Creativity and Popularity on the Internet

I’ve had a bunch of ideas float through my head for my monthly blog post. But nothing really compelled me to put it down on paper. I will say to my credit that I’ve changed the blog design more than I’ve actually posted anything on this blog. Sad isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking lately about creativity and the web. I think we’ve all been blinded at one point or another by the idea that the web would one day become a “television with infinite channels” or a “fantastic book with infinite pages and infinite knowledge”. This has become true to some extent with YouTube and torrents and pretty soon Joost along with the billion blogs to accompany them. However, instead of being flooded by a renaissance in creative content we’ve only succeeded in loosening up the grips of suffocating copyright laws with digital bootlegs. Sure it’s opened up the avenue for lots of amateurs to make some really creative material but we all know that popularity is no indication of quality.

On a different level you can always find the quirkiest gems to your liking. It doesn’t matter if nobody else shares your twisted sense of humor or eye for quality, you’ll have access to it. Unfortunately, the dynamics of mass celebrity and it’s total disregard of true talent equally applies to the internet though on a smaller scale.

I found this gem via The Plugg

Well, that’s more or less on the consuming side but what about the creative side? Sure, anybody can create anything with a computer, some musical instruments and maybe a camera. You can make virtually any form of art you desire from the comfort of your own home. Still, this doesn’t instantly lead to an artistic renaissance. Instead it just creates more crap we need to sift through to get to the cream. In the end we all give up and simply check whatever’s popular.

But why? I think the internet is a double-edged sword to creativity. To me the creative process needs isolation more than anything. It needs controlled isolation with more than ample concentration. Reading a book may transport you to another world but it’s still a solitary exercise. You wont see a bubble suddenly pop up as you’re reading Shakespeare saying “your friend bob invites you to chat”. You also need to concentrate to read that book. This cycle of isolation, creation, and stimulation (from other artists or social interaction) is the classic way that artists honed their craft. Now they all come screaming at you in one visual/audio/social onslaught that you can barely type a sentence without getting overloaded by what’s essentially superfluous information.

What’s the incentive to concentrate when you have a million distractions to choose from?

I find myself taken aback often by the quality and poignancy of old content I find on the web. Some of the dialogues seem so racy by contemporary standards even though the language is much cleaner. The wit is sharper and the images are fresher. I wondered why.

First, old stuff didn’t have any templates. Sure people got inspiration from all kinds of sources but they just didn’t have the luxury of firing up their design software and load “very original artistic template #10” to add a bunch of gradients to a logo or whatnot. If you wanted something you had to create it with your own hands. Ideas and inspiration spent more time fermenting in an artists head and it took more effort to bring those to reality.

I think the typical modern day artist probably pisses away most of the gains they get from modern technology by engaging themselves in mindless routines or letting the tools limit their creativity. Instead of a fine wine a lot of us simply get extra concentrated grape juice with synthetic alcohol injected into it. Like the content they produce too many artists and creators themselves are “manufactured” products without enough true talent to distinguish them above peers. At least that’s how I feel a lot of times.

However, I do have hope that what modern technology destroys will be enhanced and resurrected by even more advanced technology as time progresses.

Categories: web