Creating or Consuming?

I read this article over the weekend. An interesting observation overall, but what grabbed my attention primarily was its closing assertion that our culture, with the phenomenon of Web 2.0, is becoming one of creators instead of simply consumers.

I can’t help but think of my arrival home from work this evening. I wanted to write something. Truly, I did. So much easier, however, was taking in content from my RSS feeds and streaming some CNN. By the time I needed to leave to keep a coffee and study appointment, I had generated nothing more than a tweet or two, and in fact had little motivation to log into this blog now.

So, I’m left to ponder: are we in fact a culture of creators? If so, does our creating rival or surpass our consuming? And, perhaps more importantly, what exactly constitutes creating?

My day is saturated with consumption. The amount of real-time data I track, as well as the “entertainment” media I watch and read, takes up a significant amount of my time and mental energy. Of course, there is a significant amount of data I’m required to take in and process in the course of my work day, as well. Comparatively, I spend a much smaller percentage of my time producing content than I do taking it in, because, in an information-based culture, taking in information is the equivalent to surviving.

From the Web 2.0 standpoint, we are in fact a culture of creators, where we all have the ability and typically the inclination to place content of various mediums out there for at least those close to us to see. Everyone is a potential journalist, author, musician or videographer who will reach an audience of some size through the web. This is now a given. So, I suppose the more accurate description, as opposed to attempting to differentiate between consumers or creators, would be to say that we are a culture of creators as well as consumers.

This is critical for the creative spirits lurking within us, because one has to know what good material looks like in order to produce it. Good writers are active readers. Good actors are those who have seen many plays. Good artists are those who are conversant with what’s being shown out there…the list could go on.

The quality of what we’re producing, however…that could be questionable. Do we want every author to have their novels published, every passer-by to have journalistic endeavors, every sax player to have a world-wide audience? Does this reduce the quality of our art, or does it simply give all of it equal footing so that, fulfilling our role as consumers, we have the opportunity to decide amongst all of the material what is quality and what is not? Do we even have the right to do so? Is one’s trash another’s treasure?

Today, I read The New York Times‘ story that CNN has fallen behind in ratings of news outlets. The story attributes this to the fact that the public wants opinion about the news more than they want the news. I’m disturbed by this at a different level. Opinion has its place, and the value of weighing others’ opinions is indispensable. However, one must know the facts before one can weigh opinions on any given matter. Is our ability to publish our own opinions so readily part of what leads up to this?

At the end of the day, is this a cultural trend that will harm our standards more than help them?

I don’t know. But I’m curious to know your opinions.

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