abundance thinking. He talks about how the shifting landscape is changing what is valuable, and what now deserves to be free. Here's his original article in Wired on Free, and here's the book which explores the concept fully.
It's easy to assume that Free is a discussion most relevant to digital music sales and similar categories that have been directly transformed by the power of the internet. In truth, the kind of paradigmatic shifts that Free is based on are happening in all sorts of categories, both in the old and new media spaces. The question is not, therefore, if it is affecting you...but how it's affecting you and what you're doing about it.
Rather than wait for an over-priced trendwatching agency to tell you what's going on, you need to start forming a clear hypothesis about where your sector is going and the forces that are going to drive it in that direction, and then you need to start testing and refining that hypothesis through every article you read and every conversation you have.
Two examples in the NY Times today of articles that have helped me develop my thinking about the world of experiences...
This piece on shifting trends in the New York bar and club scene talks abut the rejection of exclusive bars and clubs in favour of inclusive social environments. It has helped me to refine my thinking on the kinds of experiences people are looking for in 2009, the kinds of contexts they want to frame their lives within.
This piece on the changing pressures on American shopping malls has helped to reinforce my belief that the context we create around live experiences is often now more important than the core content of that experience. The shopping mall example in the article talks about the growing importance of events and ancillary experiences, and the relative drop in significance of the shopping experience itself, driven by the recessionary realities of 2009 combined with the convenienceof online shopping.
Nothing new then. Just more stimulus, more brain fuel. The question, as always, is what you and your orgnisation should do about it...