There is one thing that chain emails, pyramid schemes, the lottery and the website Kickstarter.com all have in common. All these systems understand just how much money can be made when you can convince a large number of people to hand over a nominally small amount of dollars.
Unlike chain emails and pyramid schemes, though (which are illegal), and the lottery (which is essentially a tax for failing to understand how odds work), Kickstarters are both legal and valid investments of money.
For those not in the know, Kickstarter.com is a website where a person or team of people may post a pitch for their product, which may fall into such categories as Art, Fashion, Film, Music, Games, Publishing, or Technology. This pitch is then available for anyone to watch and if they like it, invest their money into the project with the collective goal of reaching some dollar amount in order to move forward with whatever project has been set forth.
In this system I see the rebirth of the patronage system that saw such great utilization throughout the European Renaissance. This is the same system that saw the works of Da Vinci, of Michelangelo, of Donatello, of Raphael and so many other great artists of the era come to fruition. In this same manner modern artists and craftsmen that exist in all fields can come to have their ideas and their skills both recognized and funded.
However, unlike the patronage system of the Renaissance, Kickstarter removes the need of concentrated wealth that patronage demands by providing logistics for organize and gathering many peoples money. In this manner Kickstarter represents the new era that we have entered in the last 10 years.
This is the era of crowdsourcing and the removal of the so called middle-man brought about by the fast and direct access to people and wealth that the Internet facilitates. As such, the money that funds these works and projects can come directly from the people that will appreciate them and also from a wider audience.
By utilizing this finance venue, a developer can speak and answer directly to the people that would utilize the product in the end as opposed to the current status quo that has many workers and artisans answering to publicly traded companies that care more for the bottom line and shareholder payout than the final quality of the product.
At the moment Kickstarter is still in its infancy, but it has been gaining prominence. In particular, a number of high profile video game studios have used it to achieve initial funding to undertake projects that they wish to pursue and that obviously their customers wish them to pursue (otherwise they wouldn’t put up the money in the first place). Yet these same projects were not taken up by so many of the publishing middlemen that exist in this world.
So, in exchange for cost of the product normally (more or less), everyday human beings can go and invest in quality products made by artisans that care about their product, skipping profit mongers altogether. In short, using capitalism and the focus of wealth to help slowly but surely break up the profit siphoning institutions that already exist to part both artist and customer from their hard earned dollars.
At worst you’re out $20 and the product you invested in isn’t what you thought it would be, just like that iClicker you’ve had in the back of your closet since freshman year. At best, though, you’ll not only get a product that you will enjoy, but also one that you have had a voice in bringing to fruition — both through funding and through the open communications most Kickstarter projects have with their backers.
By supporting Kickstarters and the Kickstarter system, you will not only encourage products that you and others would like to see, but you also send a message to companies that only think about their bottom line to start focusing on other things, or face extended competition. So go online, check it out, and make the free market a better place.
Hamilton Reed is a senior computer science major. His columns appear Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.