Creative Destruction Part 06: Embracing Serendipity in the Digital Age
While watching a documentary about Sholomon Naumovich Rabinovich (better known as Sholem Aleichem), several thoughts struck me about the process of exploring new sources of inspiration. Sholem wrote the story for Fiddler on the Roof in real time. The life he created for the character Tevye evolved over a 20-year period parallel to Sholem's own life and relationship with his daughters. Is this life imitating art or art imitating life? It certainly presents a counterpoint to the instant gratification of today’s media.
Another takeaway from the documentary was the idea of “wild energy.” When Sholem Aleichem went to live in Moscow, he started to write in Yiddish. At that time, there was no significant body of literature in the language, as it was considered too common. At the turn of the century in Russia, literature was written in Russian or Hebrew, the latter of which was considered the divine language of God. Yiddish was the mother tongue, the language of the shtetl (a small town with a majority Jewish population), commerce and gossip.
In Aleichem's words, writing in Yiddish in was mashugana (crazy), but felt freeing—like a form of wild energy in a fertile open field. Because Yiddish was also the language of a worldwide community, the use of it in literature spread rapidly. It constituted a portable homeland that spanned decades, if not centuries. In that sense, it shared commonalities with digital networks.
So what are the wild energies of today? Are they technology trends like social media, platforms like Pinterest or cultural trends like the emergence of true digital natives? The wild energies of today are also not easily discernable; they tend to be more liquid and ambient in nature.
As the boundaries between digital and physical blur—as digital platforms merge nearly seamlessly—new sources of wild energy in the digital world are manifesting at a dizzying pace. Wild energy has also been unleashed by dramatic changes in the nature of digital platforms: Conventional digital screens are starting to fade in significance, and built environments and objects are being transformed into digital canvases themselves.
The concept of wild energy has particular relevance in a digital world that has become increasingly fluid, ambient, expansive and interconnected. Digital impulses are often instantly and widely transmitted without encumbrances or intermediaries, and creative elements hurtle at light speed from disparate, unforeseen sources, evidenced by the sharp ascent of creative talent hatched on YouTube and the rapid dissemination of concepts and ideas via social media.
We crave wild energies in the creative world; they are like high-octane fuel, generating winds of creative inspiration or even a constant Gulfstream force. Our favorite forms of wild energy in the digital arena include big data in the smarter legible city, machine learning, ultra high-resolution ambient sensors, generative architecture, light emitting diode structures and 3D printing. Some of these forms have already started to generate a groundswell of interest, such as machine vision and 3D printing, and have given indications of their potential use as key creative platforms.
One thing is clear, there’s plenty of propulsion for the wild energies of today, and potentially great vistas for those prepared to evolve and experiment with these forms. Now, tracking, distilling and harnessing this wild energy—or wild creativity—has become even more pressing and challenging.
Creative Destruction Series: Introduction
Creative Destruction Series Part 01: Palpitations on the Slopes of Technology
Creative Destruction Series Part 02: Designing for Plurals, the Evolving Audience
Creative Destruction Series Part 03: Relocating Humanity
Creative Destruction Series Part 04: A Curious Stepchild of Inbound Marketing
Creative Destruction Series Part 05: Automated Design