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Consumers and Creators
Here's a little thought exercise that's been running through my head for a month or so. Might as well see what happens if I put it into my (little used) journal here

A few months ago I spotted this ad appearing in the normal advertising rotation on the various Yahoo sites. At first blush, its just a typical lame ad for Yahoo/SBC DSL services. But I think it typifies a ongoing, and growing, problem with todays 'war' between content providers, and their attitude towards consumers, and also goes some way to explain why there's such a growing 'piracy' culture today. (And I'll throw in a Apple vs Microsoft comparison, to spice things up)

Firstly, take another look at the Yahoo ad. In it, a hip preppy-type with a indelible smirk on her face proudly proclaims that she "watched a monkey swimming on her internet today" and then, again with that indelible smirk, challenges us to beat her marvelous feat of consumerism. Now, I know I'm reading too much into this, but to me, it appears that these people - Yahoo, the advertising company, or perhaps the entire content-producing industry - feel that the height of anyone's daily achievement should consist of 'watching something cool'.

It appears that consumerism is being very heavily promoted instead of, for want of a better word, creationism. You may say "Well, duh! the big companies don't make any money if we just create our own stuff", and I totally agree. To the big companies, we should all be sitting down in front of our TVs, satellite receivers, video game consoles, and web browsers and just sucking up all the content they choose to throw at us. Of course, sucking up the advertising, and the need to buy more products, or subscriptions to yet more content, along the way.

Good little consumers! Aren't they adorable!

But... all this consumerism is starting to bite the big companies in the ass big-time. The more we consume, the less we create. And, the less we create, the less appreciation we give to the time and effort it takes to create content (be it a movie, tv show, music or artwork). And, the less we appreciate it, the less we respect the artists. And here's the rub: the less we respect the artists, the more likely it is that people will pirate content.

My argument is that the very attitude of the content providers, that we should be consuming content rather than creating it, is breeding a generation of people that do not respect nor appreciate the effort it takes to make that content. Couple that with the ease and repeatability of digital distribution, and you have today's pirate-rich environment. Nice going there, guys!

And that Apple vs Microsoft thing I promised?

Well, examine Microsoft's latest application they're pushing, the Windows Media Center, all you ever need to watch someone else's content in a myriad of different ways. Compare to Apple's leading application: iLife, all you ever need to create your own content. Apple are, and arguably always have, pushed the concept of people being creative with the tools Apple provide, and programs like iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand (all part of the iLife 'suite') allow exactly that. (iTunes and iPhoto are more organising content already created, in my book), and I think that's exactly the kind of focus all the big companies should be pushing.

If we were encouraged more to create our own content, we'd have more respect for others that create content for us.

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dude.. its just a DSL ad.. get over it.. :)

being creative is hot

I think it was a bunch of uncreative admen that came up with the ad.. afterall. that is all that they do with their T1 at work instead of using creativity :)

Oh, I don't doubt it for a second. But... for those admen, the idea that people could create their own content is beyond them :)

Haha... but we all know that Al Gore never really said he invented the internet, don't we? :)

The picture begs to differ, and we all know a picture is worth like 1000 words or thereabouts :3

The early, proto-Internets really did need gamma correction, didn't they?

well, yes, with the amber screens and vt100s

I would post with an LJ, but for other reasons I'll stay Anonymous.

Came across your journal from somebody else's, and I know of you from the VCL (which, assuming I ever get any artistic talent, I'll apply for).

I agree with you on the whole producer/consumer and devaluation of creativity point. As a programmer I feel it myself - people ask for the stars, and when given the moon they scoff at you.

My disagreement comes with the Apple v. Microsoft point. I must admit, I'm a big fan of the corporation and their software (as horrible a person as this might make me). Yes, Apple's iLife software allows for people to be very creative, and yes, Media Center is designed with viewing content in mind. But Microsoft has made inroads into the creativity scene. Photo Story 3 recently came out, which lets you arrange your photos into a slideshow including pans, zooms, rotations, titles, voiceovers, and even dynamically generated music. It will even generate a 'photo story' for you, using image processing techniques to locate interesting bits of images, like peoples' faces.

But the real creativity software Microsoft pushes is Visual Studio.NET, their developer suite. Having written programs for more than half of my life, I can safely say that this single program is unparalleled in its ability to assist in program creation. I would go on about the designers, project system, and Intellisense, but I don't want to bore you (though I fear I may have already!)

In short, I agree that people are losing respect for creators and their work, but I think that Microsoft is pushing creative software, only from a different perspective.

To end on a good note, I must say you do an excellent job of administering said VCL. Webmasters and Administrators far too often get much less credit than they deserve.

Thanks for your comments, especially about running the VCL... I appreciate it :)

I'm unfamiliar with Microsoft's "Photo Story 3", but I'll assume its similar in functionality to Apple's iPhoto. I'm happy to agree that it's a good 'in-road' into the consumer creativity market. However, note that I didn't consider iPhoto to be as much of a 'content creation' application compared to iMovie or GarageBand. We'll see where Microsoft takes this.

Visual Studio.Net, however, is not really 'consumer creativity' software, so I don't think it makes a good comparison. OF COURSE Microsoft, and Apple (with Xcode), has to have application creation software, otherwise no applications are going to be written. The argument I was making was more towards consumers, which still heavily outweigh developers in numbers.

Over time, I'm sure Microsoft will add more and more consumer-level creativity software. I argue that it's certainly not where their focus is.

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