The creative revolution

I’m excited at the moment. I’ve seen a few things recently online that have led me to realise that because of the new things we can do with technology, the possibilities for creativity are greater than we’ve ever known.

There are 3 presentations that I have watched which have drawn me to this conclusion.

Firstly, there’s Clay Shirky’s TED talk on what he calls ‘Cognitive Surplus’. I referred to this in my last blog post. His point is that new digital technology + human generosity = creativity for communal and civic purposes.

Then I watched this RSA talk about what truly motivates us as humans. It turns out that it’s actually not financial reward – it’s the opportunity to create:

And finally, after reading an article in the G2 Guardian supplement about the Do Lectures (kind of a similar set up to TED talks but more hippy and take place at a festival in Wales), I watched this talk from Ben Hammersley called ‘How to optimise yourself’ (apologies, I can’t embed this here, click on link to view):

The title of Ben’s talk isn’t very helpful, but there were two points he made that struck me. Firstly, he quoted Socrates as saying:

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

This put me in mind of some of the things I have been learning about Ignatian spirituality – which encourages you to reflect on your life’s ‘consolations’ and ‘desolations’. In more modern parlance, you can ask yourself two questions at the end of each day (or by reflecting over an event, a few months or even your whole life):

What has given me life today?

What has drained life from me today?

This is a spiritual exercise I think can be very helpful in working out your own path in life. So by ‘examining’ my life, I can make it more worth living, and cut out those things that aren’t leading me anywhere good.

The other point that Ben Hammersley makes is about data. He describes how, if you can record not only an article, its date and the author’s name but also, what the weather was like when it was written, how the author felt writing it, what song was at number 1 in the charts, what was on television – all that data can be used to ‘optimise’ our lives. His conclusion is that because we can now automate all that ‘boring stuff’, it leaves more room for us to focus on the stuff that motivates us – creativity.

This is a theme that I’m seeing emerge more and more. People’s generosity at sharing their knowledge and enthusiasms – enabled by digital technology – is leading to amazing creative acts.

This is why I am such an advocate of social media and new technologies. We are finally moving into an age, I think, where we have the space to be creative again. To give you a final example of this creativity in action, check out this video from composer and conductor Eric Whitacre. His Virtual Choir project involved people from 12 different countries, downloading the sheet music for his composition and recording themselves singing their part. He then put all this together to create this beautiful piece of music. And he’s going to try it all again in 2011, but this time to break the record of 900 voices singing together virtually.

The age of creativity is upon us and I, for one, am excited!


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