You Internet junkies and gear freaks, imagine how much creative time we waste sitting in front of our computers trying to find out how nearly perfect pixels can be rendered even better. Instead of talking about photography, why not just doing it? Right, new gear gives us better images… How can we make something already perfect even better?! Photography’s how old again? Chinese philosopher Mo Di and Greek mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid described a pinhole camera in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E. The first camera photography happens in the 1820s. Countless images have been taken since, yet image quality didn’t improve proportionally to the dramatic improvements in technology. All the while, industry marketing and Internet fora keep us glued to the screens. We’re longing for the photographic nirvana that’s always around the next corner. Why not keep the Internet addiction with its information overflow down to an absolute minimum. Otherwise we risk losing sight of what’s essential, the Net threatens to kill our creativity.
Take this blog. Sure I love maintaining it. I hope THEME inspires you and you enjoy the debates as much as the easy access to photography live rumors and news. At the end of the day though, despite all the many aspects I enjoy, THEME is a Sisyphus task. It pays for the beer and keeps me away from what I really love doing: photography.
This is one way of the digital boom taking its toll. The Net is the great modern-day seduction. Everything’s available, most of it for free. One has to be a fool to add creativity to the Web, because in most cases it’s a purely one-sided process. Expect nothing in return while the Web’s monopolies increasingly control creative content. This free availability of creative content — including photographs, music, movies, etc. — spells disaster for today’s artists across the creative industries.
Here’s one problem with digital collectivism of the World Wide Mush — we shouldn’t want the whole world to take on the quality of having been designed by a committee. When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things. You don’t get innovation.
In this context, the smartphone is to photography what streaming services are to the music industry. Whatever you want is available wherever you want it for free. Consumers rule while artists, the makers of creative content, try to pull as much of their creative work from the Internet as they can. Because it’s not them making money. Domination and monopoly is the name of the game in the Web marketplace.
We should not only be more suspicious about free and streaming content on the Internet, we should readjust our values because in the Web-based world we are told that monopoly is good for us and that genuine creativity is worth close to nothing. My guess is that in the end only a few Web-based businesses are left standing. There aren’t two Facebooks, Amazons or Googles. And each and everyone of us, driven by consumption and the hunt for the best deal, strengthens these monopolies by sacrificing one’s own creativity for the sake of cheap, easy access to a world where everything’s (deceivingly) free.
At first glance the Internet is a great equalizer and democratizator. To speak with Nietzsche, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” At second glance? Even if you’re wildly successful with millions of downloads and content that’s monetized, it’s still tough to get fair pay for something that takes a lot of time, resources and energy to develop. Only in some very rare cases the Internet will pay the bills of creative artists while all the creativity that’s offered for free feeds the vicious cycles that keeps on destroying the value of creativity that was lucrative and rewarding once, back in the days before cyberspace made everything available to everyone everywhere for free.
The major companies are happy with the current status quo, the consumer is happy and the CEOs of the Web services are happy. All good, except no one is left to speak for those who actually make the creative stuff. We can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves. If we insist on free and cheap content being the standard way we consume, well then we shouldn’t be surprised about the effect the Internet and technology will have by selling off all our creative assets — and in the end our culture.
The inevitable result will be that the Internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. In this sense, the Internet is a massive killer of creativity forced upon us by whatever new technology comes along — while we just add to the cyber clutter.
I don’t have an answer. The simple answer would be that people dare to think truly independently and are willing to pay for creative content. We’re not in most cases. Why shout we. We can’t turn back time. But there’s always hope that people can tell the difference between unique and generic creativity — and that they’re willing to honor what’s uniquely creative and inspiring.
What’s at stake? Not so much the survival of creativity per se. But creative content will be dominated by the corporate world. Young and emerging artists find it increasingly difficult to be creative. The Internet kills talent. A gifted photographer might not be in the right spot at the right time and will have to find a job elsewhere to make enough money.
And without new artists coming up our future looks grim. We will live in a culture of blockbusters. Creative content will be borne from corporate decisions and technology. Nothing against the liberalizing power of the Internet and the Web being a platform for voices otherwise not heard. Wisely and modestly used, the great tool and resource called Net can be a most powerful engine unleashing creativity. The Internet creates its very own creative sphere — but in very few cases it leads to a creativity that can be turned into money to make a decent living.
If we’re giving in to the notion that everything has to be free, well then that’s a completely different world from the one that inspired great photographers and artists of the past. Slowly, over time, the Web dominated by monopolies risks turning us all into copycats while the true artists become outcasts of society. We’re not using our hands anymore to create. Everything we do is virtual, not touchable, not allowing us to physically explore the world. And inundated by information, we’re confused: what’s truly relevant?
We’ll increasingly be dominated by machinery that allegedly makes our lives so much better and convenient. In the end though, the smartphones, tablets and wearables threaten to kill what makes us unique. Technology feeds us what everyone else is fed. We can deal with the virtual, but have great pains dealing with the harsh reality of the real world. We become a robotic generation, no longer able to sense what can make each and everyone of us truly unique, creative and inspiring.
Otherwise we’re turned into a collective mob — which, as history has shown us again and again, is a vulnerability of human nature.