Technology, Creative Culture, and the Gap in Between

I spend my working nights around people who have ideas.

They’re always running their mouths about politics, art, music, religion, and regularly reaching an audience of one. Or two or three. Maximum.

“Why don’t you blog this or post this kind of information somewhere?” is what I respond with, pleading. But I know it will not happen, not unless I install computer terminals in the bar, at my cost, and eventually take these brilliant people over to the device, create accounts for them, and maybe even toss their hands at the keyboard. Like trying to start a motor-boat, it might take a couple of tries.

I, for the life of me, can not understand why, in Windsor, there is such a huge disconnect between the creative class and technology. Is it this way in other places?

I’ll give you another example of where I have been faced with hurdles of disbelief when trying to communicate in tech terms.

Bands rumble through Phog Lounge, where I work and book bands. There’s a disproportionate amount of Mac computers accompanying them on their journeys. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a PC brought in by anyone except my business partner Frank. And if he heard I was Twittering, he’d make a pee-joke.

I came to learn that a major reason they have Macs is because they have some fairly fantastic musical applications, allowing bands to do all sorts of things they could not do otherwise. It wasn’t as if they were doing any open source programming, or anything (which I have never and will never do myself). I just assumed that because they had a superior product, they’d be a little more forward thinking technologically, and maybe even be keeping tabs on the web applications being designed monthly to make their lives easier.

When I started reading about Twitter, Pownce (now dead), Digg, Skype, Google Reader, YouTube, Blip.tv, Seesmic, WordPress,  (the list is unending) I clearly saw how those tools could help my business, and possibly even my freelance writing/radio career (whenever that comes). Where did I hear about these tools? My friends and family primarily told me, as they saw the same usage I did. Dan Misener (good friend) has told me about tons of new programs, and my brothers Rodd and Todd have dumped LOADS of web apps on me in the past year alone.

Without discussing the usefulness of these apps, or how quickly they become obsolete, moved out by better apps, there is really no excuse for musicians and promoters, artists, and designers to be so clueless. Aside from Facebook, Myspace, and Flickr, there’s an incredible self-handicapping happening locally on the web and about the knowledge of the web.

“Twitter? What the hell is that?” I have heard countless times, or at least they make crooked, pained faces of confusion.

“Well, let’s put it this way…you sign up under the name of the band, and you then get people you know (that love your band) to join and FOLLOW YOU, much in the same way they do on Facebook and Myspace…and when you send a micro-blog (140 characters or less) everyone who cares…can see it. Soooooo, if you have a show starting, you can let people know that you’re going onstage in 25 minutes. Forgetful fans can make a snap decision and run out to your show. Or you could use it to inform people that you just finished writing a new song, or that you’ve just posted live footage from that concert you played last month in Montreal. It’s another way to connect. You know your Facebook status? Yeah? Well, you can set up your Twitter account to update your Facebook status WITH your Twitter posts so ALL of those people are getting the crucial updates you feel worthy of sharing.”

This is usually followed by a body-posture that tells me this is WAY too much work to engage fans. And within a week of this chat, they will be back in front of me, bitching that the turnout for their show was less-than-desired. I just say, “Twitter? No? Oh.”

I’m no tech-freak either. I just use the stuff that’s useful. And with my arcane knowledge, I remember telling musicians about Flickr a couple of years ago, WAY after it was a regularly used web app, and these wonderfully gifted photographers were looking at me like I had two noses. How does the arts community live in a vacuum related to tech? Shouldn’t they be pioneers? Early adopters? Shouldn’t they be gentrifying these programs like they do with low-rent, start-up communities? Aren’t the creative class a grassroots movement, known for doing things BEFORE everyone else? Aren’t the creative classes of other cities kicking our technologically-atrophied asses!

I would think that connectivity would be the rule, THE RULE, for someone trying to share their talents, gifts, and ideas for change. I mean…Obama’s people were on Twitter before my underground-ers. And it isn’t like it’s a secret that Obama’s web presence was a huge factor in reaching undecided (independent) voters. But then again, if my customers aren’t hearing about Twitter, I have a feeling they aren’t hearing about (or tuning out) when the news shares info of Obama’s tech prowess.

Anyone have ideas of how I could be helping these bands increase their profile, even if it’s just to connect to its current fans, without trying to become “the next thing”?

I see so much opportunity for the unique, clever, useful, and brilliant ideas, art, and concepts to get into the masses, but I am having the toughest time bending anyone’s ear toward tech.

Should I have a technology night at Phog? Should I get a presenter for each of these ultra-useful web apps to come in and walk people through registration, use, and upkeep on the projection screen? Would people come to get informed? Maybe they would. Then they could weed out all of the superfluous apps they have no current need for, and go home and get going on the ones they could actually use!

Yes.

This is going to happen.

Stay tuned for dates.

