Creating vs consuming

Alright, how best to start this… A glass of wine. Hmm, yeah . Let me get that quickly. Just give me a second…

It’s quite late, I’m at my desk, in my bedroom, and I’m not doing work. But not because I don’t want to; I can’t. I have had this thing at the back of my mind for the whole day, and I need to get it out into words.

Firstly: I was one of the last generation (if not the last generation) born during a time – albeit towards its end – when your computer wasn’t always connected to the internet. Tell that to young kids today, and they’ll probably have a fit trying to work out what the use of it might have then been. It’s scary, but internet and computers have, to a certain degree,  become inseparable.

I listened to a podcast episode from a series called OnBeing this morning, and something really profound struck me. The actual conversation was about the concept that computer science is one of the only professions in which someone can become fully qualified without ever touching on ethics. Law, medicine, journalism… they all focus a hefty portion of their curricula on ethical decision-making, but computer technicians simply don’t need to deal with that.

Anyway, that’s not the point I wanted to touch on. As their conversation went on, Anil Dash (Krista Tippett’s guest) mentioned how his first experience of a computer was offline. As a result, he grew up with this concept of computers as a means of creating things, not just a way to consume. In just that moment alone, a lot of things fell into place for me.

I was still a child when dial-up internet was a thing. You had a computer, sure, but if you wanted internet you had to make a conscious decision to press a button, and wait while it puts your computer online. Otherwise, I would use paint, or play chess, or click through pictures… there was more to a computer than simply a device through which to consume the infinite space that has become the internet. Nowadays, people often switch a computer off if the internet goes down because “they can’t get anything done.” Sound familiar?

This year I took up my journalism specialisation, “design.” The first few weeks of university have been incredible, and I’ve completely fallen for my design course. After listening to this podcast, I realised that it’s because my computer has become a tool with which to create again, and I am producing value rather than just consuming superficial entertainment. Yes, I still rely on e-mail, Google and the likes, but if my internet goes down, I can design, or I can write (or I read a book, you know – obviously – but just for the purpose of this thought-process, bear with me…).

I have tried to imagine what kids growing-up today would think if you gave them a laptop without an Ethernet port or WiFi. Would they be confused, or even disappointed, that you have bought them something they can’t really use? Maybe. And, to me, that’s a really scary thought.

Where has our desire to create gone? Where has our initiative and drive to put something valuable out into the world, that transcends a status, or sharing a meme, or even (dare I say) uploading a vlog?

I’m probably getting far too philosophical, but it’s nice to think I can disconnect myself from this cycle of consumption. I run on being productive, and my mood is generally influenced by how much I have created in a day. If I sit at my PC and watch videos endlessly, I just feel shit. Slouchy. Grumpy. Moody… having this knowledge and being taught skills that I can use to create new things on my computer has been so exhilarating.

Anyway, that’s my mind on a page. I don’t think I put everything as well as I could have, but I’m really tired, and I’m really busy with university course-work, so I think I’ll sign-off and leave it at that for now. Feel free to comment your thoughts, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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