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Day 6: Creativity vs. Consumption Part I

While with a few friends last night, we started to get on the topic of how certain objects and devices in our lives affect creativity and consumption. Put simply, a sketchbook is a one hundred percent creative outlet. You are effectively the creator of whatever content goes in to it. A novel is somewhere in the middle, since one is consuming information at a pretty normal pace, while also creating independent ideas that add on to the book. A television would probably fall on the other end of the spectrum, not requiring much creativity by the user, and more aimed towards consumption. And if we think about it, almost every object we come into contact with throughout the day somehow fits on this spectrum between creativity-centric and consumption-centric. So where do smartphones fit into this?

One large concern of mine is that for an object that is used as much as our phones (a study by Deloitte said an average smartphone user looks at his or her phone 46x per day; I tend to think it is much more) it is a hyper consumption-oriented device. Considering the vast access to news through Twitter, Facebook, and online sources, social media sites that offer unlimited amounts of ways to connect to others, and YouTube, the phone is designed for consumption of a wide breadth of different types of content. And it is a much more potent and powerful device than what a TV could ever provide. This is not to say that no creativity can come from smartphones, it would be foolish to think otherwise. But when I think about other objects that can offer forms of creativity, the smartphone seems to be dangerously angled towards consumption.

So what is so bad about this? I remember hearing a podcast not long ago that was discussing the topic of creativity, and that to cultivate a creative mindset, it is crucial that one watches how much you consume. If a song writer does not listen to any music whatsoever, there will be a serious problem in understanding how one's music fits into different genres, and an overall lack of understanding of music theory. This would be an example of someone's creative process lacking a certain degree of consumption. On the other hand, if someone interested in music is only perusing the Internet all day, where are they ever going to find time to have their own creative process? I worry that smartphones offer many options that fit into the latter category, centered almost entirely on consumption, with little time to create.

Come back for part II where I will talk about pace of consumption, and how we can all start orienting ourselves towards more creativity.

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