It’s been almost two decades since Tim O’Reilly wrote “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” That article mainly dealt with issues of copyright and similar intellectual property laws – and one point where his observations and the observations I aim to make here seem to agree is the view (i.e. perspective, opinion, etc.) that the legal framework may not matter as much as the attention (and similar behaviors) of end users, consumers, etc.
I have been thinking about this general topic for several weeks now, and perhaps you may find it surprising to hear that my thought processes along these lines began by thinking long, hard and deep about the marketing concept referred to as “unique selling proposition”. I aim to actually argue that people should not aim to be individuals as much as they should view themselves as members of communities.
What Tim O’Reilly’s quote above says is that authors and other creative artists cannot exist in isolation – their existence crucially depends on interactions with communities of people who are willing to interact with and thereby support their work. Fans, consumers, target audiences, … – whatever you want to call these people, marketplaces, ideas – the community of engaged participation matters a lot.
Being an individual, being unique, separated, censored, cut off or even ostracized may be the worst thing that could happen to an author, a creative artist or even anyone at all.
We do not solve any social or societal problems by removing an individual from our community. A death penalty does not solve anything as much as it creates a new problem: it turns us into murderers. One death does not cancel out another death. Instead: Each and every individual murder adds up – the cumulative total only grows into a larger number, a bigger problem, … — more death.
Let’s imagine how there are about 8 billion people on Earth. In some ways, we already are a global community, and in other ways we aren’t. Each and every person alive is breathing as we speak. Yet each of our own spoken language is a little bit different than the speaking of others. This may be due to our voice, our accent, our dialect, … it may be due to a wide variety of reasons. Indeed, I think it’s quite reasonable to expect that for each and every one of us, there are more people we cannot understand at all than there are people we can understand, be understood by, communicate with sufficiently to have a sense of mutual understanding with.
There is no reason for individuals to take pride in splendid isolation from one another. We ought not to celebrate our unique individuality as much as we should stand in awe, wonder and amazement if and whenever we feel we are able to come to a common understanding, to reach agreement, to collaborate and help each other.
So please: Do not lose sight of your fellow participants in each and every one of our common and shared experiences!