Hot on the heels of sharply funny/true/sad The Onion article Find The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life which many of my creative friends have been forwarding to each other with a mix of sadness and humour, is this Banksy artwork via Redshift.
It’s the infection of the Protestant work ethos to leisure time – the concept of the Leisure Class now is very much gone unless you are super-rich.
Sadly both reveal the big problem with the current way things are going, what I call The New Creative Economy – do it in your spare time, but can you please apply commercial levels of polish and finish to something you provide for free, plz? It’s why I get a little, umm, tetchy when people criticise what I do in my spare/non-working time and apply their BBC/commercial level filters to what is a no-funded non-profit production. When you kick back they look like wounded puppies, having never thought that such an entitled Consumer viewpoint of the world is part of the problem in this new ‘post-work’ economy.
Or Capitalism in general, it provides a ‘barrier to entry’ for those outside the system, not just of production values but also ideological and philosophical differences. When the first approach is to moan ‘Why Oh Why Oh Why BBC!’ that’s a real management problem, as well as all the classic lego blocks of privilege, entitlement and passive consumption. I suppose when I look at the lovingly crafted videos, sculptures and mashups featured on the likes of Boing Boing as well as ‘that’s cool’ I tend to also think ‘fuck how long did that take?’ in a similar fashion to when I see a piece of advertising or go onto a corporate site I wonder which overworked freelancer created that…and probably got no credit.
So if only those who can make a living from it can create to the desired ‘bloggable’ level what of this ‘expectancy bubble’? Will it collapse? Or will it just hide trust-fund bunnies and sponsorship/corporate interest under a badge of independent work? That’s what happened to podcasting and the record industry – interesting when people share things online they don’t really think of the work, funding and underlying politics (or factual correctness sadly) of the item their share. It’s a drive-by interest hit, but it’s problematic for several reasons I detail below.
It’s what I was trying to fight with podcasting – YOU ARE THE MEDIA being the starting point to a shift in how people consume and create media; because when you face such attitudes to what you create you realised how the whole system is stacked against the small/amateur producer, the non-profits, those who aren’t what I call ‘gatekeepers’ (the trusted gateways to ‘approved’ content – the Stephen Fry’s, BBC, the Josh Whedons etc). Thinking back this probably was how I got radicalised, when you share something and people just pick holes it tends to make you re-evaluate not just the work itself, but the process, the system and whether their assessment is not only correct but the set of filters, biases, prejudices etc. that come with their judgement. Are they correct? What environment are they judging within? Do those cognitive filters stack up or are they a pile of Jenga about to fall down? I do this for fun, supposedly. How did it come to be, or seen to be by others, as work?
It took me a long time of soul-searching to realise Beverley Crusher style it’s not me then it’s the universe, that people’s way of consuming art and culture and their expectations are skewed, that the status quo is a Death Tango between The Big 4 and Big Media and the voracious expectations of the audience, who are as complicit in this as the corporates. Interestingly people claim they are not, they’re cool, they’re down with teh kids, that indymedia is wicked yo, but then switch on X-Factor and tune out in a haze of corporate mind-washing. It’s what people do, rather than what they say, as ever.
Free your mind, and your media will follow. But do you want to be free? Or do you expect to be plate-fed but that media comes to you for free but be original/cool/wevs? That costs – either in time or money. Are you willing to pay – in attention as much as in $$$s – in more than a drive-by ‘Like’? Because I can’t take likes down the shop to buy bread and roses you know. It’s why the new economy is problematic – I don’t believe the old ‘cottage industry’ or ‘auteur’/'artist’ approach is working, but there’s nothing much to replace it other than free – and I’m not proposing a Victorian step back to stem filesharing as that isn’t the problem, or the cause. In fact that’s one of the few ways to slip past those gatekeepers.
No, the problem is how people consume media nowadays – fostered by the corporates who have big pockets. The fact they choose to moan about their lickle blog being taken away by Levenson when they didn’t say a peep about drones or ACTA or even Levenson also speaks volumes – which might sound contradictory but it’s not – you can create within a small hype cycle, Burn Cycle as I’ve called it here and never go out of the approved DMZ of corporate or gatekeeper thinking. Look at Tumblr or Instagram for instance. How many people are being paid to write or tweet what they do? Or bribed via freebies. It’s all a cycle, a drone cycle.