Getting Beyond the Like Button

The open studio weekend is just 16 days away and as we get closer, it’s worth taking a look at some of the participatory design choices we’ve made and reasons why. Many people mistakenly think that GO is all about social media, that a quick “like” will decide what happens during the open studio weekend, but GO is designed for a specific type of participation that moves beyond “like” button mentality and fosters something much deeper.

During GO we ask participants to work pretty hard; they have to register, log their travels by “checking in” with unique codes, and see at least five studios in order to be eligible to nominate three artists. That may seem like a fairly involved and complicated process, but we believe these thresholds will engender deeper participation. Because of this participation model, we commonly get comments from artists like this one, “I reviewed what it takes to nominate someone and I really don’t think that ‘regular’ people will actually go through with it all.”

Artist Jason Polan breaks down the steps and shows people How to GO.

So, why do we make people jump through all these hoops? Requiring registration sets a high bar, but it gives all participants a way to identify themselves within the scope of the project.  In early phases, profiles allow participants to recognize each other in the studio, but in later stages of the project (nominations, curator visits) it becomes about continuing the dialogue online in a way that retains the feel of those open doors. The electronic “check-in” at studios is another step in the process, but it goes a long way to ensure that works of art are seen in person—an artist’s online profile is just a teaser to help visitors get interested in the work and then later remember what they saw, but we don’t want people judging work online where works of art are difficult to represent. Requiring a visit to at least five studios in order to nominate three is another high bar, but it allows participants to think more like curators. You have to make a choice, and by removing the nomination process from the open studio weekend, we hope to encourage participants to be more reflective in their choices.

Basically, you can’t just sit at home and vote online; and you can’t just go to your friend’s studio and vote on the spot. We want to shift the dialogue from the spontaneous “like” to careful consideration among many options.

The like button is easy, and while we don’t think participation in GO should be difficult, we do think we need to move away from the gold standard Facebook has forced upon us to something that’s more powerful and serves the needs of participants specifically taking part in this project.  Will everyone get beyond the like button during GO?  We sure hope so; participants may never register and might not pick up a mobile device, but if they find themselves in an artist’s studio on September 8-9, it’s likely they are already way beyond that ubiquitous little button, and in our minds, that is a success.

For those of you wondering if we have a Facebook page for GO, you’ll find that we don’t for many of the same reasons outlined here. During GO, we want to encourage participants toward a dialogue that takes place in the real world, and most importantly, in the studio. While you will see social sharing enabled throughout the GO website and we do encourage participants to share GO via their social networks and email lists, we believe that reaching out to your closest friends and supporters and asking them personally to stop by the studio will go a long way toward encouraging studio visitation and fostering deeper connections.