“The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today.” William Gibson
How many people put their photos in social networks after their summer holidays? By consulting your friends’ Facebook profiles, you could travel half the world without leaving home. Yesterday, we took 20 photos for all our holidays while today we can make 200 in one day! One click and they are all on the Internet and can be seen by your 300 friends. The technological change indeed makes it possible that people are able to share their experiences in a very short time.
Moreover, while our creative productions such as photos, videos or blog posts are seen by many people, we tend to make them as beautiful and as interesting as we can. If we want to be “liked” by others, our digital content should also have an original, captivating or even a deliberately unconventional character. All these are characteristics of innovation.
It is important to highlight the personal character of these creations. I’m not just looking at the photos of California in my friend’s Facebook profile, I see this place through someone’s eyes. In that way, this photo becomes a personal creation, the transmission of a personal experience. Each person can express himself as a creator, even though not everybody wants to become one. As Jean Burgess says, this kind of new creativity is spreading today by being in a convergent relationship with social networking.
This phenomenon can be called « Vernacular creativity “, a concept introduced by Jean Burgess from the University of Queensland. According to Burgess, web 2.0 tools such as Flickr and YouTube « provide people who are not necessarily expert users with an opportunity to produce an aesthetically coherent and interesting broadcast quality work that communicates effectively with a wider, public audience ». In 2007 Jean Burgess explored the concept in her thesis “Vernacular creativity and new media”: « (this concept means) everyday practices of material and symbolic creativity, such as storytelling and photography, that both predate digital nature and are remediated by it in particular ways ».
Vernacular creativity is not a totally new phenomenon. In the Middle Age, for example, the term ‘vernacular’ meant, “the language of folk, magical or superstitious knowledge, rather than the language of literacy” (the English versus Latin), while today the term is used “primarily to distinguish “everyday’ from institutional or official modes of expression within the same language.” In other words, in our days, these creative activities are a form of cultural democratisation reinforced by the increasing use of digital technologies.
Technology enables individuals to create
What kind of societal changes have influenced the increasing creative activities of ‘ordinary people’? Burgess talks about 3 important structural transformations of cultural participation:
–The shift from content ‘production’, ‘distribution’ and ‘consumption’ to a convergence of all three, resulting in a hybrid mode of engagement
– The shift from user-generated content to user-led content creation, editing, repurposing and distribution.
– The convergence of user-generated content and social software to produce hybrid spaces (social media)
It’s difficult to define the context of folk art or vernacular creativity, argues Burgess. With the technological change and the appearance of social software, people are able to invent new aesthetic forms which leads to think about these activities as something more than amateurism: “this is because ‘amateur’ is always appended as an adjective to some pre-existing field of cultural practice – music, photography – (and) ‘professional’ is the default but exnominated status of the activity, hence the need for the qualifier ‘amateur’ », stresses Burgess. Thus today we have a new form of creativity revealing from everyday practices, extending amateurism and expertise; a new phenomenon, which is difficult to define, but worth to explore by innovation professionals.