Friday, 8 April 2016

An initial taxonomy for my Kickstarter experience

I did some Kickstarter surfing, which I typically have not done even though I have supported several Kickstarters, Indiegogos, and Kiva campaigns before. But the concept of looking for projects to support or browse for interest were never part of my naturally-occurring Kickstarter encounters.

I tried to select three that I think were representative of the broader patterns I was seeing in my searches, but also informed by my memories of prior exposure. The three projects are a performance art piece, a watchmaker, and a Lao coffee import.

Performance Art Piece

Here is the young woman who was fundraising to support a project involved full body temporary tattoo performance art:

Headline: Cover my Entire Body in Temporary Tattoos of my Own Face

Straightforward and simple one-off creative experience projects seem a common occurrence on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms. I thought it was important to select something that reflected what I saw as some big patterns, and what they may suggest about the phenom.

This project won me over with its fabulous weirdness, enough that it actually qualifies as novel enough to earn my rubbernecking. She needed $300 to finance the project that would allow the piece to be exhibited for one day at the Alberta College of Art & Design. Backers were promised follow through on the temporary tattoos, but only if a supporter pledged $25 or more would they get an actual photograph.

The thing about this project, is that clearly much of her support was from a small circle of friends, loved ones, and acquaintances. For a 26 day period in March 2015, the 12 backers that followed Chelsea Allard's art piece project were a community; and we only know that the campaign was successfully funded, as there have not been any further updates.


Local Business Entrepreneur

Headline: Alberta Watches: stylish, rugged, and affordable watches. 


One of the other major types of projects I see are those featuring a local entrepreneur seeking to launch a small business. Sometimes these businesses are food, or little innovative products, and other times, they are the artisinal version of something.

This project, about Alberta Watches, involved way more people than the art project: 521 backers got involved with this one. But, unlike many kickstarter entrepreneurs, this project was able to offer actual goods, even though it took 6 months for all the watches to arrive. The Alberta Watch narrative itself is pretty compelling -- the project was fully funded within a day, and eventually took off, and was well past 300% when the campaign was funded (July 2015). With a few updates along the day, it wasn't until December -- so backers, readers, and others can see that the story of creating these products may have started bright, but encountered some obstacles along the way -- convivially described, at least.


Sustainable International Development

Headline: Good Coffee: Let's Empower A Coffee Community In Laos! 

Finally, the other commonly occurring project type I notice is the "save the whales" type project. In this case, I actually stumbled on one that was both for international humanitarian reasons and for more locally oriented--and lucrative--specialty coffee market. This is a more recent project than the other two I selected. This project was only initiated about 5 weeks ago, and still has plenty of its story to be written.

I think it is important that this project, and the general type to which I am essentially referring, has a good showing on Kickstarter. Part of why I think many epople find resonance in these stories and initiatives is because of how discrete and accessible they are. And, importantly because the compelling narrative is often about the adversity we are participating in overcoming, making us all characters in broadly social justice stories, the very causes that are promoted become much more proximate. I think that's a big reason that narratives of global improvement and alleviation of suffering are so prevalent in all consumer marketing, but specifically flourishes in an environment like kickstarter.

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