Who’s Afraid of the Dark(net)?

If you haven’t been following the bubbling unrest over Digital Rights Management, now may be the time to tune in. The wrangling over how technology impacts copyright and fair use is picking up momentum on the edge of mainstream, and some interesting Web sites and undergrounds have emerged that are a good reminder of what creativity is all about. 

<Rant> Creativity is a social currency. It’s about reflection and inflection. Exploring and connecting through something deeply felt as a way of experiencing the present. Humor. Fear. Regret…. The capacity for creativity to transmit emotion, to inspire, to generate shared experience, is more powerful than any manufactured currency.  Which is why we use creativity in business as a vehicle to generate revenue. We use it in marketing, we use it in product development, and we use it most of all in entertainment. But Creativity has very short shelf life as a business currency. Business wants to be efficient, to strip away anything unnecessary, anything that isn’t calculated. Even businesses that code creativity into the DNA of their operations usually can’t avoid stifling it in some vital way, because ultimately the purpose of business is not to inspire, even if inspiration is an expedient tool.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in an industry of creativity. Movies. Radio. Television. It’s become a cliché to moan over the lack of creativity in entertainment today, even as we anxiously await another blockbuster summer with the likes of Scooby Doo 3, and a big screen version of Leave It To Beaver. Why is creativity so lacking where we expect to find it most? Because the structure that allowed the entertainment industry to profit even while it inspired–or that enabled it to inspire even while it profited–has changed. We can copy and share files. We can have 54" screens in our living room with high definition DVDs and video games. We can hang out on the Internet instead of watching TV. From a business standpoint, it’s chaos. New technology. New attitudes. How do you handle chaos in business? You either maximize your effectiveness at doing what you know best, or embrace change and move in a new direction. The relative risk is open to perception, but most businesses like to avoid change.

So now we have a media industry that is very poorly suited to adaptability. They’re using whatever tools and weapons they can find to prevent change, and to retain revenue–one of the biggest being copyright law. We have a record industry suing it’s customers. And now a movie industry threatening the same. At this point, at least in the entertainment business, industry is no longer serving creativity, and creativity is no longer serving industry. It’s a broken relationship that is no longer satisfying to anyone. People feel cheated by the quality of movies and records they buy, and the industries start losing revenue. Industry reacts with ever more draconian restrictions on how people can use content, and people react by finding new ways to get around the restrictions. Because ultimately, people don’t care if the industry is making money. They want to explore and connect through something deeply felt as a way of experiencing the present. They want to share that, and be part of a shared experience. If businesses can make money while that’s happening, no one cares. But businesses get in the way of it happening, they’ll ultimately lose. Because creativity is a social currency far more powerful than anything manufactured. </rant>

This pill will take you take you back where you came from, and you’ll forget everything.

This pill may lead to places you don’t expect.

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