Tuesday, August 23, 2011

revenge of the nerds

Reading this article in The Guardian sent me into a rage today. In my mind, there is nothing so bleak as a world without culture, where nothing has value beyond its ability to draw advertising to the consumer. If all art becomes free, which it will if the internet giants have their way, we're doomed to become soulless creatures who care only about stuffing our e-readers and i-pods full of free or pirated crap we'll never listen to or read, just so we can show off our gigabytes in the office and schoolyard. Whoever has the most ebooks, mp3s and avis when they die, wins!

In this world, our children are set to become brainless automatons raised on a diet of YouTube laughing babies, manufactured music and self-uploaded unedited manuscripts written by people who've never read anything beyond status updates and two-bleep tweets. Creativity will be a thing of the past, its value depleted to a big-fat zero. Who needs creatives when anyone with access to the internet can write a blog, take a photo, make a movie? Who cares if that content has nothing to say?

But writers will always need to write, filmmakers will still want to tell their stories, I hear you say. Really? You think? Who will pay for their education? The cheese sandwiches that sustain them through the long hours stuck alone in a room creating? Their mortgages, children's schooling, their shoes?Certainly not the digital-age consumer, in whose mind all cerebral work must become available instantly, free, gratis and for nothing, as my mother used to say.

This is truly revenge of the nerds. Remember that series of films from the 80s where the computer geeks came out from behind their monitors and stole all the girls. Who knew thirty years on we'd look back  and see a slap-stick college comedy as a metaphor for our times? The digital giants of the dotcom era have coerced us to engage with the world from behind a computer screen. Now Amazon, Apple and Google are coercing us into committing cultural suicide. And, like sheep herded into the slaughterhouse pens by wolves in wooly coats, we go freely, two by two billion. Do you really want to have your head filled with  content designed only to make you buy, buy, buy? Do you really want your only value to be what you point and click on with your mouse?

The years of exchanging morality for pretty things and lots of them has come to its very obvious conclusion. Robbed of the rights to their original work, professional writers, musicians and filmmakers will have to find other ways to earn a living, and it won't be making art for the masses to chew up and spit out for nothing. The arts, like the environment, is terminally ill. Consumerism is an uncaring god that has us with our backs to the wall and a gun to our heads ready to blow the remnants of our brains out and fill our vacuous skulls with the mindless chatter of a billion advertising jingles.

I leave you with this quote from Vivienne Westwood: “You know me as a fashion designer, but I am a reader and an art lover. The age we live in is dangerously without culture and this connects with the ecological disaster we have in front of us… if you become an art lover and a reader, you stop engaging in the consumer world, you’re no longer a victim of propaganda. And the biggest danger from propaganda is non-stop distraction – anything that prevents people from really thinking. So I believe that culture is the antidote to propaganda and advertising. If we’re all thinking the same thing, we’re not thinking!"


Birdie num num said...


tiah said...

Well said.

lauren ursula kellner said...

Hi Rachel. Read this article thanks to Lisa Lazarus's link. Like Vivienne Westwood's comment. My only comment is 'Everything in moderation!'Computers are OUR tool, we use them...we shouldn't let them use us!

Thanks. Lauren Kellner

Rachel Zadok said...

Hey Lauren,

My post isn't about computers, it's about the depletion of the value of creative content to zero. Yes, computers are a tool, but unless we legislate what big companies like Apple and Amazon can supply for free, we risk exchanging what we currently regard as culture for nothing more than fillers. It's what the article in The Guardian that inspired this rant is about.

Thanks, R