Feel the fear and do it anyway?

Art by Edward Monkton: http://www.edwardmonkton.com


This week’s reflections hinge around our fears about publishing our work online. I know quite a bit about that. It is about that pesky 2 year old who refuses to give up his toy.


Here are the questions we are being asked to reflect on this week:

“Is there work you felt  you shouldn’t put online because you were afraid it would be stolen? Copied without your permission? What are you afraid someone else will do with you work?”

Ask a direct question, will you?

So I listened to Cory Doctorow in his keynote embedded above. He talks sense that guy, even if his jokes are a bit obvious.

He first cheerfully tells us that ‘ your art is as likely to generate success as the edge on coin contest’. Artists may set out to land the coin on the edge but the majority of [us?] them will fail. Say it straight, will you? I was reminded of when I taught at the University of the Arts and student actors where told something along the lines: out of the 30 people in this room, one of you will be famous, a couple of you might make a living from acting and the rest of you will find another career. I used to think it was inspiring to see all these young people wanting something so much that they did not care about the odds. They **were** going to land the coin on its edge.


'Art and Coins' Animated gif by Gifadog
‘Art and Coins’ by Gifadog

After a few bad jokes we get his 3 laws:

Anyone who puts your work under lock and key but does not give you the key, is not doing it for your benefit.
Fame will not make you rich but you cannot sell your art without it.
Information does not want to be free. It just wants you stop anthropomorphising it!

Given Cory’s laws I guess that I had better work on any fears I may have about putting my stuff out there, letting people use my cute cartoons for advertising haemorrhoid cream or my animated gifs for getting traffic into gambling sites. Is any publicity really good publicity? No. Cory says that there is a right and a wrong side. Actions we take to sell our art  that are on the side of censorship surveillance and control are on the wrong side of history. If you have to break the Internet to accomplish your coin on the edge feat then you are also on the wrong side of history.

So we give our stuff away to be famous, we do not give it away to be kept under lock and key where others keep the key and we remember that it is not about stuff but about relationship. Artist running free on the open web? Wait. That’s DS106 #4life

Happy holidays everyone.



  1. Ronald says:

    Nice post.

    Art is about emotions IMHO. Art is a good way to (try to) connect to other people.
    My art isn’t going to make rich, by no means. It’s not supposed to either. 🙂
    I enjoy making it, and if somebody responds to it (hopefully in a friendly way) than that’s just awesome.

    Happy holidays to you too.

  2. Love the cartoons! I’m halfway through the book and also listened to a publisher’s weekly podcast on which he was interviewed about the book (jump to the 11th min for his start if you want to listen). I’ve been a fan of Doctorow’s advocacy on behalf of net neutrality and sensible applications of copyright. And he truly ‘dog foods’ his own beliefs by releasing his novels under cc licenses while also publishing hardcopies and e-books.

    The longer I think about and introduce to students many of these ideas I’m feeling compelled to work on better understanding what it means to really ‘make a living’ and how to go about that. As I mentioned in our hangout, I’ve done a bit of freelance work in my time, but I never gave up my ‘day job’ which was teaching. And I’m not exactly sure how successful I would have been if I had.

    Next fall our program is going to have a special topics course that addresses some of these issues, as I think the students would really be interested in it. Though we have to find someone teach it! Know anyone in NYC? We’ll probably use Doctorow’s book as well as other resources. But I feel obliged to also ‘dog food’ some of the ideas around funding/selling work. Maybe to build a kickstarter to fund Stefanie’s suggested ds106 show in Berlin? Try and sell some merch based on my work (I’m actually fancying building/buying a silkscreen setup)? I don’t know, but it’s good to be pushed a little.

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