Every day, the Internet grows as a platform for collaborative creation, making it easy for people from around the world to build something together and bring life to a shared vision – even if the individuals never meet in their lifetimes.
These marvels occur when we embrace the Internet less like a TV screen and more in terms of a tool for making things. Technology lifts many of the physical barriers that can limit creativity, empowering a new generation to innovate collectively across a diverse range of digital platforms.
Online interactions take different shapes and forms. Most online engagements are “publish-and-consume,” whereby someone creates and “publishes” something—a blog, a tweet on Twitter, a Facebook post, for example—and others “consume” the communication. In these cases, the consumer responds with comments, likes, shares and other feedback.
These publisher/consumer relationships represent how most of us interface online with one another: We give information. We receive information. We react to information.
Ideas, Inspiration & the Internet
Put aside this idea and think about the real creative magic that happens when the Internet is used as a vehicle for “collaborative creation.” In this relationship, contributors and producers work side by side to generate and disseminate ideas, solve problems, and create new products. Because of this common goal, the bond between online co-creators is much stronger than the bond between online publishers and consumers.
Music-making and audio production in the cloud is gaining momentum as emerging platforms make it easy for artists to co-create, and to express themselves in exciting new ways. Per Emanuelsson, CEO of Soundtrap, says that as long as there’s good audio quality, digital music-making is the perfect pursuit for online collaboration. Soundtrap is a cloud-based music and podcast recording studio that works across almost anything with an Internet connection, including iPads, tablets, smartphones, Chromebooks and laptops.
Emanuelsson also observes that audio-based Internet projects are ideally suited for online collaboration because they involve hearing. Hearing is one of easiest human senses to digitize: “This particular creative community has everything to gain by doing this, especially since we’re already over the hump in terms of technology.”
He contrasts the collaborative relationship that occurs when people create music and other projects online, with the “hub-and-spoke network effect” that transpires in many online broadcasting situations: “Of course, you do get limited participation with this hub-and-spoke effect when people start commenting on each other’s comments, but this is not part of the actual creation itself. Soundtrap, for example, is participatory creation because people are joining in the network to actually create a piece together.”
The Internet allows us to be more creative because it combines “domain knowledge”—those autonomous human activities that previously operated in a vacuum—in a central location. Layering these knowledge domains allows us to see the links that connect different styles and genres and build on the knowledge and experiences we already have.
“All of sudden, you get this crazy idea of combining all those types of genres into a new type of music that nobody else has heard before, and then you can have this creative spark of something very innovative and creative coming out of that. It only happens because of the collaborative effect of being online.”
When their idea-wells run dry, artists like Pavitra Eshwar refer to the Internet for inspiration. Eshwar, an abstract expressionist painter in San Francisco, California, abandoned her career as a software engineer to pursue her passion for painting full time. She now exhibits her work at several San Francisco galleries, including 111 Minna Gallery, and is a member-artist at City Art Gallery.
“Going online and staying there for just a half-hour looking at other works, or getting an engaging conversation going, really fires me up.” Trolling through Instagram and Facebook, Eshwar connects with fellow artisans, browsing through postings of their recent works and asking for help when her creative process hits a wall.
A year ago, a former college buddy and artist friend from her home country of India sparked her creativity. The friend, who follows Eshwar’s work on her Facebook business page, loved one of her pieces so much that he connected her with a museum curator in Delhi.
For Eshwar, the Internet inspires creativity because it brings people together to brainstorm ideas. But it has its share of downfalls as well. The project in Delhi is temporarily stalled because Eshwar and the curator believe they should meet face-to-face to “make a real connection” and determine exactly what Eshwar will produce and how their on-going collaboration would take place in the future, while keeping in mind the distance between them. Also, while many of her clients found her work online, others want to see the colors, study the brushstrokes and feel the canvas before making a purchase.
Emanuelsson agrees that there are benefits to meeting in the flesh that cannot be replicated in an online environment, and that many creatives still appreciate the social and human aspects of sitting in the same room.
At least for now, there are still those creative endeavors for which the Internet isn’t an appropriate vehicle. Still, with the Internet valued at more than $3 trillion a year, more art, more music, more books and more ideas are being produced on digital platforms than at any other time in history.