Every now and then I will read an article that has me questioning the choices we make as artists.
This time Facebook was the topic and it was regarding a glitch in their system that was mistakenly deactivating accounts of thousands of female users. Of course, they remedied the bug. But instead of automatically reactivating the affected accounts and allowing members to sign in and go about their business as usual, they were required to fill out a form. The form required them to send an image of a “government-issued ID,” ensuring that their full name, date of birth, and photo were clear. Even after doing so, one confirmed member was still denied access (read article here).
WTF?! The more I read about the advancement of Facebook the more I see it as an “Internet institution” opposed to a place to share images and connect with friends. Why in the hell would someone even have the balls to ask a member to issue a government-issued ID in order to sign into a $%#!*# social network account?
Facebook does so, because Facebook can…! And most members will comply without a second thought. I can even go a step further and say it was intentional, because I can’t understand why a network would make this kind of mistake and then put members through the inconvenience of having to jump through hoops to reconnect. Who wants this kind of publicity unless it was a test. Just my 3cents.
I copied this quote a while back because it articulated in words what I feel when I witness the rise of “Social Internet Institutions.” Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I got the source, so forgive me.
Every time we follow the leader for ostensibly good reasons, the consequence is a narrowing of our choices. This is an important principle of information economics: Market power is rarely seized so much as it is surrendered up, and that surrender is born less of a deliberate decision than of going with the flow.
So you’re asking, what does this have to do with independent artists? Well, it has everything to with the plight of independent artists. It’s the fact that users have to comply with the social network’s demands that has me concerned about the near future. More and more artist’s individual works and music are a growing part of these institutions, and therefore controlled by these said institutions. You know the artists I am talking about, where their work can only be found on social institutions and have their official page as www.social-institution.com/artist and not www.artist-name.com.
Ok, so social institution maybe too strong a word, but as we continue to narrow our choices and go with the flow, more networks will have the balls to ask for government-issued ID(or whatever fits) to sign in. And course most of us will comply because we now have no other choice.
Just imagine you wake up one morning after having a great show. You’re excited to contact your fans and friends to share in the moment. Life is good. Your fan page rocks, the hard work has paid off and you have accumulated thousands of fans and “Likes!” Then you try to log-in and a message reads that you are denied entry. It further reads “Please grab this tube of Vaseline and bend over because we are now about to screw your ass over. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reactivate this account for any reason. This decision is final. Have a nice day!”
Need further proof of the well intentioned institutions? Go back in time to the invention of the phonograph and follow a trail that has powerful corporations controlling artists and consumers for more than 100 years.
When you look at the numbers, Facebook now accounts for 1-in-4 page views on the Internet. It has teamed with the Microsoft Search Engine Bing to integrate likes into its search algorithm and it is close to being (if not already) the number one referral system for websites on the web. Let’s not even think about the new email killer. I hope you see where this is going, especially when the day comes when its 100% accountable to its shareholders.
Independent artists now have the power and the means to decentralize the web and the gateway to entry is easily accessible by all. If we continue down this path of going with the flow, we surrender to centralization and we become dependent upon a system where someone else will be making the choices for us whether we like it or not.
Choose Your Path
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