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Shockingly, we have yet to post anything on uber-online artist community deviantArt, who not only act as a creative outlet for over 7 million users but do so with CC licensing built into their UI. Our bad. Hopefully we can make up for lost blogging through an interview with Richard Hartley, Director of Community Development at deviantArt (and sometimes clown in disguise). Read on to learn more about the incredibly rich deviantArt community, how CC licences play a roll in user submissions, and future plans that include nothing short of global domination (seriously).

Can you give us some background on deviantArt? When and why did it start up? Who’s involved?

deviantART began on August 7th of 2000, primarily as a site to provide a space to allow deviants to upload various application skins for programs like Sonique, WInamp, WindowBlinds and so on. Soon after it became pretty obvious the community wanted more space to flex their creativity and more categories opened up for digital and traditional art all across the board. At this point we now have over 1700 different categories for every conceivable genre, sub genre and unique niche you could imagine, all at the request of our community. Back when it first began it was a small staff of people, less than ten, and now we currently have over 50 employees world wide as well as around 100 volunteers.

deviantArt’s vibrant community is one of its most compelling traits. Can you talk about its user base and what type of interactions take place on deviantArt that don’t take place elsewhere?

If you have a good 50 or 60 hours we can get into that one! In truth, we have more avenues of interaction than just about anyone out there. You can comment and reply to virtually everything on the site, from art work to deviant’s blogs to the forums to our live chat network and so on. Our community is extremely diverse in artistic preference, so I would have to say some of the most unique interactions we see take place are some of the discussions and debates between people who come from wildly different backgrounds. There is just something unique about seeing someone whose passion is for traditional oil painting debating the merits of artistic integrity with someone whose specialty is digital photography.

In addition to talk of an artistic nature, there is some fascinating discussions on everything from politics to religion to social phenomenon. Mix any topic you can think of with a few million people from every walk of life and all corners of the globe together and you get some really fascinating takes on any subject you can dream of. And then add to that the fact that these are all artists who are generally known for having a large volume of passion and creative thinking about any subject, and, well, let’s just say it is never dull.

The one common ground they all have though is that they all love dA. Not just love it but live it and breathe it and in some cases go nowhere else on the web. For many people, the internet begins and ends with and they are very loyal to the site. This also puts a lot of responsibility on us to really listen to what they want and to that extent, the community itself has shaped the direction of dA probably more so than any other community has guided any other site.

deviantArt users have the option to CC-license their works. Can you describe any unique interactions that CC-licensing has facilitated? How does CC licensing play into community interaction described above?

It helps in many aspects. As you can guess, we have a large community of digital artists which means we also have a large group of people who do photomanipulation. Having Creative Commons licences makes it so much easier for people to be able to see exactly how they can use stock resources and photos for their own work.

It also applies well to writers who wish to work with artists to create graphic novels, short films etc and want to let people know they have work they want to see used and make it easy for everyone. The level of ease and accessibility it provides is just amazing. Back in the day people would either have to write up their own giant disclaimers or post journals full of rules and hope that visiting artists would read those and now that’s all pretty well taken care of.

What is next for deviantArt?

Aside from global domination (see -ed.)? Well, on the immediate horizon is a revamp of the site interface and our message center which is going to be pretty huge and should make everything to do with dA 100 times more accessible to new and old deviants alike. Besides that, we have a lot of plans to keep bringing bigger and better contest opportunities, creative community events, broaden our retail side of things to provide artists more and more ways to get their art out to people, and well, just keep expanding based on what the people want and what they need. So yeah, global domination.

Posted 23 June 2008