It seems to be the way of all things technological; that the fire is repeatedly stolen from Heaven and placed into the hands of the proletariat to use as they see fit. The once difficult and expensive is inevitably set on a slope of devaluation, destined to become easy and cheap.
Examples of this transition abound: 20 years ago, who would have said that amateur, unsigned musicians would have the tools (sometimes for free) to produce their own, high quality tracks and distribute them worldwide at essentially zero cost? And crucially, all under their sole creative control and without a record label involved!
The same has happened with book publishing (especially in digital format), small scale audio broadcasting (podcasts), 3D computer graphics and video production. Both the demand and the creation of content is increasing in amateur and professional arenas and there’s a blurring of the lines between two. Take note of a statement on Teachable:
“From Snapchat to Periscope to Instagram video, GIFs and YouTube, it’s clear that content is trending toward videos and visual content. Reasons for this are rooted in the psychology of the brain and consumer behavior. According to The Next Web, studies show our brains not only process visuals faster, but they retain and transmit much more information when it’s delivered visually - all the things content marketers try to do”.
So why isn’t everybody a business mogul with their own video empire? Why do we still have record labels and the BBC? Well, the answers are somewhat convoluted and not wholly concerned with purely creative issues, but let’s look at some of the factors at hand.
Ubiquity cheapens everything. This is simply down to market forces. The more you have of something, the less relative worth any single instance of it possess. Quality video/audio production used to be the exclusive domain of expensive, professional organisations and studios. Now, most of us who own a mobile phone have the capacity to produce either or both on some level, and to distribute the results internationally. This was unthinkable a mere two decades ago for most of us.
What was once amazing is now unremarkable, even commonplace to the point where it passes by unnoticed. If everyone is a star, then effectively there are no stars. Having easy access to powerful tools does not automatically make anyone creative or motivated, it just makes the work process easier.
Technology may provide an easy way to create content and distribute it, but not everyone who comes into contact with it will be capable. And now that anyone can potentially do something remarkable with the video camera on their phone, the bar of perceived excellence is raised proportionally, as is the number of creative voices calling to be heard. As a result, the struggle to succeed can be more about promotion than inherent ability. Arguably it has always been about this to a large degree, but never more so than today.
Paradoxically we grasp at the opportunities that technology grants us, in order to acquire the magic and ultimately render it normal to us, yet we still treasure that which is special, in relative terms. Once the magical becomes ubiquitous, we look further for the magical once more, like a child that is never satisfied. Perhaps that drives some notion of progress?
So, as long as there are those whom we perceive as being a tier above us, then there will always be an industry of professionals and the rest of us - even though the quality gap between the two is ever narrowing and the whole mechanism that perpetuates this notion is a psychological construct anyway. In terms of relative status (sometimes the only difference), for those on a theoretically higher tier, it’s a relationship that must be maintained in order to preserve vested interests!
Once in while, there comes a movement that strips the emperor of his gleaming, but ultimately insubstantial new clothes to reveal that anyone (or at least many) can do it with some level of validity outside of right, wrong, professional or unprofessional. It’s that Punk ideal again. Bring it on.