I've known Matthew Saunders, an arts tech colleague, for many years. He works for an arts agency and we've set on grant evaluation panels for arts and technology projects. I remember having dinner with him and a colleague from the NEA about 4 years ago and I was bragging about having TiVo. Matthew one-upped me big time: He told me he hooked up his local area network at home so he could access his TiVo remotely via the Internet and configure it to record programs.
I was delighted to discover his newly redesigned drupal blog and all the widgets he has installed. He also wrote an excellent response to my query, "What do you think about widgets?" I have to quote a few points here:
The Web’s holy grail has always been the creating of community. For the most part, it takes a group of zealots to create community on the Web.
Any time you have folks that are passionate about something, you will see community build around that thing/topic. . . . Asking whether widgets will foster community is a tricky question. The predisposition for community will exist whether widgets are used or now. What a widget will do is make it easier for that community to embed interesting rich content into sites. This in turn attracts others to come participate.
I'd also add this it goes beyond embedding rich media content. I think that widgets can facilitate social networking connections (check out the mybloglog widget on my sidebar) and enhanced the interaction or conversation already taking place on the blog.
He also relates my question to the arts sector specifically with the following points:
The arts are in a unique position to leverage these video, audio, and photo sites. The arts are all about sharing content. It makes sense for our art institutions to take advantage. Will they? It remains to be seen but I believe that in order for these organizations to remain relevant with today’s consumers, they are going to need to. Gen X and Y EXPECT interactivity. If you come to them with static sites, you’ve lost them right away.
This really speaks to participation in the arts and the shift in the way participation manifests itself. I believe that the industry needs to re-frame how participation is defined and work to be relevant in today’s consumers’ minds.