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A Companion to New Media Dynamics by Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, John Hartley

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Chapter 13

Improvers, Entertainers, Shockers, and Makers

Charles Leadbeater

Crudely put, there were three main ways someone could make their living from the culture business in the twentieth century. One route was to become an improver, someone who believed the point of culture was to elevate the downtrodden. Improvers were high-minded and well meaning but in danger of being a little patronizing. They headed for jobs at the BBC or one of the publicly funded national arts organizations. A second route was to become an entertainer, someone who believed the point of culture was to give people a good time, to charge them to dance, sing, clap, laugh, cry. Entertainers went into the commercial cultural industries that grew fast in the second half of the century, spurred by television, pop culture, advertising, and retail. Entertainers offered something like fast food: it looked filling but could leave you feeling empty soon after consuming it. The final route was to become a shocker, someone who believed the point of culture was to confront and shock people out of the complacency induced by life in late capitalism. The shockers headed for their garret, warehouse, or maybe just back bedroom to pursue their art and eke out a living as best they could. They wanted neither to lecture people nor to entertain and make money. They claimed they were only interested in their art but to many people the shockers seemed mainly obsessed by themselves.

To make your living in culture you needed to ...

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