I spent two days at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco last week, but rather than report on the proceedings — trust me there was no shortage of blogging, Digging, Twittering, Jaikuing going on — I’d rather comment on the broader theme of the role of creativity in business.
The point is that despite the palpable waves of self-satisfaction, and the echo-chamber of mutually-reinforcing coolness, there is a genuine rush of creativity in the Web 2.0 World that cannot be denied. And I’m talking about creativity in its purest form — the willing into existence of a new construction, the imagining of new shapes and forms.
Indeed, the ways in which raw technology is being reshaped to challenge the old structures actually compares favorably to the level of sheer creativity we’re seeing in the popular arts of film and television. I know this runs the risk of sounding runny and gushy, but let’s take Twitter as an example.
Twitter is a form of performance art — an Internet platform that lets people connect through their daily mental jottings. Its creators have digitally sanctified the demotic, bringing forth a mesmeric mash-up of McLuhan, Warhol, and Dada. And oh yes, it’s also Proustian in its lavish, voluptuous self-absorption.
Web 2.0 was aswirl with people in the creative process of connecting technology to some deeper needs — of theirs, of yours, of mine. Yes, there’s talk of “monetization,” but in some cases that is truly an afterthought, with the sudden and unexpected elegance of a new idea taking precedence. That may be the sign of another bubble, but the lack of commercial exploitability doesn’t diminish the originality rocketing it. Indeed, it might amplify it.
By comparison, the carbon copy factories that churn out the vast majority of popular culture appear grim in comparison. Television and film (including the independent, documentary world) are generally iin the one-degree business: get out your protractor and innovation becomes an exercise in incrementalism. Someone hits a home run with a documentary about spelling bees, and the clone army rushes to other examples of obsessive little worlds involving kids: chess, ballroom dancing. Meanwhile, originality triggers anxiety.
It used to be that the creative world turned up its nose at business. Today, the olfactory revulsion should be going the other way.