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This article was automatically translated. ORIGINAL

ONLINE CRITICISM: A SHORT VADEMECUM

A ROUNDUP OF EDGY SUBJECTS IN THE ART WORLD

Marco Carta - Classical Music

Musician, MedStudent
11th March 2021

As users on social media who are personally exposed to the dissemination of our art, we are often subject to the judgement of others. While this is part of our work, we do not always find a constructive confrontation.

PREMISE: DISTINGUISHING HATING, TROLLING AND CRITICISM

Hating is the manifestation of hatred through social networks, and more generally through the internet, by one user towards another user. It occurs on a daily basis, regardless of how large a following we have on the social networks we use. In principle, it amplifies with the size of our sample of contacts. However, artists can be affected not only on a personal level or based on the writings they post, but also on the merits of their work if it is published online.

The fact of having many followers does not make the phenomenon less suffered by the victim. Because of this misunderstanding, some users lash out at those with huge followings, convinced that they are doing no harm, and that they are protected by the fact that they are a drop in the ocean. Moreover, the phenomenon can also become very serious, leading to a translation of violence from the social to the real world.

Trolling, on the other hand, is a more banal form of provocation. It can be extremely annoying, also and above all because it plays on rapidity (many comments in a row, typed) and caustic answers. To this, one can add blasting, i.e. the use of sarcasm or acid comments to denigrate the interlocutor, generally accompanied by a strong consensus in terms of interactions on the comment. The key to understanding the latter is twofold: there is not only verbal confrontation, but also a sense of superiority in the user.


Criticism, in such a polluted context, is very difficult to trace. Among them, sorting out the constructive ones is even more complex. Working on art often requires introspection, silence and re-elaboration, which are not encouraged by the beating drum of social content. However, we must not give up: criticism is the spice of our work, it keeps our minds open to new stimuli and to questioning, sometimes even the foundations of our path. Knowing how to use them to one's advantage, and thus knowing how to distinguish between quarrel and discussion, is essential.


THE ROOTS OF THE PHENOMENON

What are the reasons that drive ordinary people towards this practice? Generally speaking, a sense of frustration mixed with the conviction of not being traceable on the Internet. Moreover, the immediacy of the digital world lightens the perceived weight of one's actions and their consequences. We are clearly generalising, the deep-seated reasons are individual. However, some dynamics are repeated with such constancy that we can trace patterns, which differ according to the type of hating exercised and the target.


It is not necessarily a practice practised only by people with a low level of education, but also by people with a high level of academic training. The polarising context of social networks certainly influences language: one must always be effective, biting, with just one insult one must hurt and at the same time define oneself. The impact that the implementation of dislike (YouTube) and the various reactions (especially laughter and anger) on Facebook has had is not negligible, amplifying the range of possible modes of interaction; anger has definitely found its counterpart on a screen, at the touch of a finger.


THE FORMS OF "NOISE"

For musicians and artists in general, knowing how to deal with this type of dynamic is essential to maintaining our dissemination activities. The techniques for dealing with this annoying background noise can vary, even greatly, depending on who we are dealing with. But let's see case by case.


1. THE NOSTALGIC. The nostalgic is the person who comments on the videos of current performers: his favourite prey are clearly the younger musicians, as they are the possible recipients of an unsolicited lecture. They intervene to say that no, certain pieces should not be performed in this way, that we should go back to the glories of Segovia, and that today we hear a lot of technique, but little music. They are harmless figures, all things considered, and have no particularly malicious intention. The more aggressive ones may go so far as to make inappropriate judgments on technique, on mistakes that only they can perceive, or even make inferences about the curriculum vitae of the players (all cases, alas, that I have experienced personally).


2. THE COMPETITOR. The contestant can be an unscrupulous person, willing to play the competition by any means possible in order to prevail. He usually posts his own video on YouTube for a competition (usually for the elimination phase) and goes to every video posted by other contestants to dislike them. Sometimes she may choose to limit her action to a few of them, or even get help from friends and acquaintances in the same practice. The aim? To make the judging panel be influenced by the number of likes and dislikes underneath the videos when choosing candidates for the next stages of the competition, and in general to undermine the confidence of his 'opponents' (again, a practice he has undergone on more than one occasion).


