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The Downside of Feedback

Feedback is such an elemental ingredient of nearly any human activity — consider the importance of coaching and teaching in particular, but also think about the creative arts — and yet there is huge variance on how much feedback a given person may get, or choose to accept.
The web is probably the grandest (or at least the noisiest) feedback loop ever created.
In an interesting essay in The Washington Post, Hank Stuever wonders about the impact of fan feedback — specifically, “quibbling” — on the movie versions of beloved books, comic books, TV shows, etc. The latest instance, of course, is Star Trek:

Has our quibbling worked? Yes, if you believe in the collective force of fans and the “wiki” social ideal — that group input only improves the result, guiding by peer pressure if nothing else. No, if you think filmmakers are too beholden to fans. Quibbling does not produce a Heath Ledger-style Joker; that is the result of an actor and a writer and a director coming unhinged from the original material. Quibbling produces a Watchmen movie, which tenderly reproduced the 1988 graphic novel panel-for-panel and still failed — pleasing fans, perhaps, but excluding newcomers.

It’s an interesting and timeless point that Stuever raises. Creators who wish to honor the fans’ concerns may wring out the originality that can make art compelling; and creators who ignore the fans’ concerns risk alienating them.
I just read an early copy of Hell Is Other Parents, by Deb Kogan, whose 13-year-old son Jacob plays young Spock in the new Star Trek film. In one essay, she describes the extreme secrecy measures that director J.J. Abrams took to ensure that no outsiders could read even a line of the script or catch even a glimpse of the filming. It seems that Abrams wanted a tight and closed feedback loop — and it seems to have worked.