Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.
Will the crowd crush creativity?
October 5th, 2008

Web 2.0 technologies. The read-write web. Call them what you will.  The nomenclature can be so constraining at times. I ramble. What can these technologies do?

They can enable, empower, engage and entertain. Educate too.

People connected with any web enabled device need not be consumers but producers. They can be…

  • active as opposed to passive
  • performing in contrast to observing
  • a part as opposed to apart
  • participants and not observers

The Internet facilitated a single dimensional flow of knowledge. It still does for many. From us to them [There is meaning and relevance there somewhere ~ read on]. The flow is also multi-dimensional. People have the opportunity to share their knowledge, ideas, opinions and experiences. What will be the consequences of these new flows? Intended and unintended?

The wisdom of the crowds has been well documented. Here too. The crowd or the mob can combine to act in different ways. Product purchases. Generating happiness. Generating positive change. The Twitter exchanges during the recent presidential and vice-presidential debates in the USA were like a ticker-tape stream of consciousness flow of the American psyche. At least part of it. We could read what many disparate people were thinking, in real time. People we do not know. For many, people far away.

In Singapore, for example, communities work together to achieve change. The community is enabled and connected ~ digital ties, human blood. Here for example: ICCS blogToddyCats. A living community that is nurtured and enabled, working together. The net facilitates. People act together. This is good.

The crowd. Will the crowd become overarching? What will happen to individuality? Will our individuality be buried underneath this new world of connectivity? Will the crowd dominate individuality? What if one’s voice is not heard? A voice not heard amidst the clamour of the crowd. Will the crowd create a monoculture? A series of monocultures, one after the other?

I wonder will the push and pull of the crowd crush creativity? Will the crowd determine what is creative and what is not? I feel perplexed. What if you loathe the crowd yet you depend upon it? What if you loathe the crowd yet you cannot function without it? What would that feel like?

Why do people participate in the crowd? A sense of responsibility? Obligation? Paranoia? Peer pressure? The tide? Sink or swim?

This is part 1 in a series of posts of thoughts that crossed my mind last night.

2 Responses to “Will the crowd crush creativity?”

  1. Paul Stewart Says:

    Terrific post John. I have been wondering the same thing. The internet (esp. Web.Too) does allow like-minded people to find each other quickly and to give support to one another which is wonderful. The sense of community I can see in some people tweets is enviable. But occasionally we also need people to act as a foil for our points of view. We need critical friends. Perhaps this happens on Twitter – I’m not sure; I’ve tallied only 100 or so Twitter updates so I am relatively new to the experience.

    I guess it’s also notable that a number of our most cherished artists were out of kilter with the popular thinking of the time and yet they continued to walk down the roads they did. Perhaps people who are really devoted to their art are impervious to the collective consciousness of the society surrounding them. Their art can evolve using new tools and technologies without requiring the approval or endorsement of the networks that also gravitate to such tools. Social networks can be a great way of getting the message out, but they don’t have to play a part in the creation of art. Individualism in certain contexts is a healthy thing.

    Perhaps the real question is: can one be truly collaborative and remain true to a singular artistic vision? I don’t know but you’ve made me think which has to be the hallmark of an excellent blog post.

  2. John Larkin Says:

    Thank you for the kind comment and Paul, you make an excellent point about cherished artists. I immediately thought of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and others of that late 60s and early 70s era that were very much out of sync with mainstream rock and roll yet they survived. In fact they went on to inspire several generations of musicians including the punks of the mid 1970s and the grunge bands of the nineties. Despite all that they still stand out. Living legends.

    There are some foils out there in the education ether… Clay Burell and Gary Stager spring to mind. Thank goodness.

    I would love to speak my mind at times but I am hesitant. WOuld people stop reading my little blog or would I actually generate more readers. I am a member of a listserv where one can speak their mind. I only post occasionally but I manage to generate a lot of feedback when I do. I tend to use colourful metaphors when I vent my spleen.

    I speak my mind more with comments on other blogs. For some reason I feel more ‘free’ with my comments.