Over the past few years, I’ve seen quite a few interesting public humanities projects float across Kickstarter, the popular crowd funding platform. As people likely know, the catch in using Kickstarter is that you set a target for the amount of money that you want to raise, but you don’t get a penny (and your backers don’t pay a penny) unless you meet that target. It’s all or nothing.
With the slow decline in funding for the humanities and the public humanities more broadly, these kinds of crowdsourcing platforms have emerged as an alternative way to generate revenue for projects that seek to engage the public in meaningful conversations. As a small publisher and an editor of a recently-defunded public humanities journal, I’ve been drawn to Kickstarter as a way to generate funds for specific projects as well as to promote the work of The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota Quarterly. Whatever the strategy involved in using Kickstarter (picking achievable target, promoting the campaign over social media, and identifying desirable “rewards” for various funding levels, et c.), there are risks. The risk, it seems to me, isn’t that you don’t get funded or don’t deliver (these are real, but completely manageable risks), but that you end up contributing to an expectation that public humanities projects should be funded as commodities appealing as investments and designed to produce “rewards.”
At the same time, it’s hard to argue with the idea that people working the public humanities deserve to get paid for their work and outside the university setting there is very little space for folks doing public humanities work to make a living.
This seems like a good chance to promote, Chad Ziemendorf’s Kickstarter campaign for his Intersection Journal. Intersection Journal is a visionary forum for long-form photo journalism, and he is looking for funding to support a new campaign of photography with stories from accomplished and award-wining professional photographers. Each photographer will focus on the resilience of rural communities in North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
He’s set an ambitious goal of $29,000 to fund the project and, for what it’s worth, the rewards are good. More importantly, the product of the funding will be publicly accessible. In other words, supporting this project does not give you exclusive access to content, but supports a product that is accessible to a wide audience.