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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Important Role of "Followers" in Establishing A Lasting Artistic Legacy

  A really influential book in developing my personal view about the creation and maintenance of an Artistic legacy is the Sociology of Philosophies (Belnap/Harvard Press, 1998) by Randall Collins. This book is about intellectual networks of philosophers, and specifically deals with the ways ideas were passed around these networks. Although Collins' examples are limited by the field of philosophy, he advances multiple ideas that resonate with the "social network" influenced world of today, as well as ideas whose significance extends well beyond the fields of philosophy or social science.

 Although it isn't the central premise of his book, many of Collins' ideas fall under the broadly described title of "rock star studies," or the study of how certain individuals manage to exert a disproportionate influence on others they encounter.  There have been many takes on this idea from vastly different academic fields: sociology, anthropology, history, economics, not to mention it popping up in non academic fields like music (from wherein the "rock star" emerged), film (the movie star.)

 One specific point that Collins makes repeatedly in Sociology of Philosophies, is that brilliant ideas don't mean a whole lot if they don't attract other people. There are numerous examples of philosophers suffering in their lifetimes and only having their ideas vindicated after death.  These are typically individuals who are socially isolated or otherwise have trouble connecting with others.   At the other end of the spectrum, succesful philosophers typically operated at the center of existing intellectual networks and/or exerted a pull of personality on those who followed him.

 My spin on this analysis made by Collins is that a modern Artist should seek to elevate lesser known Artists by helping in the writing, recording, marketing and distribution of newer Artists.  Such activity can be oriented towards profit makind OR it can be done pro-bono in recognition of the reputational benefits and added career benefits that come from developing artistic "followers." 

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