Clay Shirky argues that media has shifted from a site of information to a site of action. His argument is largely concerned with group formation and our capacity to self-organize independent of (or even at odds with) institutions. And now (in 2009) as the internet is seemingly beginning to mature, its power as a tool for collective action is taking shape. It’s this space of action, both individual and social, of day-to-day habits, that is opening itself up for creative investigation, or more precisely creative reflection via newer modes of media production. I’m starting to think the word production is not entirely appropriate, in that much of the media or data we are ‘producing’ is a kind of residue to the normative functioning of daily living. But our concern is action, social and individual activity as a site of critical and creative investigation. Media functions as a kind of cultural mirror, a space to internalize the overlapping and shifting markers of identity and the ideals common to those identities. For instance the only people I’ve seen attentively watch a 4 hour ethnographic documentary about the daily routine of a Thai Buddhist monastery was with the residence of a Zen Buddhist monastery in San Francisco. But as we know the mediascape is much wider now, media has become increasing porous and ubiquitous to our regular activity, far beyond entertainment or art. Again activity, is what we’re looking for, what am I doing right now? What are we doing? David Robbins in his online book High Entertainment, draws out a dialectic between ‘High Art’ and ‘Popular Entertainment’. He argues that the tools are in place for a new middle expression between these seemingly binary cultural spaces. Either way, wherever you land on this spectrum of art or entertainment, you’re operating within a space of being an expert or professional. There is another spectrum, the range between professional and amateur. It’s within this spectrum that the cult of perfection smashes creativity, often before it even begins. The amateur is a position of great cultural value, inquiry for the simple joy of inquiry. Participation for the joys of participation. For a long time the cultural industries and communities surrounding them have undermined or at least ignored the power of this muted range of engagement. I’m not about to argue that artists and creative minds relinquish their ambitions in order to become more pure, instead I’m trying to tie this back into clay shirky’s argument about media as a site of action.
To instigate habits of activity that open doors to further creation. For bodies to co-opt the collaborative possibilities of each other, and through collaborative relations enact forms of expression. The autonomy of our ‘projects’ is only as stable as we choose to shape it. How do we leverage the flexibility of media, in such a way that it not only represents but facilitates a transparent creative process that is lived as an end in of itself? This might sound really Utopian, but I think it’s actually very pragmatic, and will expose itself via the hard lines of necessity.