technology culture creativity

There has always been a fear of technology.  It is mainly that we don’t really understand it.  Technology is progressing so fast that people cannot keep up with the innovations.  In fact it is hard work keeping up with technology.  You need to read the blogs daily, you need to follow technological leaders on twitter and you need to have a general interest in it.  The fear stems from the ideas that if you don’t understand technological innovation then you will face your own obsolesce. I follow technology methodically because of my own fear of obsolesce.

These fears of new technology are not even close to being new. John Philip Sousa was an American composer and he is known largely for composing patriotic marches.  In 1906 he testified in front of congress and said this about the recording industry:

“These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy…in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.”

If you think about it, he is not that far off, his fear is that our ability to create will be limited because of the noise of technology.  Larry Lessig gave a TED talk on this very issue.  He talked about the top-down approach of creativity, where few create and many consume.  We have seen this model play out over and over again.  For years all film, TV radio and written media have been controlled by a small group of people.

However about 20 years ago we started seeing a culture that took this top-down approach to creativity and started leveling the playing field.  They started making mixed tapes and recording music off the radio.  Then there was a true social network of handing that music around in a physical sense.  The consumer started to move from consumer to creative editor. The industry even realized this and tried to get in on the action by selling mixed-cd’s.  About 10 years later we started seeing people making their own music videos, and even more widely put their own video content to a soundtrack.  Why listen to what big business is putting out when you can generate your own content?  This got huge really quick.

In the last ten years there have been more self-published e-books, original videos, self-made albums and blogs written than have ever been made before.  We have seen society shift from media consumer to media editor to media creator.  In fact Sousa’s fears about the vocal cord’s becoming obsolete due to lack of use were true for a while.  But now technology is allowing us to shout louder, be more creative and think more progressively than ever before.

As I observe culture there are a few things that stand out to me.  First, the media editing pioneers didn’t accept the formula of creativity being a top-down structure.  Some people decided to break the copy write laws and get a little crazy.  This has lead to an unleashing of creativity that hasn’t been seen in years.  Now the market has caught on and are selling us the latest products that will make us better creators.  In one sense they are keeping an old system alive but in another there are some tools that assist us in creating content.

I am wondering.  If you consider yourself creative what limitations do you have in expressing your creations?  What drives you to create?  Are you a consumer, editor or a legitimate creator of something new?

If you just love the idea of being a creator, check out Don Miller’s blog  A few weeks back he wrote a little series on being a creator, fabulous stuff.






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