Recruiting Collective Intelligence to Level Art World Stratification
Departing from the cultural impacts of physical museums, this article explores two significant virtual benefits of online digitized art collections. Based on empirical research, it speculates that these increasingly interconnected collections have the potential to implement a new model of cultural participation able to sustain power sharing beyond public consultation, and transform the art system’s inherent stratification, viz. modulate the art world’s access barriers to institutional prestige, thus benefiting artists by levelling the playing field. The claim is that they can serve as a digital infrastructure to recruit collective intelligence on a mass scale in order to democratize culture and foster more equality and diversity in the art world. However, these impacts cannot simply be achieved by turning users into citizen curators or leveraging ‘altmetrics’ (i.e., views and likes) to influence selection and modulate order within an aggregated or distributed database. The main obstacle to these virtual impacts is not online access barriers, nor insufficient participation. Multiplying eyeballs, facilitating discovery and promoting public choices are all vital; but, these initiatives cannot hope to transform the art system if the individual judgment being captured is subject to different spheres of influence and network effects driving inequality. To overcome these effects, the article proposes a novel, choice-based, pathfinding tool designed to recruit users’ sensemaking faculty, as opposed to their personal taste, and in so doing, more effectively capture what users find meaningful (and institute a new value proposition for art).