The democratization of creativity: the most important aspect is greater human expression


When I was recently in Stockholm my friend Magnus Linkvist introduced me to Einar Bodström of House of Radon, a young and innovative production company that is exploring the possibilities of online video.

Much of the group’s work is commercial, including recent TV ads for Electrolux and Sainsbury’s, and a series of 20 minute videos on the future for Ericsson, notably including the excellent The Future of Learning, Networked Society.

However House of Radon also likes to create interesting videos for their own sake, and is perhaps best known for PressPausePlay, an 80 minute film available for free online, which explores the recent extraordinary democratization of creativity enabled by technology, and the implications. It’s embedded below, well worth taking the time to watch.

The narrative is told through a series of interviews with fascinating creators, including Moby, Seth Godin, Robyn, and many others.

The starting point is that creativity is being democratized by technology.

Almost every artistic domain, including film, music, photography, and writing has been unleashed, both in the ability to produce extremely high quality content very inexpensively, and to make it available to a global audience.

Back in my book Living Networks I told the same story that Seth Godin tells in PressPausePlay about how his free online book Unleashing the Ideavirus quickly reached over a million downloads and made him more than his traditional books.

We are now seeing another phase in the MegaTrend of creative enablement, with DSLRs with HD video capabilities combined with digital video editing and YouTube giving almost anyone with talent access to big name movie producers of just a decade ago.

However one of the big questions is whether giving the tools of creativity to all will necessarily create a happy outcome.

Will a profusion of creativity, from the untalented as well as the talented, result in so much dross that we cannot discover what is good? Will the proliferation of mediocrity overcome the quality that can be surfaced by the publisher, the impresario, the music promoter?

A good while ago I wrote that “I believe that collaborative filtering is at the heart of how the networks are coming to life“.

The solution is absolutely in the problem. The more creativity we have, the better we are able not just to discern what is best, but to uncover what we individually love from a world of possibility.

The democratization of creativity is truly one of the defining themes of our era. There are many challenges arising from this, not least the impact on creator’s ability to monetize their creativity when there is so much available.

However perhaps the single important issue is that it allows a fuller expression of who we are as people.

If for every 100 atrocious songs or videos that are unleashed on the world, one person is able to express their talent for others in a way that they could not before, it is in sum a beautiful, wonderful thing. Humans are intrinsically creative, and we can express it as never before.

The implications of massively unleashed creativity (or sometimes ersatz creativity) are manifold, and very well explored in PressPausePlay.

Yet I cannot help but believe that the shift from a world of highly constrained creativity to one of open creativity is a massive source of human progress.