Saturday, December 8, 2007

Audience-Sourcing FAQ


2007-12-31. This post has been copied to the Art of the Net Wiki. All further updates and edits will occur on the Wiki. Link

What is audience-sourcing?

Audience-sourcing is the act of people, while in the process of observing a work of art, transmitting some aspect of their observation process to others in some durable manner.

Putting it more simply, audience-sourcing occurs when:

  • A young lady Twitters that she is listening to a beautiful song while attending a concert.

  • A young man IMs his friends that the movie he is watching "kinda sucks".

  • A geek posts by e-mail to his blog a description of the robot wars games is currently observing.

  • A small group of people all raise their hands simultaneously having been alerted to do so through the Bluetooth telephones.

  • A casual visitor's comment is entered into a fresh blog post.

  • You update your "is" on Facebook from your mobile phone just before the curtain goes up.

What are some examples of the results of on-line audience-sourcing?

The customer reviews on,, the comments on and, the reviews on and are all audience-sourcing. The interesting thing here is that the audience or customers appear to be just as happy making comments commercial products as they are about works of art. It appears that anything that has been "designed" ranging from "The Pirates of the Caribbean" to the iPhone is available for audience-sourcing. Reviews of all kind appeared to be equally insightful (or have similar lack of insight). In other words almost anything cast upon the public eye could be subject to audience-sourcing.

Audience-sourcing is popping up everywhere. The audience is talking back.

Is there a link to the book "The Wisdom of Crowds"?

It seems highly likely. Hopefully, this matter will be covered in depth in a later addition of this post.

Are there historical precedents for audience-sourcing?

College cheers, warpaint, the wave are all examples of audience participation. Perhaps so are lynch mobs. These are in some sort of way precursors to the current trend of audience sourcing. There are examples where the audience, of its own volition, were communicating to each other, not necessarily to the performers themselves, some aspects of their appreciation of the performance.

A significant difference between audience participation and audience-sourcing is that audience participation is transient and unrecorded.

How does audience-sourcing impact the work or the performance itself?

Audience-sourcing probably has very little impact on the work with the performance itself. Considering books, art and sculpture, the audience arrives well after the work has been produced. If we are talking about a "live" performance of a piece of music or a play, then one must look at Philip Auslander's book Liveness ( to see that a live performance is very often not very alive at all. What audience-sourcing may do is influence the sale of the product and its general reception by the community, but it is not very likely to affect the work of art itself. On the other hand, audience sourcing may have a long term effect on the artist, composer or author and somehow alter the way that person creates their next work.

What about art critics, reviewers, reporters, courtroom artists and photographers? Are they part of the phenomena of audience-sourcing?

The common link between all of these disciplines is that they have all been paid or will be paid because of their attendance at the performance. Therefore they have some vested interests in the performance apart from besides just being there. So the quite specific aspect of audience-sourcing is that the communication is for free, most likely without any digital rights management or copyright encumbrance and the author is unlikely to be well-known or famous.

Where are some places where there is a lack of audience-sourcing?

The surprisingly major empty space for audience-sourcing is in online museum websites. As far as we know there is not one museum that allows commenting or feedback on individual works of art in their online collections or exhibitions. Thus for the time being art and sculpture produced in the traditional manner have very little audience-sourcing. On the other hand the newer Internet-oriented artists collaborations do very much support audience sourcing. Examples include event and

Will there be a confluence of audience-sourcing and Web Art?

Most certainly. It is a basic tenet of this site that Web Art must have audience comments. We predict that significant works a Web Art will last forever. And so should their comments. It will be just as important for members of the future beings to read what the audience thinks of a work through the ages as it will be looking upon the work itself. The effect of audience-sourcing on works of Web Art will be to add provenance, to intervene with the work, to add liaisons with other works, to amplify the emotions and simply to add depth to the original work.

What is the connection with crowd-sourcing?

Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as "the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people."

The moment a work of art is published, displayed or performed, to a certain extent it becomes an act of crowdsourcing. The artist, composer, or author outsources the appreciation of the work to an undefined, generally large group of people.

With audience-sourcing, there was always been by definition an audience which is a large group of people. Be the work of art a concert, a poem, a painting, a book or whatever there is a community of people for whom the work will bring pleasure, or displeasure or perhaps even no pleasure. For one reason or another, members of that audience decide to record these emotions so that others who follow in the same footsteps may see them.

Audience-sourcing is the reverse of crowdsourcing. Or what occurs after the audience has been crowdsourced. Certain members of the audience self-select themselves to be spokesman for that audience. The audience is "in-sourcing" a special talent.

What is the connection with audience participation?

Audience participation typically involves spontaneous acts or outbursts. When people applaud, boo or laugh, it is a moment of spontaneity that occurs and then disappears forever. When a reader cries upon reading a poem, poignant as that moment may be the tears soon dry and are lost. The comments written on the margin of a book, disappear when that book is trashed.

With audience-sourcing, those moments of inspiration or emotion are recorded and have a duration that may extend into eternity.

When was the neologism audience-sourcing actually coined?

At approximately 5:30 am on 8 December 2007 in San Francisco.

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