Nov 11 2005 Kelly Norton

For those who were at the AIGA conference and picked up one of the postcards designed by Brent Fitzgerald, you may now enter your code, claim your 100 Buraks and begin making and buying works. For those who are interested but don't have a special postcard, stay tuned we're going to open things up soon though it may be by invitation. I would give a more concrete date on when that will all happen, but you see how poor my date guessing skills are. I think I'll just leave it at “soon” this time. I also know that the end of the term is approaching and classes tend to take over every waking hour (which is like 16-18 hours/day at MIT).

Last time I wrote about it, I was very vague so I will clarify things just a little. First, I take the easy way out and just steal text directly from the page that Amber Frid-Jimenez wrote for the site.

OPENSTUDIO is a unique online intersection of creativity and capitalism in an experimental online art exchange economy. We aim to provide simple, extensible, creative tools for free in an open, web-based environment.

To clarify that even further: It's a place you can go to draw stuff and sell it. The question people always ask is “what can I do with something once I buy it?” We're not really answering that question; we're waiting for people to decide for themselves. We have some things in mind. In fact, the front page of my site features one such thing. I have set up my photo slide show to pull from select pieces in my OPENSTUDIO gallery instead of my standard collection of photos. All the pieces you see there, I purchased with my hard earned (or slyly stolen) Buraks. Of course, I had to be a little clever to get the scaled images over to my site, but I know the guy who wrote the rendering engine for the site. Other people in the group have their own reasons for buying, selling or hording pieces. In fact, it's very interesting to see how people use things when not explicitly told how to do so.

Everyone in the group has a slightly different take on what it's all about. I heard John Maeda give a particularly nice description earlier this week when we showed it to a group of fairly rigid Japanese businessmen. He talked about his daughters and how, like a lot of parents, he fears that one day they will utter the words that no parent wants to hear: “Dad, I've decided to become and artist.” He points out how the arts are on shaky ground in an economic sense. Math and reading are the subjects of emphasis in our schools because evaluation of each generation along those dimensions assures us that our economy has a strong future. The other subjects, including art, are pushed aside as apparently being economically insignificant. Yet when so many Americans express their growing anxiety about outsourcing of jobs to other countries, they are reassured that the first world will survive on their unmatched creativity. The same creativity we have eradicated from our schools since it made no sense economically. This, he says, is our motivation for putting creativity and capitalism together in the same online space. I thought it was a nice description.

While I'm not sure exactly where OPENSTUDIO is headed or what sort of impact it will have on the economic viability of future generations, I can tell you that it offers an opportunity to re-experience the joy of just drawing something. That's a joy many of us have probably not experienced since our last notebook doodle was confiscated in Mr. William's Algebra class.