Since March, 291 has been dedicating posts to each individual stage of the “Click!” exhibition process. Now that the show is actually mounted and hung, I’d love to write an in-depth review of the results. At the moment, however, I’m talking with an editor about covering the show for a print venue, so rather than tipping my hand here, I’ll just make some brief notes about it.
The most important thing to note is that the entire exhibition is up, in a slightly modified form, online. You can surf the online component of the exhibition, which in many ways is the majority and the most important part of it, from home, or take a gander on one of the two laptops available in the exhibition. It includes the results and breakdown of the evaluation process, which aren’t available on the walls of the Brooklyn Museum’s intimate exhibition space.
It’s not really possible to pronounce a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” about “Click!” either as an exhibition or as an experiment, but it is possible to defend it. In particular, I think Jörg Colberg gave the underlying idea a bad rap when he slammed it on Conscientious for being unable to explain market bubbles or the 2000/2004 elections. Actually, market bubbles are EXACTLY the kind of phenomena that Surowiecki is interested in–in fact, he examines them as an example of crowd intelligence failure in his book. Jörg seems to take the idea of the wisdom of crowds as axiomatic, when in fact it’s simply an attempt to explain those examples that run contrary to the long-favored observation that the masses are inevitably dumber than the experts. Under certain conditions, which Surowiecki attempts to divine in the book, crowds do–unquestionably–outperform individual specialists. As for the 2000/2004 elections, those might be examples of crowd intelligence failure–but since we don’t know what would have happened in another scenario, it’s a difficult case to evaluate. Regardless, crowds acting dumb do not disprove the thesis of The Wisdom of Crowds.
Luckily, the submission and evaluation processes of “Click!” were designed to minimize the possibility of crowd intelligence failure, so the results are a relatively pure example of the wisdom (or at least taste) of crowds applied to a limited pool of photographic entries. Maybe my expectations for the pool were low, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Image © Donna Aceto.