Thursday, March 31, 2011

Giving: Revised

Most nights at 8 PM I set my DVR to record an eclectic mix of programming. Like most of you I enjoy watching American Idol, and like my fellow sleuths out there, I love a good murder mystery, that programs such as 48 Hours and Dateline so cleverly offer. The other night my DVR ended up recording a more serious program about internet censorship, China, modern art, and human rights.

The story of Ai Weiwei was told to me through the award winning PBS show Frontline. Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei provides a fascinating look at a man that is both artist and activist. There are so many pieces of this profile I find captivating. Ai Weiwei’s art is world renowned, yet I’d never heard of him before. His native country, China, has the opportunity to finally showcase an independent thinker and cultural icon, and instead does their very best to suppress him. Though an artist of Weiwei’s caliber could live anywhere, he chooses to stay in the very land that aims to hurt him. His mother, acutely aware of the dangers Weiwei faces from her husband’s own artistic censorship, stands by her son’s side through it all. The story is much better told by Frontline, and most importantly, Alison Klayman.

Klayman has embedded herself in China for four years in an effort to document the very man China is trying so hard to suppress. Her work profiled in Frontline was so groundbreaking, surely she has some major investors backing this project. Surely she isn’t bootstrapping this effort I thought, as I wondered about a possible release date for her film. The plot thickens.

Two days after the show aired I received an invite to view a startup’s project on a funding website called Kickstarter. Being an entrepreneur heavily involved with online businesses, I get emails like this one all the time. You’ve been selected to beta test our new widget, you are exactly who we want to talk to about the usability of our new iPhone app, etc. Since I care, and since I’d like to think someone actually took the time to think of me, I do go and check out most of these websites I’m invited to review, and that’s where my second encounter with the story of Ai Weiwei occurred.

To my surprise this morning, when perusing the Kickstarter website, which in a nutshell is a crowdsourcing tool for people that need funding, I came upon Alison Klayman’s post. Secretly, I’d been thinking of Klayman and Weiwei ever since I watched the stunning portrait of the artist literally putting his life on the line for the betterment of his fellow people. So you can imagine my excitement when there was a real, tangible way for me to help her get the film finished. In fact, she let me back the film, I’m backer number 47 to be exact. The amazing part about the project, and Kickstarter, is you can become backer for 48 for as little as $1.

The way we give has been fundamentally changed by the power of the internet to connect willing parties. Klayman is more than willing to give you insider access to the film, swag, and even your name in the credits for a donation that would be considered modest by Hollywood standards. The interesting thing about Kickstarter, in the limited time I’ve spent checking out projects on the site, is that they offer not equity in most deals for donors, but rather gifts of appreciation. Got $250 to spare? Up and coming musician Lyndy Butler will write you a song, and play it for you…in person!

What is important about Kickstarter, and other web 2.0 giving enterprises, is that they allow for a more meaningful, intimate experience. There is nothing wrong with texting to give to say the Red Cross, but assuming you’ve done that, and you’re looking to help others, what better way than to take advantage of the new way to give online, appreciation included.

Check out the amazing Frontline piece below-

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Check out the Kickstarter video here-


Go and get behind this important project in a way that not long ago you would’ve never been able to-

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