During a time when artistic curation is defined by the “like” button or pinning photos, Scott Belsky came to South by Southwest preaching the importance of connecting and empowering the creative world.
Belsky is the co-founder and CEO of Behance, the leading online platform for creative work. Adobe acquired Behance in late 2012, giving Belsky the title of Vice President of Creative Community. Fast Company named him one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2010.
His panel entitled “Connecting & Empowering the Creative World” discussed the three major roadblocks in the creative community and how they can be addressed.
Belsky’s first point was the long tail—the notion the Web can gather like-minded people together and create communities for them—is backfiring. He said the desire and newfound ability to create isolated communities for segments of the population is inhibiting interaction.
“Is the Web verticalizing just because it can? We know discovery happens in the overlap of different communities,” Belsky said. “This is not a new idea. A fisherman hanging out with an architect talking about problems in their respective careers can cumulate in a new discovery. Are we starting to lose some of this?”
He argued innovation and discovery occurs when communities overlap, but the long tail has allowed them to become separated. He said 95 percent of artists follow other creative fields and 50 percent will publish a portfolio in a field other than their own.
“Host the overlap, and you will prompt innovation,” Belsky said. “When you don’t, you can actually impede it.”
The second challenge he posed is the creative world has empowered the masses without discernment. He used the example of the general populous upvoting or liking a work of art as a way of helping the best rise the top.
“Is the crowd a good judge?” Belsky asked. “Should we care about what a million random people think (about a picture of a building) or, say, 12 incredibly talented architects who have a versed sense of architecture?”
Belsky’s notion of “critical mass” versus “credible mass” led him to say future curating needs to assign weight to approval based on influence. He said the Web has transformed into a platform that can make or break creative careers, and who “likes” the work needs to be considered.
Belsky said the best solution is to use data to identify and amplify the “credible mass,” allowing the best talent to get the spotlight.
The third problem facing the creative world is an increasing lack of artist attribution.
“When attribution is not supported, opportunity is lost every day,” Belsky said.
Sites such as Tumblr host thousands of images that don’t link back to the original portfolio or artist, breaking a cycle that would allow the appreciation to flow back to the creator.
Some sites are catching on to this and making a change. Belsky said Pinterest now includes an attribution list and links back to the source in five different places. It drives referral traffic back to the original work and portfolio and gives a chance to credit everyone involved in the creative process.
“The power of attribution ... would be a level of transparency that the creative industry has never seen and would be transformative,” Belsky said.
His realization was with proper attribution, discovery can outweigh referral.
“Recognize and remember that nothing extraordinary ever happens through ordinary means,” he said.