Module 1: Introduction to the project

What is crowdsourced art?

In recent years we have seen the rise of creative projects that are based on open public participation and take place entirely online. For example:

  • Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk rely on Johhny Cash fans to collectively draw a tribute to the artist, frame by frame (The Johnny Cash Project);
  • Ridley Scott enlists YouTube users to film a feature-length documentary created entirely by amateur filmmakers all over the world (Life in a Day);
  • Eric Whiteacre conducts virtual choirs made up of thousands of global voices recorded by webcams and connected by the Internet (The Virtual Choir)
  • acclaimed director Paul Verhoeven invites his audience to participate in the collaborative screenwriting of award-winning films (Tricked).

Building on the concept of crowdsourcing as a strategy for content generation, I describe such projects as online crowdsourced art, which I define as the practice of using the Internet as a participatory platform to directly engage the public in the creation of artwork.

If you are interested in reading more on the background and features of crowdsourced art, as well as a survey of key examples, check out my article in the International Journal of Communication, "The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Participation: Crowdsourced Art and Collective Creativity."

Or check out my narrated overview of a few crowdsourced art examples in video form:

Why a children's book?

Well first of all, as you will see if you read my research articles, I deliberately operate with a broad definition of art - in my mind, there should be no elitist separation between art and creativity. Art is creativity, and creativity can turn into art. I cherish collaboration and participatory culture, and I do not want to help create something that is available only to a select few.

Second, I love children's books, and I love the Internet, but all children's books about Internet culture are so negative and restrictive: don’t talk to strangers on Facebook, don’t give out personal information, don’t download pirated material, don’t… don’t… don’t. Why not tell kids about all the amazing things that the Internet has to offer, and how you can find community and meet people from all over the world?... In fact, P2PU is an amazing example of such a community, illustrating what can happen when a bunch of cool people come together to learn, create and share. It is for this reason that I believe in the potential of this online community to get together and collaborate in the development of a fun and valuable children's book about the Internet. A book about the Internet, by the Internet. :-)

In terms of length, the story will consist of 20-30 sentences (with each sentence having its own illustration). The target age group is children aged 5-8.

What is the fate of this book once we (hopefully!) finish it?

The finalized book will be available in two forms: for free online as an e-book (where anybody can download it), AND as a printed book for those that want to purchase it, with all profits going to The Modern Story, an amazing NGO that implements digital storytelling programs for underprivileged children in Indian public schools. I had the pleasure of working as the field coordinator of this program in India, before starting my PhD studies, and I can attest to the value of this program and to the fact that any money raised with this book would directly benefit the children and their schools.

Introduce yourselves!

Before jumping into the collaborative writing and illustration, use the comment board below to tell us a little about yourself. Who are you and what drives you? Why are you interested in this project and what do you hope to get out of it?


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