Consumption or Creation?

Posted on Saturday 20th November 2010 at 00:00
I'm writing this to you tonight from one end of the sofa; the other end being occupied by the delightful L, who is reading the Times Educational Supplement and listening to the Snowman soundtrack on her laptop. In other words, she is consuming content created by others, which is something I've been thinking a lot about recently.

I read an article the other day (which I've forgotten the title of and so can't find it for you) on the future of the PC and whether it would soon disappear altogether - over taken by the rise of smart phones and other connected devices. Whilst the author seemed to think this a quite likely outcome, they did make one very interesting point, right at the end: as good as iPhones, Kindles, iPads, netbooks and so on are at consuming content (or rather, allowing us to consume it), they remain pretty dreadful when it comes to actually creating content in the first place.

It occurred to me a few months ago that I'm rather rubbish when it comes to Web 2.0. Although I understand Web 2.0, like it, support it and encourage its use by others, I actually fail to engage in the one thing that makes it different from what came before: user generated content.

Yes, yes, I know I'm writing this on a blog post, which is by definition user generated and therefore rather disproves my own arguments, but this really is my limit. If you see a picture anywhere in this post (I've not looked for one yet) you can be sure that it isn't my own work. In fact, I probably got it from Google images.

And that is my point really. Aside from the odd rambling blog post, I do absolutely nothing with this new found Internet that I didn't do with the old mediums of television and newspapers. I read lots of stuff, sure I do. Sometimes it feels like I'm forever reading articles on one website or another. But I don't create them. I don't even create comments to write on them most of the time.

I rarely "like" things on Facebook, I don't update my Flickr with a series of beautifully refined photos and create albums to publicize to anyone with common interests. I don't create music, write reviews, draw cartoons, share jokes, or shoot videos for YouTube.

I'm on Web 2.0 but I'm still a consumer, not a creator.

I originally planned to write this post simply to say that, and to bemoan the fact that once again I fail to live up to my own exacting standards of the perfect human being, but then I read that article I mentioned, and it got me thinking.

Like most people these days, I have a pocket sized gadget on which I can access the internet. No, it's not an iPhone - I can't afford one - it's an iPod Touch. And, like most people, I find increasingly that virtually all my internet based activity has gradually shifted from the computer to the aforementioned pocket sized gadget (still not an iPhone). Yes, I do spend my week days in front of a computer, but that is work not play (I'm a freelance web developer, don't ya know) and so can be disregarded.

So, the question I'm asking you all tonight, is do you think your choice of internet browsing device (i.e. not a computer) puts you off engaging in Web 2.0 as much as you might on the computer?

Or is it the other way round? You have to admit that sites such as TwitPic wouldn't have a purpose if it wasn't for the use of camera phones to upload the images. Do you actually prefer commenting on Facebook messages or blog posts on something you can hold in the palm of your hand?

Keyboards on handheld devices are much more usable than they used to be, and site browsing isn't that bad. Ok, creating videos or editing images might be a bit much, but perhaps I'm not working my iPod as hard as I could? Hell, I read emails on my iPod but then refuse to reply to them until I'm on the computer. Why?

What's the verdict, oh wonderful blog reader? Is the proliferation of mobile devices for Internet access killing Web creativity (and if so, how do we stop it), or am I just a lazy arse who should put more effort into contributing to this, humanity's greatest collaborative creation?

(Oh, and I did actually create the image at the top of this post. And no, it wasn't because I couldn't find anything on the net, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could.)

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