Thursday, March 5, 2009

Google, The Creative Class & Keeping It Real

I just finished reading "What Would Google Do" by Jeff Jarvis and as I said in a previous post, I think it maybe a must-read of our times. Outlining how Google has not only changed but created many of the rules of current media, information, and business, a given of the brave new world it portrays is how much content is replicable, remixable and readily available. The fact that media no longer belongs to 'the creative class' alone is noteworthy. While this trend is healthy (I do believe expression should be free and generally makes for happier people to boot) it can be a bit sobering for those painters, musician's, writers and other fine artists whose lifeblood is tactile, audible and live, both in the creative and performative act.
Jarvis's book wasn't about the 'creative class,' and he only mentions it in passing; however, his reference reminded me how some of the basics of the value of art & art-making may get lost as we spend more and more time online. While much of his book is devoted to how social media enables once isolated communities to find one another (provided they've got online access and the ability to get some content online), and then organize, it leaves out how much organization precedes content creation, and what that process requires. You can capture and document a moment but you can't replicate one, and creation is a series of irreplicable moments.
In my experience, much of the challenge in creating something of value is keeping the faith through the amount of time it takes to hone a craft, which is rarely an immediate process. The payoff, the gold so to speak, of that demanding process, is the real-live transactional relationship. I'm not talking so much about money (though equally necessary to survival) rather than the transcendent moment creation sparks, whether that's a meeting of minds or uplift of spirit. That is, while I'm a fan of YouTube, I've yet to get shivers up my spine or have my soul touched by watching a video, like I have had at a live performance, in a studio or at a museum. The visceral experience of sound vibration or light-bulb comprehension of compositional technique that comes with viewing the individual brushstrokes of a painting have no equal. YouTube is educational & definitely valuable, but a living song, actual painting, or simply pen put to paper is relational, and I'd say necessary to health.
So, life in the Mission District is getting me back to several grassroots community centers that are working from the ground up and keeping its creative pulse beating. Volunteering at Pirate Cat Cafe & Radio, a community & volunteer run radio station and espresso bar a few blocks from home, turned me on to several events & performances. Within the space of a couple of hours, I got a preview of a show by songwriter Holcombe Waller that is running at Dance Mission Theater, chatted with author John Law (& co-founder of Burning Man) who has a new book of short stories out, and heard how RonKat Spearman defines funk (beer & cereal figure into this as much as groove). I'd already planned to attend the Goddess of Harmony show at the Great American Music Hall, featuring Valerie Orth (with whom I'm sharing several shows in Austin during SXSW) tonight. Amid all this, last week, I ran into someone on the bus, musician Mark Growden, who was one of the first artists I met upon my return to the Bay Area more than a decade ago, and one made to see live. On Wednesday, he played at Climate Theater, yet another small, community supported venue devoted to excellence in theater and music. Sitting in the intimate theater—where he held an audience rapt while singing his faith & desire drenched lyrics and alternately played accordion and baritone sax — it was clear Growden would not likely have been able to polish his mix of soul, blues, folk and cabaret to such a burnished sheen anywhere else but on the stage. Genius takes time, and don't get me wrong, Google understands and certainly has plenty of genius, but we'd be poorer people without the many necessary on-the-ground creative processes—be they face-to-face conversations, jams, performances— that keep us human. The very acts that lead to the desire to share the experience — in person OR online. Perhaps after reading this, you'll Google 'live local music' in your town or city?


Karen said...

Nice post, Deborah. Right on!

Sally said...

I agree with Karen. This is one of your best.