A counter manifesto for the Creative Internet

Some time ago, I came across this article. An article about a bold new book, written by a being with a creditably left-handed style of thinking that ties language to color signalling by cephalopods; protocol-free computer science and what have you. A book, nay, a manifesto, to use the language of the author, that defines creativity in singularly individualistic terms, at the expense of the collective and its consciousness, the internet.

Disclaimer: The book is still in the mail.

The author, Jaron Lanier, posits that the web has not liberated creativity in the species, but has stifled it. That by making universal distribution and access of music (as a nameplate for creativity, one supposes from the set of the article) has made it well-nigh impossible for the artist to sustain himself (or herself) of his (or her) art. That the web, as a collective lacks the underlying design or purpose needed for such a system to foster complexity and ingenuity.


We can take immense pride in the fact that, as a species, creativity is a primal trait. It was born when ancient man looked at the thundercloud and heard the wind in the tree and made music. It was defined by fire and the wheel. It was and is not facilitated by the presence of the barter system, the monetary system, the music label system or any other system. As Alan Moore put in V for Vendetta:

We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them… but you cannot kiss an idea, cannot touch it, or hold it… ideas do not bleed, they do not feel pain, they do not love…

The author (from my reading of the article) appears to misdiagnose the transition of the economics of creativity for the death of creativity itself. Yes, it has become a lot harder to become famous and financially solvent on the basis of one’s creative genius alone. But then again, I would posit that the last few decades have been an transitional anomaly as society shifted from mostly-isolated to mostly-connected to entirely-connected. As some may recall, the greatest artistic age on history was formed on the shoulders of penniless artists supported pro bono by money-laden noble houses. We owe the works of Michaelangelo and Da Vinci not just to these Titans, but to the Medici family as well.The world has moved back to a similar state, but for diametrically opposite reasons.

What has changed is the paradigm by which ‘creativity’ is defined. The quality of creativity is not strained, only its flavor. The internet does not foster creativity in the traditional arts, it fosters the creation of new forms of art itself. While traditional art has moved from penniless artists supported by patrons to super-rich artists supported by a pretentious neo-intellectual societal elite, the internet generation lives not for the fame or the money, but for the art. The internet has through universal and instant connectivity, done away with the need for economic sustenance –  patronage, art gallery, music label or otherwise. It is the purest form of a creative democracy, where circumstance of birth or location, networking or luck are zeroed out; where everyone is free to discover their own creativity, in whichever form they please and share it with the world. Instantly.

Mattepainting. Speedpainting. Dynamic typography. Virtual choirs. Microbloggging. Forget Impressionism and Realism. Forget Michael Jackson. This is the internet generation. This is art:

and this:

and this:

This is the internet. This is a wonderful place. Money? Fame? pfft. It’s on youtube.

(More once I read the book..including possible retractions with humility..)


One response to “A counter manifesto for the Creative Internet

  1. Great thoughts and spot-on commentary. For a business student like you, and a person who values the power of a manifesto, I might recommend a couple new-ish resources…

    Seth Godin’s newest endeavor is called the Domino Project. Google it and check it out.

    Umair Haque’s recent book, The New Capitalist Manifesto, might pique your interest too.

    Keep up the relevant thinking and great work will continue to follow!

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