Art Mobs: Can an online crowd create a poem, a novel, or a painting?

In a sense, the world of online collaboration is discovering what artists have always known: Rigid conventions are often crucial to producing art. Novels, poems, and oil paintings are really just structural devices that take an artist’s zillion competing ideas?an internal, self-contradicting mob?and focus them into a coherent work.

Mind you, online collaborators are finding that freedoms are important too. The journalist JD Lasica recently put his unpublished book, Darknet, on a wiki?a type of collaboration Web site where anyone can edit a page or write a new one?and encouraged his readership to edit it. But readers mostly offered only tiny edits, such as grammatical fixes or fact-checks. Nobody plunged in and rewrote an entire section. Lasica suspects his book was too fully formed: People didn’t want to mess with something that seemed finished. He thinks a better idea would be to post a much rougher draft of the book to make it seem more like clay that can be molded. —Clive ThompsonArt Mobs: Can an online crowd create a poem, a novel, or a painting? (Slate)

While this article is a couple years old, I found it interesting due to all the time I spent yesterday waiting in line and sitting in a crowd (as part of SHU’s graduation exercises).

It takes a lot of work to organize something like a graduation procession. As a faculty member, all I have to do is follow the person in front of me. As long as a few people know where we’re going, it will work out. But if someone in that position of authority hesitates, or gives a bad cue, the confusion can multiply.