Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Internet: Spark Killer?

Brandon sent over an interesting quote from Albert Brooks, apparently from the Rolling Stone comedy issue: "I think the Internet is slowly going to take down all creativity. You can take any artist in the history of the world...and if you can have widespread opinion on their first time out, you can kill the great spark that makes them who they are...Large amounts of opinion early in an artist's life is like a cancer."

I'm not sure I agree. It's an interesting thought, but in a way, every artist gets feedback about what they do, right? Whether it's in a comedy club, or in my case, people just reading my articles and jokes. I guess the Interwebs make it possible to get far more negative feedback in a much shorter time, but to me, there's also an insulation that happens on the Web.

I used to get quite a bit of hate mail about the much-neglected, but it was easy to ignore in most cases, because it's virtual, and at arm's length.

Ultimately, if someone's spark can be extinguished by dopey, misspelled comments on a comment board, it might not be the right spark in the first place.

If anything, I'd take the opposite opinion on this one. Never before have creative people had a way to get such wide exposure and massive support for what they do. The sheer size of the audience means far more people to give positive feedback, to spark more creativity, to boost one's ego. I love the feedback I get on Flickr, and on this blog, about my photos. And I still get touching notes about the work on Dribbleglass. (Gotta love when those cancer victims write to say that my billboards are a bright spot in their day.)

I'm not sure Albert gave this one enough thought. Or maybe it's an insecure artist talking...but, in the end, nobody does their work in a bubble.


Brandon Muller said...

I agree with you.

I wish I had youtube and a blog when I was growing up. I know I would have posted junk. But it would have been good junk to me. Very little of what I created back then is easily accessible these days (by me).

Plus, I think it would have encouraged me to do lots more because of such a public outlet.

The Jen said...

My friends and I used to create comedy shows on an old-fashioned tape recorder. I'm sure it would have made it onto the internet had it existed back then.

Having an instant audience of millions probably inspires more than discourages, though. Artists love an audience.

Jonderson said...

Hmm...I think the dicrepancy arises because you are all (including Albert Brooks) defining the concept of art, and what it means to be an artist, too broadly.

I believe that in order to be an artist one has first to master the technical aspects of what one is doing, that is to say the craft, and then one has to incorporate some sort of individualized aesthetic element which is apart from, or beyond the craft. Sometimes this is referred to as "giving the work life" or "personality". No matter what you call it though, that added element has to add to the work aesthetically.

This narrow definition still makes what Brooks says nonsense, but for a different reason. Artists don't have a first time out. They are constantly in development and evolving from craftspeople into artists. There is rarely an identifiable moment that one becomes an artist. They are, throughout this development, receiving feedback, both good and bad, just like Scott says.

I do think that large amounts of negative feedback can kill an interest in a craft one is trying to master. I do think that is true. Confidence in what one is doing only comes after you know you have mastered the thing. Until that time, you are more vulnerable to criticism than an artist because you do not yet have full knowledge of whether the criticism is valid or not.

I do not think that the Internet is going to take down all creativity. That is a stupid thing to say, as it reflects a poor understanding of what the Internet is. The Internet will certainly continue to inspire creativity as it has up to this point. But with more and more people out there trying to "be seen" (all people crave attention, not just artists) it will become harder and harder to find examples of artistic creativity.

Eventually, and I think sooner rather than later, the Internet will be considered an inefficient vehicle for introducing one's art to the general public. It will still be a great vehicle for people who are already familiar with your art, but as a vehicle for the "unknown" artist to become "discovered", it is going to be no better than the Yellow Pages.