Friday, October 13, 2006

AoIR 7 notes: Uses of Creativity: Creative Content and the Creative Citizen

QUT Creative Industries John Hartley gave the first Keynote at this year's AoIR 7.0 conference, focused on UGC.

Briefly:

Self-expression, self-expression, self-expression.
yadda yadda yadda.
It'll sort us all out.

Look, I (heart) UGC.

But.

I am (well, more) realistic about the possibilities of the internet to ensure a Creative Right For All. The Internet is not a digital utopia. It does not solve all social ills. In many ways, it replicates and reinforces them. Gender (See Lori Kendall's work. among others), race, poverty - all "documented" in cyberspace.

So while I appreciate and am enthused by the wave of optimism which Prof. Hartley brought to the table (outlining the "broadcast yourself" generation, the need for policy to "focus on the daydreaming and mischief of teenagers to tap into innovation and creativity" and the call for a shift in cultural norms in such a way as "creativity is expected in jobs, where workers are allowed to express their creativity") I have a few questions which I need some answers to before I get wrapped up in these utopian sentiments:
  1. What is the ratio of creators to consumers?
    According to research from the UK Children Go Online project presented by Sonia Livingstone, last year's keynote speaker, consumers strongly out-weigh creators. Out of 1,500 9-19 year olds,
    1/3 have set up own website (1/3 of them have never put it online; for a school project 45%, 1/3 doing creative things); of those 2/3 who haven’t, ½ don’t know how to
    Tell me how that bodes well for the future of UGC.DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY OTHER STATISTICS ON THIS?
  2. As one curious attendee asked, how can we live in a "creative" society"? Do I exchange a film I made for a hamburger?
  3. Finally, what are the psychological implications for a society in which every individual is told that he or she has a Creative Right?
    Will there be a greater incidence of depression/anger/violence as the population becomes increasingly “creative” but cannot successfully compete for slots in which to express themselves? Surely there will be limits, as there are now?
    Who's going to be the loser in this creative world? Who'll make the hardware which will facilitate our creativity? Who'll man the help lines? Who'll clean up the mess?

While I don't doubt that UGC will contribute to a small-scale public reasessment of the stronghold one or two multinationals have on creation and consumption of assets, content, and even political systems (enhancing the sense of social capital Prof. Robert Putnam argues internet communication reduces), ultimately the Internet will ONLY be a stepping stone for the next technology, as the revolutionary Telegraph system was for the modern communication age (for more information on this perspective, I highly recommend Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet).

The perspective, while noble, is too Western. Too privileged. It's too idealistic.

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