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14 responses to “Technology, Creative Culture, and the Gap in Between

  1. Good post Tom. I think that phenomenon you speak of may be more prevelant here in Windsor, but I think is common amongst many musicians all over the place.

    However I think that it is directly related to musician’s business acumen. Having hosted a podcast that featured local bands, I can tell you it was like pulling teeth to try to get these bands to give me their music to play on my show. I eventually gave up and plan to take up the show again with a slightly different slant.

    At least I can say that I am resposible for Mr. Chill being where he is on the tech-saavy scale and that I went with him to purchase his first Mac. Okay, enough typing on my iPhone for now.

  2. hey, i was in there with my pc laptop the other night !! i always wonder why people dump thousands on their mac laptops when you can get a pc laptop from dell that has more options on it, better build quality and more memory for so much less. i paid $499 for mine yet it has more i/o connections on it than what a friend paid almost $4,000 for their new macbook. i don’t believe in the hype yet i’ve owned a ibook and powerbook in the past.

    http://store.apple.com/ca/configure/MB470LL/A?mco=MTkzOTI0Mg
    that new macbook 15″ sells for $2,149

    http://configure.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?c=ca&CS=cabsdt1&l=en&OC=NB_V1510_F2_E
    that dell sells for $699. with similar specs and more ports. i really don’t understand this. apple must be getting rich.

  3. Makes me wonder if one apple laptop is worth the price of 3 dell laptops? or are people paying for the ‘status’ of flashing around an expensive comptuer?

  4. Tom – agreed. For me, the tricky thing with so many of these tools (especially Twitter) is that they don’t make much sense until you start using them.

    To be honest, every time I try and explain Twitter to someone, the words that come out of my mouth sound, well… a bit dumb.

    Like, seriously, when you say what Twitter out loud, it just seems sort of stupid… until you start using it.

    This all makes me think that the role of technology “translator” (think Lee Lefever of CommonCraft) is going to become increasingly valuable.

    Nice post.

  5. I have this cool documentary on DVD too if you ever want to show it on a tech night. Or if you want to borrow it too. I’m loaning it to a couple from the blogger meeting next though.

    http://www.bbsdocumentary.com/

  6. This is another good documentary to show…

    http://www.freedomdowntime.com/

  7. Maybe first show them how to be a fan online. They could follow other bands/artists that interest them and see how the pros do it. After that the switch in their head may come on, “I could do this too!”

  8. I’d be more than happy to demo any technology. How about organizing a how-to local journalism night? We could coral a bunch of people to show how easy it is to use wordpress, use those flip cameras, use flickr, use googlemaps, etc.

  9. Sounds good Justin. I’ve been using WordPress for about 4 years. I haven’t used any other since they never seemed to get very good reviews. I posted a few stories on the flip tonight on facebook. Not sure if you’re on there yet.

    This is one review I liked though where he shot the same scene with the flip and with a pro Canon HD camcorder. Then lets you decide on which looks better.

    http://kirkmastin.blogspot.com/2008/02/flip-video-vlog-tale-of-two-formats_21.html

  10. great observation Tom. i, however, believe the real reason for the lack of use/interest in technology is the fear of failure. when an artist complains that they are struggling to be seen or heard it propels the stereotypical image of a starving artist. that in some ways is more romantic and ideal than typing away on a laptop downloading, transferring, sharing and networking. artists that think AND DO the things that are proven to be successful in the business world are the ones that have the most success. The common misconception is that with that success comes a degradation of their art. The excuse of popularity is what allows the tech fearing creative class to bow out with honour. coming up with a good song, painting, article etc can be easy to many people, sharing that art and expanding their ability to do it as a full time endeavor is where the real challenge lays. Fear of that challenge, in my opinion, is what really is going on with respect to the tech ignorance. Once you schedule the tutorial nights at phog and encourage all to come you’ll see exactly who is willing to actually try and move forward and who will just sit out.

  11. If you do a night like this, I will try my hardest to be there!

  12. There is a group of local webloggers who meet once a month; regular attendees include Andrew from International Metropolis, Chris from Scale Down and Candace from femilicious.com. Actually I think their last meeting might have been at Phog?

    I could never stress enough to my students how important it is for them as emerging artists to have a strong and varied web presence. I’ve gotten paid jobs and publications simply through networking in flickr and having a weblog. Perhaps rino’s right that there is a fear of failure keeping people from taking full advantage of these venues, but clicking around looking at photos and blogs and building an online network for yourself by leaving comments and talking to people sure beats the old method of walking into a gallery with a roll of paintings under your arm. Online rejection is relatively painless.

    • The bloggers have met at our place twice in a row!! It’s been nice to see these faces. The group, however, is not a group of action. This has become a very social-only function. There’s not too much in the way of ideas and action being exchanged…as I’ve been told by some of the people able to sit at the table for the entire night. Members of this group, though, are amazing resources that I can ask for help from…

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