Friday, June 20, 2008

Fixing the "Problem"

We have a problem. Whenever an issue arises that steps outside whatever society has deemed "normal" our response is to police and punish the act. No one thinks about how new developments might benefit us or our community or even if the act is truly criminal. Our knee-jerk reaction is to fight innovation at every step.

An example of this is skateboarding. Before this extreme sport became a national pastime, it was outlawed in nearly every town and city across the country. I remember the day they put up the "No Skateboarding" signs in my hometown. Kids were slapped with citations for choosing to skateboard. It didn't seem to matter that they chose to spend their time on skateboards rather than on drugs or whatever kids do to get into trouble. Eventually, someone wised up and created skating parks and started skateboarding events. What was once a hobby for punks and degenerates has now become a viable sport and even career choice.

A very similar sort of activity that has not gained nearly as much positive redirection is graffiti.
Cities and towns are obsessed with stopping graffiti artists. While I understand the detrimental effects of gang signs spray-painted on public buildings or the destruction of private businesses (especially mom and pop shops), I don't get the big deal about artists simply trying to improve the scenery.

Take this guy for instance...

Buket, as he's known on the streets, tagged a freeway overpass during rush hour. Granted he's just trying to get his name out there, but listen to cranky old Charlie Gibson talk about graffiti...

Of course, there's a local story that caught my eye this morning. It seems our city council has nothing better to do than head an effort to clean up graffiti as soon as it appears. That sounds like a challenge, not a deterrent.

COMO has embraced skateboarding with its own skate park, why not create a similar space for graffiti? For a town that claims to support the arts, it sure has a lot to learn about art. Take Banksy for instance. Here is a graffiti artist who has made a living out of his craft as well as some of the most compelling art around. Plus, he has found ways to make something ugly like urban landscapes beautiful and thought-provoking.

Besides incarceration or legal trouble, our society also likes retribution through the wallet.

The AP is all up in arms over bloggers quoting their "stories" without proper compensation. Of course, when bloggers quote other sources, they normally link back to the original text, allowing their readers the opportunity to make up their own minds while simultaneously increasing the source's traffic. Now, there's a whole pricing scale for quoting AP stories. This is how the archaic journalism fascists want to combat their irrelevancy in a Web 2.0 world? Why not join us? Oh wait. Newspapers have tried the blog thing. They must not make enough money from these endeavors, otherwise they wouldn't care. The fact is that more and more people are ending paper subscriptions and signing up for RSS feeds instead. (I'd quote an AP story, but I'm sort of broke right now.)

Whatever. Newspapers regularly cite sources without linking back to their sites. Why doesn't the AP practice what they preach? I guess the only recourse we have is to never use the AP as a source or to ask for compensation whenever interviewed by a so-called journalist.

In fact, I may just do that. Whenever I'm interviewed for a news story, I should warn the reporter that I will require monetary compensation for my words. It's my intellectual property, isn't it? Of course, I am rarely quoted, so this may be a mute point.

But I digress from my original argument.

Why doesn't the AP take a more proactive stance by embracing the blogosphere? Just ask that bloggers link back to the original source (which they already do) and maybe even include the AP in their blogrolls. Conversely, the AP could provide training for bloggers in reporting ethics and listen to claims by bloggers that traditional media is biased. This is just a beginning, but let's fix the problem instead of punishing it.

I could go all day, but I won't. Maybe if we all start thinking of ways to bridge the gap between tradition and new ways of expression, we might rediscover the benefits in invention.

(If you plan on quoting any part of this blog, just link back and leave a comment with a link to your blog/news story. I'll figure out a pay scale later.)


Zach said...

I'd say spray-painting a bus/overpass/anything not previously designated for spray-painting is a legit problem. Basquiat's been dead for a while.

What's your angle, beyond improving the scenery?

Huey said...

"Hey Early. Baby I got your money, don't you worry, Early. Baby I got your money"

---students from pre-Linden days.

comoprozac said...

My angle is more than fixing the scenery. It's about taking back our environment from corporate pigs. My real point is to come up with better ways of handling society's ills than punishment.

Huey, I remember those days. I assume the comment was just to bring up some pleasant memories.