“…the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The festival, a one-time icon of artistic rebellion, is now the largest arts gathering in the world. It is also an entertaining case study in the power of grassroots innovation and open-source creativity, a positive symbol of how unchecked human energy, shaped by a few simple rules, can unleash truly amazing results.”So what makes the Fringe function? A carefully designed “architecture of participation” that blends wild-eyed creativity with the spirit of unblinking competition. The organizers curate the largest and one of the most influential arts gatherings in the world by making the festival as compelling as possible to as many participants as possible — and then letting the participants themselves decide what happens….
“The analogy with [open-source] software is interesting,” Gudgin says. “In the arts, everyone wants to be the curator or the creative director. At the Fringe, we have to be the exact opposite. Our job is to get the circumstances absolutely right, to sell the whole experience, to make it as inviting as possible to anybody who could possibly contribute. We can’t curate new ideas into existence.”
Essentially, the Fringe is a self-organizing system governed by the self-interested calculations of four key constituencies: the performers, the venues, the audience, and the press. Any troupe or individual artist is eligible to perform; the challenge is to persuade one of the 250-plus venues to host your show. There is a well-understood hierarchy of venues in Edinburgh — certain theaters have more status than others — and different venues use different criteria to evaluate performers. Once you’re in, the challenge is to persuade visitors to attend your show as opposed to one of the hundreds of others taking place at the same time, and to persuade the critics that yours is a show worth reviewing.”