Here on Improbable Island, we are regularly worried about funding Improbable Island. But have we looked into grants? I couldn't find anything pertinent on grants.gov, but the National Endowment for the Arts has grants for Creative Writing and "Media Arts" (which includes videogames and the internet), the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council has some stuff, and I'm sure there are other grant-granting institutions out there.
Sure, I'll bite. It's a neat idea, but I have some reservations as follows.
My suspicion is that many such grants will be awarded with a view towards significant development -- whether that's something from scratch (a new game, a new creative work) or research into a new development. As far as I understand CMJ's appeals, the ongoing funding question tends to be related to ongoing maintenance costs (basically server costs; when we do well it also pays him a minimum wage for the spare time he's able to devote to fixing bugs and adding features), which usually doesn't qualify (the artist-centered grants covering living costs with which I'm familiar tend to be geared much more towards 'one-time small payment to make sure they can keep the lights on in their studio while they make their next project').
So in order to be eligible, we (or much more likely, CMJ) would have to come up with a proposal for a Season 3 that does the sort of things a grant wants -- whether that's evidence of promoting high quality, development and professionalization of contemporary Dutch digital culture hi CloudySky! or community engagement (which seems to be the case with a lot of the Pittsburgh-area grants; I'm not sure which grants you were looking at, but Artist Opportunity can't be used 'to help you make your art' and it'd be hard -- though not impossible -- to argue for the Island as a 'community art project' that draws in engagement with the Pittsburgh area community in particular), etc.
I'm not saying that there aren't such grants out there, either on the side of 'Season 3 at last!' or on the 'pay server costs for six months' side. There may well be; I'm just a social scientist (or humanities fellow depending on whom you ask), and I can't pretend a comprehensive knowledge even of grants in my own field. But the process of putting together an appropriate grant application is likely to take up a lot of time that CMJ doesn't have to devote to articulating a vision of what Season 3 would look like that also speaks to what the evaluation committee is looking for.
And then: what comes next? Grants end. He looks over his shoulder at the looming end of his own grant. If the grant is Season 3-related, the Island is probably obligated to do some amount of publicity work, particularly if there are government funds involved. There may also be conditions attached to the grant about how much one is allowed to work while also drawing grant funds, which could complicate Life After Grant (although this seems less likely to be a condition of arts grants than is customary for scholarly grants). Server costs stick around, though, as does CMJ's continuing need to, you know, live somewhere and eat and all. It [i]would[/i] take the pressure off for a time, probably, if the Island won a grant. But I think it might be tricky to do so and keep the sense of community that I've come to cherish over time from my seat out here in Playerchat.
I like the idea. I'm just worried about the practice -- even with bite-sized lists by area of specialization and guidance about how to tailor your application to what the committee's looking for, grant apps are a long hard slog of a process, and I'm not sure how much would be feasible for CMJ to delegate. My suspicion is that the process would be more trouble than payoff. I'd love to be proved wrong, of course, and I apologize if I'm out of my wheelhouse with any of my speculations about Island direction, time cost/benefit calculations, etc.
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