I hope I’m not the only one that sees the irony in that twenty years of the commercial internet has resulted in its becoming a glorified phone book filled with not much more than digital junk mail and a whole lot of free. For all the collective smoke being blown around by the tech community as to its power and reach, our ever-merging societies and their economies still haven’t figured out to make any of it actually work. No one (corerection: not enough people with mainstream credibility) seems to be questioning that transitioning to an online-only option is a great idea, even as hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses — old guard and start-up alike — kick at the dirt when asked about monetization. Sustainability is not just about recycling.
“Innovative” “Creatives” and “Ninjas” of all stripes have been recruited by proclamation of Google’s demand for high-quality, unique content. A culture of “Everybody working on the weekends” seems to be butressing the demand for now, but can hardly been seen as sustainable to anyone even remotely pretending to keep one foot grounded. Money still seems to be trickling up, albeit in a more restrained, cautious manner than ever before, as traditional companies edge their way into the foray. Digital natives set an example more because they understand its function regardless of being oblivious of how one makes it actually work. The Industrial-Production economy is completely inverted in the Sharing Economy: it is the creators that continue to yield the real value, but the distibutors who instead monopolize the rewards.
Most “artists” aren’t economists or political scientists, and god forbid they should be. Most are busy earning a living to subsidize their act of internet charity known as content creation. In doing so, artists are falling victim to Morozov’s warning to “Program Or Be Programmed,” but there are only so many skills one can master, just as there are only so many hours in the day.
Instead, creatives are enchanted by the web’s own Kool Aid: the hypervisual lottery of potential, led by tweet-after-retweeted example of the celebrity creative and breakthrough start-up. Although clearly the eXception (yes, extreme enough to warrant the cap), the outliers encourage the hangers-on and aspirationally innovational to sacrifice health and home life for their 15 minutes of blogability. Google gets another 300 words by a ‘subject matter expert’ to feed into its AdWords index, Facebook adds a datapoint to its ad sales algorithm and Apple draws a fat comission off songs it had no part in producing or promoting aside from simply letting it exist in its ever-expanding catalog of choice. Such ‘humble’ sacrificing-to-innovate may once have been considered socially-validated, much like Einstein’s fashion sense. Somehow, I can’t put getting your iTurkeyBaster App approved in the same boat as desalination and the Mars Explorer.
But where this gets more insane is when the Champions Of Kool Aid start drinking their own by-product. (I’ll spare you the visual beyond that.) As if the powers that be haven’t had their way quite enough, we can rely on premiere creatives to speak at length on the idea of “Gifting” creativity to the world. Perhaps at their level, it is to be believed, an artist may subsist on manna under a roof good intentions. (89 min.)