Guest blog post by Joan Mulvihill created as a discussion paper for the annual CongRegation social media un-conference in Cong, see more here.

“With fast fashion killing great design, and with technology powering and enabling fast-fashion I wonder if technology is in fact killing creativity. In an always-on world, where can we find time and place to absorb, reflect and daydream? In a data-driven world, has human intuition lost its place and value? With shortened attention spans, a disposing rather than investing generation of millennials and a low prices, who will invest in great design anymore? And with no one investing in anything for keeps, who will bother building anything to last? “.

4 Key Take Aways:

1. Creativity is a process, one that is facilitated and nurtured by time and space. In an always-on world, if we value our creativity we must prioritise giving ourselves the space to be creative.

2. The genius of technology is in part its ability to decipher complex and voluminous data for decision making. The genius of the creative human spirit is the ability to intuitively ‘feel’ for what is right. We should not lose sight of or value for this genius. Lies, damned lies and statistics!

3. In a faddish micro-trending world we need to think about our physical legacy for future generations. We are wearing disposable clothing and using transient trending apps. Will the museum of our generation’s great designers, artists and creatives be an incinerator?

4. Where everything is really cheap or completely free, we need to value creativity in a new way.

I should have written this post weeks ago but that’s the whole point of this post. I am so busy responding and reacting, I’ve no time for reflecting much less creating and writing. Flicking through Facebook last night I was struck by an article on fast fashion and how its killing couture. It got me thinking. Is technology killing creativity?

Fast fashion is killing great design. Major design houses are in decline. Burnt out couturiers that used to turn out two collections a year are now being forced to turn out six. Meanwhile, the fast fashion following retailers are turning out 52! That’s one per week. The upshot is that the thought leaders, the iconic designers from Dior and Givenchy have no creative downtime, no space for reflection and innovation and as a result fashion is stagnating. We’ve been in an endless cycle of recycling since the early 90’s. The major runway shows are where the fast-fashion followers seek their inspiration but who will they follow now and are they worth following at all? By their own admission designers can no longer work to the high standards and design ideals of the once revered brands they represent. In an effort to satisfy the needs of a faddish consumer they indulge ‘designer limitations’ #BalmainforH&M.

So what has this to do with technology and its impact on creativity. First of all, it is technology that is powering fast-fashion and it is fast-fashion micro-trends and micro-prices that devalue the great designers and quality standards. Secondly, it is technology that is shaping a generation who live their lives on ‘free services’, consuming ‘free content’ and where almost anything can be acquired ‘as a service’, the result is little appreciation for investing in anything for keeps. Thirdly, technology is constantly beeping, pinging, ringing, poking and alerting a generation that CANNOT rest.

So again on facebook in recent days, I saw a post on the behaviours and needs of creative people. Creative people need to daydream. It’s hard to daydream when constantly interrupted by a ping or ring. Creative people work to a flow of time that works for them. With pervasive technology, we are now ‘on’ almost all of the time. How can I find time to ebb when I am expected to constantly flow? Creative people use intuition over logic. In a data driven world of analytics, there’s little value placed on intuition and no matter how hard working the daydream believer, they will rarely cut it with the VC patrons of their arts.

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Image by Brendan O Se

I was at Web Summit last week, the open submission gallery for start-ups. Wandering the endless aisles of alphas, everything seemed tagged as a recycled version of an existing design – the ‘Uber for laundry’ or the ‘Tinder for dogs’. Beta boys showcase their brilliance on these start-up runways. Less of a runway for take-off, it is the slow sashay designer runway that leads to a modelesque heel pivot where they back track from whence they came to remerge in a slightly different version of essentially the same design moments later. To master the pivot is to fail without falling – and to fall would be the end of any burgeoning runway career!

These ‘creatives’ are racing to get easily replicable, disposable apps trending for a few seasons but then they are gone. Few survive and those small number that do will inevitably be caught, like their fashion designing peers in a constant race against time to keep the attention and favours of a faddish marketplace with shortened attention spans and a distorted sense of price and value. The only winners seem to be the ones who build the platforms and the runways. The designers whose work they showcase are of fleeting interest and so I wonder if technology is not killing creativity but rather the value we put on it.
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