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What's next?


Don't know about you but for the past 10 years I've always had a computer somewhere in sight. Many things have changed with computers, and a lot of stuff has become obsolete. Not talking about romantics like music tapes, vinyl records, but wondering what's current, and what's next. I don't know if you've been following around you, but here's the impression I got:


Wait. This article is about digital creativity. It won't touch on physical creations so narrow down your focus right now. Thank you. Carry on.

A while ago..

Trackers came by on the Amiga, in the end of the 80s. The unique thing was that you could sequence music without an external synthesizer. 8bit samples, four channels, nothing special. 10 years later, in 1997, Impulse Tracker was readily mixing 16 bit stereo samples across 64 channels (250 internally) of audio. In 2007, it's difficult to imagine music production without audio plugins. That took 20 years. The same amount of time it took everyone (in the developed world) to get a computer.

Skip to the beginning of the 2000s. The obliteration of the typewriter can't surprise anyone, but.. blogs appear! Suddenly it's easier than easy to express yourself on the internet. The net picked its most suitable format for expressing thoughts - the living column. Just sign up and you could be the next greatest journalist. Blogs sort of popped out of the blue, but also emerged as a logical self-organising consequence of the internet's data/idea entropy.

So the Internet made it possible to publish your music, and have a site (like this one). It also made it possible to write about stuff and make a career out of it.

Enter digital imagery. As I write this, basic DSLRs with excellent photographic qualities go for about $700 or EUR 500. Shooting in RAW is not only forgiving, it replaces the dark room for photos entirely. The things you can't do with digital photos, compared to film, suddenly got replaced by ten times more things that you -can- do with a DSLR and can't with film process. Just publish your photos and make a career (right?).

The present?

You can see where I'm going with this. Suddenly everything is down to knowledge, because equipment is cheap affordable(!) and most of it is also portable. What's more, by taking a laptop, an author is free to go anywhere and create, in their own time.

The downside?

The internet is about sharing and knowledge. However, it is also about noise and digital pollution. It is getting progressively difficult to stand out, for the sheer speed at which copies emerge, and also if your techniques came from the internet, that means others also had access to them at the same time as you did. And all that. You get the picture. Try making a career as a digital musician. Or a blogger. Or a photographer. Not saying you won't succeed, but mind the hard time ahead.

The point?

But the point of this article? On a typical day my mind can (and does) go astray, off to thinking about something beyond the obvious, like what could be next? Or what does Now in the creative digital industry look like. My take was: music and blogs in the past, digital photography is hapenning right now. It was actually an (old!) article at Strobist that finally got me into writing this.

So what's next?

Did you know you could fit a 35mm film camera lens on a budget DV camera? Suddenly, cinema look doesn't cost a hundred grand. Yes, it becomes harder to shoot but the knowledge is there and people are sharing it, in the true spirit of the internets. Broadcast on Indie Flicks in Joost.

Not convinced in video? How about pre-scripted 3D? Theoretically throw ina few object packs (mesh, texture, lighting profile) that include action scripts (picture a random guy sits in a bar minding his own business, picture a virtual female lipsynced to a text-to-speech program). Just write a meaningful script. Throw in a few lighting, fx plugins for good measure. Pretty sure you can find the relevant knowledge... you know where.

How about other artforms we are yet to experience? Global positioning / proximity-based stuff? That's upcoming, as soon as we throw out our privacy concerns. Most likely you're already on a camera, or your internet access is being logged, so cut it out, guys at your cellphone company know where you are, and it's very likely you just twitted what you're doing anyway. How about something wilder? Interactive LED matrix t-shirt imagery? Always-on, generative, sound-recycling ambience, in your home, (I already imagined this in 1999 so I guess it's already done).. Your own RFID tag cloud? Downloadable GM/DNA bodyart patterns?

In closing

I guess we're in for a wild ride. Now if only one could tell me how you keep making a living out of this wild stuff, instead of, say, going for a carbon investment fund.. I wish I had enabled commenting on the site prior to this post, but hey, I'm kinda busy surviving in the digital age, so that will have to come later. Shout in the shoutbox or drop me an email meanwhile. Thanks.

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