Hypercreativity and Techno-Utopianism

So, the puzzle my Phd tries to solve (how creativity, cultural participation and the ‘democratization’ of technologies fit together) comes out of the hype around two converging ideas: the increased availability and production power of digital technologies for content creation and distribution (see Anne’s pointed mini-critique of some of this) and ‘creativity’ as life-fulfilling, as economic driver, as the means to participation and radical consumer-led cultural change (especially for the content industries). I want to find a way through this hype and try to extract what the possibilities actually might be, and for whom, and it what circumstances, and in whose interests, but first I need to say what I think is wrong with the hype.

So I love it when I find stuff like this, which contains every stereotype about creativity and every wrongheaded assumption about “production” and “consumption” I could ever wish for. Then I get depressed:

Generation C

[…] the C stands for CONTENT, and anyone with even a tiny amount of creative talent can (and probably will) be part of this not-so-exclusive trend.

So what is it all about? The GENERATION C phenomenon captures the tsunami of consumer generated ‘content’ that is building on the Web, adding tera-peta bytes of new text, images, audio and video on an ongoing basis.

The two main drivers fuelling this trend?

(1) The creative urges each consumer undeniably possesses. We’re all artists, but until now we neither had the guts nor the means to go all out.

(2) The manufacturers of content-creating tools, who relentlessly push us to unleash that creativity, using — of course — their ever cheaper, ever more powerful gadgets and gizmos. Instead of asking consumers to watch, to listen, to play, to passively consume, the race is on to get them to create, to produce, and to participate.

the fluff-piece goes on to gives lots of examples of how these manufacturers are “getting consumers” to “produce”.

See also Nations-Lite for an informative yet entertaining overview of “the most remarkable achievements and developments that are turning the UAE into a NATION*LITE* for prosperous HOME TROTTERS from Asia, the Middle East, the EU and South Africa”! Eek.

3 thoughts to “Hypercreativity and Techno-Utopianism”

  1. “We’re all artists”

    Wow.

    Hype about technology is so increasingly full on; there’s something liberatory about every single new feature on the most diabolical device. My pet hate company is Apple; and my suspicions of their connections to Hell was confirmed with the iPod shuffle, which has been well analysed elsewhere, but DJ Spooky said it best; “What CD player or MP3 device *doesn’t* have a shuffle mode? They are selling the skin of the pig.”

    Computer game theory, for example, is having a hard time working out why gamers aren’t all liberated activistas on the verge of global revolution, the shadow of the penny dropping is beginning to get darker and wider as people come to grips with our worst fears being quite true.

    This also relates to your last (very excellent) post on digital storytelling and creativity, which made a lot more sense on that front than a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading around it (again, from the aspect of computer games.) The question of narrative formation in digital content seems to me so central to the idea of this becoming-real or becoming a real participant in the network (although I don’t like the word network). I mean that obviously *storytelling* is important to digital storytelling, but also that the veil between the context and content has to be as thin as practicable.

    Aside: Do you see webcomics, games, animations, etc as connected to digital storytelling, or perhaps falling under its umbrella given certain circumstances?

    I see (web)comics as some of the most potent ways to directly and quickly form microscopic narratives that can be as pliable as their elements – but equally, ultimately limited in their scope and interaction with the world.

    I also want to thank you very much for the Justin Hall darknight clip link and its context, its connected a bunch of ideas for me. I enjoying writing my Justin Hall post so much I had a glass of cognac, which makes me a filthy nerd, but I will deal with that economy.

  2. “I enjoyed writing my Justin Hall post so much I had a glass of cognac, which makes me a filthy nerd, but I will deal with that economy.”

    I love that, Christian.

    Anyway, one long, thoughtful comment deserves another, so…

    I should be clearer all the time when i talk about digital storytelling – I know it’s a term that has been used for ages to refer to narrative that is somehow transformed by digital technology, or that seeks to explore the ‘new’ potential of digital technology (ala first-wave ‘hypertext’ theory).

    When I use it, I’m talking about the specific mode of production associated with the BBC – http://wwww.bbc.co.uk/digitalstorytelling – and the center for digital storytelling in california http://www.storycenter.org/

    The context I place it in is (perhaps predictably) more to do with modes of production, who has access to those modes of production, how the stories are shaped by that context, etc. etc. than it is to do with textuality and narrative – so its cousins might be “community” media (although i have more problems with that word than even ‘network’); DIY culture; the everyday vernacular modes of storytelling (the lowest of lo-fi media), showing off the family album, slide nights, and so on.

    I do think web comics are very interesting (although they seem to have slipped below my radar lately somehow – is that just me?)

    And games are interesting from a participatory media point of view – I don’t know enough about the narratology side of it, but I do know a bit about the ludology side.

    And that’s a great quote from Spooky – am SOOOOOOO jealous he went to Sydney and not here (please, nobody tell me he came here and I didn’t even know – would die Bridget Jones style death of a thousand drunken power ballads).

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