Provocations on Art: Reading Seth Godin’s _The Icarus Deception_ Part Three . . . (Portfolio Penguin, 2012)

My thinking about blogging has been evolving, as I read and learn new theory. So the next two posts will close this digest of marketing guru Seth Godin’s arguments on art. I have been blogging for the past year by pitching ideas widely, to fellow copywriters and other writers, as well as to prospects. Increasingly, this spring, I will be using the blog to engage better with clients and prospects, in content and tone. More on that to come, in future postings.

In my previous blog posting,  however, I reviewed marketing author Seth Godin’s challenge in The Icarus Deception, that since we are well past the Industrial Age, why are we still settling for so little in our art? Today I’ll look at what Godin prescribes—as another approach to art, in an economy of “connection.”

In the last decade, Godin writes, the door to the “connected economy” has been open.  The move is from an “industrial economy that cherishes compliance to a connected economy that prizes achievement” (22). From making stuff, we now try to make meaning, he says.

The challenge of the 21st Century’s economy isn’t to build more and better and faster and cheaper (after the capitalist Industrial model), but to optimize “this brief moment in time . . . when connection is easier to find and cherish than it will . . . be again. While some people are [still] polishing their systems and honing their spreadsheets, an ever-growing cadre of artists is busy creating work that’s worth connecting to.”

For some, even contemplating flying that high is terrifying, because we overestimate the risk or threat of creating new things and underestimate our ability to cope or grow with the challenges we meet.

The challenge of our 21st C times is “to find a journey worthy of your heart and soul.”

Godin argues that the Industrialists “have made hubris [the overweening arrogance of Icarus to fly as high as the gods] a cardinal sin but conveniently ignored a far more common failing: settling for too little.”

Godin’s analogy is trapping a fox within a fence, who will stay there, even when the door is open, to eat the food that’s always in the trap. “We have been seduced by decent pay and prizes and security to stay in the trap. We were also kept in by the threat of shame, the amplification of risk and society’s reliance on more and shinier prizes.”

The lesson of the Icarus myth (when Icarus drops to the sea to die, after flying too close to the sun) is that “one shouldn’t disobey authority, or imagine [that] one’s better than one is, or that you have the ability to do what a god might do.” In our daily culture, we practice conformity, reminding each other not to stand out, “make a ruckus,” or to be the sore thumb that sticks out.

In opposition, Godin argues that art needs to be reconceived not as something pretty to hang on the wall, but “what you do when you’re truly alive,” when you fly close to the sun. It can be performance, film, fashion, leadership, technology, as much as (or more than) traditional forms, such as a painting or sculpture or building.

What does this redefinition mean for you as a writer, or as a person who relies upon others for writing? The “connection economy” is no longer about making millions, and there is no turning back to the profit-driven Industrial age. A head-in-the-sands nostalgia for that time won’t get us anywhere. Who is threatened by the advent of the “connection economy”? How can you thrive (not only survive) in it? And what does or will your work look like?

In my next and final posting on Godin’s provocations in The Icarus Deception, I’ll discuss more closely what specifically the art of “connection” looks like, and what it means to do it. To be continued . . . .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.