The Internet, a frontier for artistic expression

Journalism / Article

Rebecca Gates is an Oregon-based musician, artist, curator and activist. Below, she writes about the theme of the first Knight News Challenge of 2014: How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? Photo credit: Flickr user Jeremy Brooks.

Imagine you are an artist, a working musician. Music is what you do for a living, or for part of your living, or as a hobby. It’s what other humans in the world ask you to do.

Imagine how people access your music, whether buying an album, a song or a concert, or by listening.


Towards a stronger Internet” by John Bracken and Chris Sopher on

Our future’s Internet strengthened today” by Jenny Toomey on

A $2.75 million challenge to create a more open Internet” by Mark Surman on

Refusing to unlearn a free and open Internet” by Shazna Nessa on

4 most common News Challenge questions answered” by John Bracken on

There are many modes for a musician to connect, with fans, with each other, but in today’s world increasingly the Internet is the conduit. The path out and in, at its best the Internet offers an option for engagement that musicians and artists of days past could only dream about.

Musicians require a free and open Internet; we need the landscape to be a place of innovation without dictation or exploitation. We need to know we can upload our work and art without restriction. We need to conduct business in a responsible manner, but on our terms.

The last 10 years have brought many online platforms and businesses targeted at “helping musicians.” As new platforms develop, as new strategies emerge, the essential nature of the Internet, the infrastructure, is increasingly challenged. Access, ownership and methods of use are increasingly limited. 

At this moment the frontiers of discovery and innovation remain vast, immense. It’s a good time to respond to the question of strengthening the Internet in the name of art, social justice and a vibrant culture. I’ve watched as the Knight News Challenge has affected journalism, injecting needed resources to questions of what news is and can be. Here’s to the broader scope of this challenge. I look forward to seeing the responses.

In June, Knight Foundation will award $2.75 million, including $250,000 from the Ford Foundation, to support the most compelling ideas around the News Challenge question: How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? The awards will also include Knight Prototype Fund grants for testing early-stage ideas. To submit an application or to provide feedback on other entries, visit The deadline is 5 p.m. ET on March 18.