The idea of community today, versus thirty-years ago, has an expanded meaning, albeit the term still has the same connotation. Derived from the Latin communitas (cum meaning, "with/together" + munus, meaning "gift"), community used to basically refer to a group of people with something in common: A community as in a housing edition or apartment building; a commune where people work to be self-sufficient heavily relying on each other; a congregation of a religion that holds a common belief; even an entire small town or rural area of farmers is referred to as a community. Today, with the Internet available to so many people around the world, community has a broader meaning. People with a common interest, regardless of location and distance between those people, is referred to as a community.
When talking to ^Aeirmid, a PhD student and fan of "The Tar Heels", she brought up a subject of mentoring, as well as the need for deviants to simply be helpful to one another. That is when she brought up the idea of an article and creating something positive for Community Projects*. The Internet doesn't have to be cold or faceless; there can still be a connection among people regardless of age, background or distance. She and `LuneBleu worked on the following story and list of related suggestions for the benefit of the community, which may encourage deviants to strive to be part of a greater positive-force within the deviantART Community.
Once upon a time, in a time not so long ago, there was a beautiful city in the sky. And in that city were beautiful creatures that created amazing and beautiful things. And we so wanted to join those beautiful creatures and create those beautiful things. They brought us into their magical world and handed each of us a fresh paintbrush.
Utopia lives in our hearts and is expressed through the kindness we show to others. When we tear someone down, utopia grows dimmer. When we turn our backs on someone who is struggling to rise, utopia grows dimmer. And the greatest secret, which many people do not understand, is that every time a bit of utopia fades, our own lights as members of that magical city are dimmed a bit also.
You see, the magical creatures of this utopian city were never meant to exist in solitude. These creatures were born with a need for one another, and they rely on each other for support and wisdom. When they detach themselves from the other creatures in this city they bleed, and their light grows dim. All creatures grow through our relationships with other creatures, and when we do not grow we fail.
The ability to flourish as members of the city was never meant to be a privilege exclusively for the most popular creatures, nor is it a competition to see who is the most beautiful. In the beginning, it was not a competition at all. Like any community, it was never perfect. But, over the years, some of the inhabitants of this city became arrogant and petty, and snobbery became the way. They refused to share their knowledge or their resources, preferring to remain “elite” among the masses. And some of the masses worshiped them.
The ability to create pretty things, and even the ability to profit from them, was never meant to be limited to a few creatures only. Rather, the gift of creation had been granted to each and every creature, and it was up to the community as a whole to help the newer creatures learn to use it. After all, the community becomes stronger and more beautiful as its newest members become stronger and more beautiful.
The creatures began to notice that the colors and the lights of their city had faded to gray, and they wondered why this had happened. They knew they would have to work together, as they were meant to do, to fix their home. Slowly, they began to reach out to one another, and, to their amazement, the light of the city began to shine strongly and brightly once again.
The messages of the story are as follows:
From the perspective of some long-time deviants, the community spirit of deviantART has deteriorated in recent years. While there are many people who still care and remain involved in the community, there are many others who have become colder and less willing to help. Largely, the community has become an attention-hungry popularity contest where each deviant is for himself.
Our community is not a competition. When one of us succeeds a bit, it does not diminish the others’ work. Rather, it makes us all stronger. In other words, you have nothing to lose by sharing a tip, a critique, or a few supportive words with someone. Someone else’s knowledge of something new does not make you smaller or less proficient.
It is difficult to be a newer member of deviantART, even if you come in with very strong skills already. It is important for us all to reach out to someone who is trying to learn and to offer them some mentorship, no matter how long they've been here. Again, we lose nothing by reaching out, and we may even gain something.
We are firm believers that, if you make a critique about something, you should offer some suggestions for how to remedy the problem. Here are our suggestions for helping improve the deviantART community spirit:
Become a mentor. There are many mentoring groups around the community. There are groups specific to almost every type of art that is created in this community. Why not lend your own expertise? There is a hunger for knowledge out there, and it feels great to help feed it.
Support other artists’ work. Add things to your favorites or collections. Provide a nice comment. Suggest a Daily Deviation. Make features in your journal and in news articles. Suggest Seniority for deviants who deserve it most. Even the smallest gesture can go a long way in helping someone feel validated and inspired.
Give feedback. Leave comments and/or critiques when requested, or even send a note. If you are declining a submission from your group because the submitted deviation needs to be improved, tell that person how to make it better. Simply saying, “The color of your model does not blend with the background” (in a Mixed Media or Photomanipulation group, for example) is preferred to saying nothing at all.
Make it meaningful. Be creative. Be purposeful. Create art that has a deeper meaning and is transcendent. No more carbon copies of others’ work. Your gift is an expression of who you are, be it dark or light. Do not degrade it by straying from your own truths.
Grace us with your presence. Join a club. Visit a forum. Join a chatroom. Do something, anything, to get back in touch with the community.
And finally . . .
Stop the drama unless you can propose a solution. There is NOT a paucity of talent among new deviants. And there ARE creative ideas that are still being produced. But, are you paying attention?
If we opened our minds to our fellow artists, new and old alike, and offered them some of the wisdom that our own experience brings—and perhaps gained some wisdom in return—we might be able to see just how much intense beauty our community still has to offer.
In conclusion, deviantART is not about the pageviews, or the favorites, or even the comments. It is about the art and about building a safe space for the beautiful inhabitants to create their beautiful things.
*There are Community Project Folders that can be used to submit positive deviations into, such as "Project Positivity" and stamp folders that feature positivity and kindness. Look for new folders to be created during 2012