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..)

I read it on wikipedia!

I’m sitting on a flight to Bangalore and listening to the Economist’s Babbage on Wikipedia on it’s 10th anniversary.

They make an interesting point about it’s accuracy, a topic I have fairly strong views on, and will expound further in this post.

But first, back to Babbage. A skill, which Babbage says is important to kids, but which I would posit that is important for everyone; is the ability to discern the quality of a source and the knowledge it attempts to impart. After all, garbage in – garbage out.

I have serious issues with academia’s odd boycott of wikipedia as a source in the classroom, which strikes me as downright peevish.

I would not say that Wikipedia should replace more formal academic / technical sources, but I do feel that it does have it’s place as at the very least, as an initial source of information, a starting point.

To require students to not refer to Wikipedia as a source at all, smacks of cranky behind-the-times professor would rather handicap students with unrealistic rules rather than update or revise the content in consideration of Internet 2.0.

The alternative to that proposition is even scarier. Professors that could not be bothered with the classroom.

It’s also, in my cynical eyes, all the more likely.

The world is full of interesting things

Google has this pretty awesome slide-show of interesting things on the internet. While the slideshow does plug a lot of Google stuff like Chrome Ads and a stylesheet for Google Reader; and a lot of content is sourced from off youtube, everything on the whole probably does merit its place.

I’ve collected a few here from the slide-show which I thought were absolutely amazing:

1. The Wilderness Downtown: A chrome-optimized, CPU-intensive HTML5 video. (or videos. It opens many many windows. Don’t panic). Just sit back, don’t touch anything, wait, keep waiting, and then watch the video. Quite an interesting visual experience. The load time is mighty annoying (and ironic considering the soundtrack).

2. Singing Fingers:

3. You’ve probably heard of this – the Youtube Symphony Orchestra

4.Pixels – the movie. Very hilarious:

5. Remember those spheres from a couple of years ago showing the shrink in net worth of the largest banks? This is better.

6. Whoa.

7. Guess what this is. Brilliant. (This is cool too)

8. Mildly hypnotic. Very very cool:

9. WHOA.

Notable mention to the epic-in-scope life-in-a-day.


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Remember that huge book?

The dark covered one? The one which none of us ever owned but looked at with awe in libraries? The one whose ‘concise’ version at 2000 pages graced many of our homes? This one:

Oxford English Dictionary

Any Last Words?

According to the internets, Oxford  University Press, the publishers of the dictionary are considering discontinuing the physical book. This of course applies to the Oxford English Dictionary, the 21-volume, 21000 page full size dictionary, published in only 2 editions in the last century, and for which work on the 3rd edition carries on. While unverified, my guess is that you can still pick up your own single-volume tome of the Oxford Dictionary of English or the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

So if you’re own of those who just happens to own a complete set, either shoot into space, bury it in a time capsule for our descendants or give it to Smithsonian. It will become a relic.

(note that I’m not going to suggest auctioning it, since that implies the existence of potential buyers. I don’t believe that)

The five best sources of great photography on the internet

My previous post on the Flickr Hive Mind inspired me to share what I think are the best sources of amazing photography on the internet. I’m not going to go into a rehashed mess of the traditional sites, but on specific links to high-quality (skill and creativity, not resolution) photography.

just a random pic that looks nice

so cool!

Hive Mind: Like I’ve mentioned before, a fantastic source. I am thoroughly confused how it does what it does, but the end result is a constant stream of wow!

The Big Picture: A sub-site of Boston.com, and naturally very journalistic in flavour, but excellent photos nevertheless.

National Geographic Photo of the Day: A very focused site in terms of subject matter, dealing almost exclusively with travel and nature. The photographs of course, are legendary, almost all of the class that graces the covers of National Geographic Magazine itself.

deviantArt: I am sure to get panned for this. But the fact remains that among the tides of pre-pubescent and post-adolescent ‘artists’ and unending manga-derived graphics are some true photographic gems. It takes some hunting, but it can be worth it.

WordPress Photography: I am not joking. There are some seriously superb photographers on WordPress, as I have discovered in the recent past and continue to do so in the present. This and this are just a couple I’ve come across recently.

There you have it. In addition to the ‘common’ photo databases like photobucket and flickr, these 5 sites have been the mainstay of my photography browsing recently. If anyone has similar places they count on their favourites folder, do share.

On a last note, I cannot stress this enough when I ask everyone to always respect the copyrights and wishes of the photographers, wherever you may find their work. A vast majority of photographers will not have any problem with your using their work in a non-profiteering context. Just ask before using. It’s polite.

The interesting internet compendium – Volume I

I’ve recently been cleaning up my enormous (~300) bookmarks folder on my browser and my similarly ponderous Evernote database and dug out a list of stuff I’ve bookmarked (and used) over time and reach an sufficiently arbitrary level of geeky coolness to share for viewing pleasure.

Many are courtesy of this link. (Beware obsessive-compulsives. You WILL click on them all. )

(Note: This list and post are my own work through and through. Nobody asked me to write it or what to include or anything. Don’t try to read anything into the order or section lengths either. All arbitrary.)

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