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Writing

New Roles for Artists in the Information Age

Jeff Gates

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One of the major differences between today and previous eras is the acceleration of change. The agricultural age lasted thousands of years and the industrial age 150 years. The new communications structure is constantly redefining itself. Everyone feels overwhelmed and overloaded by the pace of change and predicting the future. The shift in process is causing major upheavals as everyone, even top executives, struggle to stay ahead of the curve.

The information revolution is more than just the Internet and its residual hyperbole. It is a cultural shift from the political and social systems that controlled the flow and content of information to one that offers individuals more direct involvement in the developing social structure. Artists need to be involved in this process.

The nature of the medium offers the potential for us to reach large or very specific audiences as content providers and interpreters. The pace and scope of these changes often seem daunting, especially if we have no prior experience with the tools. But the chance for artists to reposition ourselves from the stereotypical fringe to a more central and valued position is too good to pass up.

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Note: this article was originally published in 1996, commissioned by the New York Foundation for the Arts' publication FYI. It was also the basis of my keynote address to the National Council of Arts Administrators Annual Conference that same year. It was recently updated.

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© 1996-2002 Jeff Gates. No reproduction in whole or in part may be used without prior consent of the author.

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