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Canada 3.0 Blog

Monday, May 11, 2009

Creatively Digital/Digitally Creative

You know the digital revolution has taken firm root when it slips from the hands of the engineers, programmers and business people and into the creative realm. Digital media is far more than a technological innovation; the new technologies have already transformed the creative enterprise with the prospect of even more radical changes in the offing.

From the first video games - remember Pong? - to the latest computer assisted graphics in blockbuster movies, digital technologies have had pronounced effects on the creative world. Many of these have emerged as formidable artistic and commercial forces. Video games challenge the movie industry as a money spinners. Computer controlled lighting and sound systems embellish even the most basic community theatrical production. In Asia, in particular, art created specific for mobile Internet devices has found a ready audience. Even in book publishing, where the Kindle and Sony e-book present both threats and opportunities, digital text is rising to challenge traditional print. Japanese e-books, written specifically for cell phones, routinely make the best seller lists. Digital arts, entertainment and creativity are already a wide-spread reality.

The story, of course, is not all one of creative opportunity. From Napster to BitTorrent, digital technologies have permitted the ready theft of creative property, particularly music, movies, television programs and prose. The losses to creators and publishers runs into the billions of dollars - and the new technologies have manufactured a culture of theft and fraud that must certainly be having a prolonged impact on societal values. Digital rights management - the process of ensuring that creators and their agents get paid for the work that they produce - is perhaps the most fundamental battle line in the new economy. The fact that some countries, most notably China, do not make a concerted effort to protect intellectual property rights is a serious impediment to the commercialization of digital creative products.

Part of the creative impulse - appropriately - is a critique of the very technologies that underpin the digital revolution. Just as some videographers use youtube to share their creations with wide audiences, so do others capitalize on social networking sites, websites and other digital systems to document, decry and challenge the growing role of digital media in the contemporary world.

Creators - artistic, commercial and otherwise - have only begun to explore the potential of digital media. Innovations in such diverse areas as animation and motion capture, biofeedback and holographic imagining, virtual reality and outdoor projection,wearable computers and mobile Internet, web design and telematic theatre among many others promise to stand creative expression on its head. We will see many more public art forms, mass international transmission of art, collaborative acts of creation, interactive artistic events and critical re-interpretations of existing art (think sophisticated photoshopping).

The Internet and digital media promise, as well, to revolution the distribution and sale of art. Creative personnel who struggled to find audiences and consumers can use the new technologies to reach out globally. While most will not prosper - such is the lot of the lonely artist - many more will discover that easily shareable art forms can find an international audience.

Perhaps most significantly, the digital revolution needs content. The fiber optic cables, hard drives, processing memory, video cards and other countless hardware devices and pieces of software are only useful if there is something to move over and through the system. As the power of the Internet shifts from the tool makers to the tool users, creators and content producers will play an increasingly dominant role. The material that capitalizes on the technology, more than the technology itself, will drive the expansion of the digital economy.

As the technologists and creators converge - a process that is well underway - a vital feedback loop is emerging. Creators using technology pressure the engineers and programmers to innovate. The technological innovations, in turn, generate more and different forms of creative expression. The interaction between two sectors that are often separate, if not antagonistic, is central to the unfolding of a competitive and transformative digital economy.

Ken Coates
Dean of Arts, University of Waterloo

1 comment:

  1. Gna just share my views from top to bottom as I see them.
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