There is an excellent recent post by Henry Jenkins titled ‘In Defense of Crud‘ in which he examines some of the recent debates around fan fiction, YouTube etc. Jenkins’ response to some of the criticisms of ‘participatory culture’ is wonderfully distilled into seven precepts which can be broadly applied.
1. We should not reduce the value of participatory culture to its products rather than its process.
2. All forms of art require a place where beginning artists can be bad, learn from their mistakes, and get better.
3. A world where there is a lot of bad art in circulation lowers the risks of experimentation and innovation.
4. Bad art inspires responses which push the culture to improve upon it over time.
5. Good and Bad, as artistic standards, are context specific.
6. Standards of good and bad are hard to define when the forms of expression being discussed are new and still evolving.
7. This is not a zero-sum game. It is not clear that the growth of participatory culture does, in fact, damage to professional media making.
What is the opportunity cost for museums of not engaging with participatory culture? I’d wager that the issues we face when we do engage are significantly less problematic than if we do not engage. Our audience are already engaging in a participatory culture – its very hard not to do so in a mainstream life – even our television shows are forcing us to vote or their outcomes.