I recently watched the retrospective video of Paul Miller’s (The Verge) 12-month experiment where he unplugged completely from the internet to see if he could “find himself again” as a human being. Beyond its fascinating insight into the life of an individual whose whole world revolves around online activity, Miller’s journey immediately got me thinking about the impacts of the omnipresent internet on traditional filmmaking.
Much has been written and said (with just cause) about the incredible power of the web for artists from all walks of life, be they studio moguls or basement content creators. It has breathed new life into the independent scene and, coupled with emerging low-cost digital technology, given a voice to legions of creators everywhere to express and share their works across distances never before imagined in their wildest dreams.
What is naturally less discussed is the detrimental effect that this mass information tool has had on the quality of the material being created in the first place. Instant access to data at all times has also created a feeding frenzy for content that is reaching 1980’s nuclear arms race proportions.
The net has given people from all walks of life the instant ability to harness the knowledge of the greatest thinkers, plunder archives and boundless resource databases, and educate themselves on virtually any topic imaginable. It has also given rise to unprecedented plagiarism and imitation and broken the sanctity of privacy and intimacy in a way that we will never be able to come back from.
For someone of my generation (born at the end of the 70’s), the net has had a mostly double-edged effect on our social and creative lives. On one hand it has opened horizons that existed only in our imaginations (and science fiction) and empowered us with tools for almost any endeavor, but it has also deafened many of us with a tidal wave of information that we were not prepared for.
We are old enough to remember a life without internet, smartphones, laptops, and 24-hour media, and while a great number of us have fully embraced the digital revolution, some part of us is reeling from the noise, short-circuiting. We are in many ways the first generation of cyborg experiments that periodically suffer critical failures and physically reject new technology.
The greater question I have is how all this is affecting my ability to be creative. What is all this technology doing to my brain? Am I writing better, more relevant material? Have I fallen victim to the pressures of an all-knowing-ever-present technological regime where every thought and sensation I experience is measured and edited for maximum appeal for the masses? What is becoming of the private me, the part of me that sees and hears and tastes in such-and-such a way as to give me the ability to speak with a fresh and original voice?
Maybe I should also unplug to find out.