3. THE TECHNICIAN. The technician is perhaps the least cruel of the three, so much so that it can even be interesting. Usually they are fellow musicians, experts in the field. His commentary is characterised by a knowing tone, but not without content. Sometimes he even offers suggestions (usually references to other videos he considers 'better'). The problem is his stubbornness in not wanting to face a discussion as such: answering him is extremely frustrating, since he remains anchored to his positions and does not accept other points of view, by virtue of the competence (which he possesses) that feeds his thesis. The problem here lies in the arrogance of such individuals, who perceive themselves as the bearers of absolute truth even on artistic issues that are currently the focus of heated discussion.


4. THE VANESIA. This last category partially overlaps with the previous one, although it has its own characteristics. The vain person normally lives by the mantra of productivity, and is keen to let us know it. He publishes whatever he does, always and only better than anyone else. The comparison is in terms of quantity, rarely in terms of quality of work. He comments on other people's statuses or videos in a way that is only relevant on the surface: the real purpose is to promote his activity and his view of the world. In this sense, a comparison is less useful than the previous 'profile'.


THE EFFECTS

Generally speaking, the effects of all these activities are detrimental, at various levels. If we exclude actual hating, which sometimes also requires external intervention to ascertain the legal responsibility of the perpetrator, the picture we are left with can still be depressing. We are frustrated, laughed at, and challenged by people who lack the ability to interface with others in a constructive way, even before competence.
Moreover, even a short stay on any social network home page exposes us to the toxic vision of angry, quarrelsome people with aggressive ways, due to the proliferation of the comments section. The comments section has become a real autonomous feed, where comments are sorted by number of likes and responses: in this game, the one who shoots the loudest or who entertains the most wins.


Frustration is therefore the main effect. But it is not the only one: envy, fear of publishing again and exposing oneself, loss of focus and concentration (sometimes responding to 'trolls' can waste hours of time).


COUNTERMEASURES

The work to be carried out in these cases is first of all on ourselves. We must immediately identify which aspects we can control: the comments section, the interactions, the possibility of banning, the possible presence of a food for thought. But let us try to go in order.


1. THE NOSTALGICO. It is usually difficult to propose a different listening, a new expressiveness, to those who are fanatics of the "old school": if the tenor of the comment allows it, we can try to open a dialogue, if our aim is to spread the word. Sometimes, even this is not enough, and even puts the interlocutor on the defensive: at other times, one succeeds in effectively getting one's point of view across, and the discussion enriches both of us.

2. THE COMPETITOR. The only radical solution is to eliminate the possibility of interaction (on YouTube) on your video. Alternatively, one must passively accept this dynamic, aware that these feedbacks do not invalidate the other videos on the channel, but are unfortunately a sad tactic inherent in the competition. Recently, many international competitions impose the first option on competitors' videos to avoid any kind of bias and keep the competition as 'clean' as possible.

3. THE TECHNICIAN. At the same time the most useful and the most dangerous of all (especially for budding musicians/artists). Expertise is often useful to support one's thesis, and if one's intentions are good, or if one is smart enough to filter criticism from the annoying tone of certain comments, one can bring home a different point of view on one's work. On the other hand, especially younger people can easily feel psychologically subservient to people who are more competent than they are, and who are sometimes a bit rash in their judgements. Experience dictates the main countermeasure: not everyone deserves an answer. Let us value our time, which is precious.

4. THE VANESE. It tends to be best to stay away from them. The contribution made by these individuals is very difficult to separate from their need for self-promotion on the back of criticism of others. Promoting oneself is not wrong, but denigrating others to do so is certainly not the best way.


CONCLUSIONS

The essence of the discourse lies in seeking balance. To be influenced by prejudice and to take any criticism as a personal attack is wrong. It is also wrong to identify a comment with the writer, ignoring a priori the opinion of those who do not have our background. Certainly study and expertise make it much more likely to produce well-founded thinking, but interesting insights can come from anyone. I hope that this article can be a tool, especially for younger people who are starting out in the online dissemination of their art. Any comments are welcome, as one article can never cover the whole issue. So, express yourselves (trolls excluded of course)!


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