Creative LeadershipCreativityMedia Production

Can We Be Creative Anymore?

With the vast amount of information stored online, I often wonder if we’re killing our creativity by taking the easier route of “mashing up” other people’s work.  Jaron Lanier, an early online creator thinks that “all we can do now is mine the past like salvagers picking over a garbage dump.”

Recently, I talked with a film professor at NYU who mentioned how surprised he was that film students today don’t fret over finding original shots and shooting styles as much as copy great shots from other films.  On a recent student film shoot, he lamented that the student had meticulously copied shots from films he admired, rather than spend the time finding the right shots for each scene of his script.

I also have a friend who’s built a website that does nothing but aggregate other links and stories, and yet he considers himself a “content creator.”  In the art world, take a look at the modern art in a typical museum today and notice how much is merely a pastiche or collage of “found items” rather than original work.

I know, I know. Yes, art based on “found items” can be original, and I know all the quotes about “talent imitates, but genius steals.”  But I can’t help but wonder that as lazy as we all are (I am chief of the lazy tribe) how much easier it is to link to, aggregate, or collage other people’s work than do the heavy lifting of real (and sometimes risky) original thinking.


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  1. I suppose we are all “content creators”, but it applies equally to the trash bin out back.

    A creative person can make us see something in a new way, whether with bold originality, or by rearranging existing objects. But what I want is something that makes me see myself in a new way. This is what elevates something to the level of “art”.

    It seems to me that what is missing from contemporary “assemblage” art is a unique, personal and courageous perspective: people who have experienced the world only through the media have only media content as their source of metaphor, and so, their work is sterile.

    Philip K. Dick wrote a book he entitled: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (it was made into the movie “Bladerunner”). The book is a cautionary tale of culture being over-run by technology. He wrote it in 1968.

    But here’s a question: Are the creators of Christian Media limiting their own world view? And as for the film students: the problem is that they are obessed with making a film: they should be obsessed with telling a story.


  2. This defines who VH1 is. “I love the 80’s/90’s-etc.” “Worst songs of 2009” “Best Youtube videos of all time” “One hit wonders of the 70’s”.

    Their entire model is built on this and yet people watch it. I personally can’t stand it. It just seems so cheap. I am wondering how people will look back on the 00’s years, as we have spent an entire decade reviving 80’s pop culture. Sentiment of our childhood and looking back with fondness is appropriate (juat as an omage to a famous director or DP is in a film), but I tend to agree that we are running out of original ideas (or at least the desire to try).

  3. “I am supposed to be the No. 1 creative genius in the whole world, and I don’t even know what the h*** the word ‘creativity’ means.” – David Ogilvy, 1991

    I think as believers we must begin by admitting that all creativity is derivative.  We are the creature, not the creator.  I believe that when we understand this, it changes the way we look at creativity and the process of production.  We obviously have been made in God’s image and He has endowed us with some of that “Creator” impulse in doing His work in the world and expressing our worship to Him, but we are not the font of these things.

    When I read the great Puritan writers, one of the things that strikes me is the sheer number of scripture references all throughout their works.  They obviously knew THE Book before writing THEIR books.  But that doesn’t lessen the impact of their books, it gives them authority and they begin to move the reader from knowledge to wisdom.

    Sometimes, I think the obsession with “creativity” can drive us to the brink as we struggle to find something new to say, in a new way…when what we might need to do is remind those we speak to of the wisdom of the past (returning to the Old Paths as Jeremiah says).

    So when we look at the issue at hand and the lack of originality today, I do think it is a problem, but not merely because of the laziness and derivative nature of it, but also the lack of authority and wisdom in it. 

  4. Again ‘churchworld’ just doesn’t get it. When will a ministry understand the story of the talents and be willing to put their cheese in the breeze and be really-truly-madly-deeply engaging and creative.


    There is more murder, adventure, love and redemption in the greatest selling book of all time than any other work in history.


    The script has already been written and it sells itself.


    If grass roots and guerrilla micro-budget secular non-profits (and start-ups) can get it ~ why can’t the gatekeepers of the greatest story in history?


    Hop to it peoples.

  5. “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity…there is nothing new under the sun…”  I doubt that Ecclesiastes is the first place recording the hunger pains for originality or meaning or life.  But, even originality doesn’t guarantee any of that.  I have seen plenty of originally BAD work.  I’ve also seen mash-up so creative it breathed completely new meaning into the work that informed it.  The simple fact of the matter is, the deeper we move into the 21st century the more mash-up we’ll see, if for no other reason then that the archive of potential material continues to grow deeper and wider than ever before. Also, pilfering other artists work to “create” your own has existed forever.  I think it’s possible we are aware of it more now because democratized technology allows more people to display their “creativity”. 

    I’m not worried.  I think there is plenty of room in the world for pastiche and original work.  Only the passage of time will determine which works hold meaning and life.

  6. I know this may be a bit over simplistic but I think the more information the more we crowd out those original thoughts. We are so busy consuming information that we don’t take time to stop and ask “Why” or “How” anymore. 

    Creativity is a practice/discipline not a gift. 

  7. I know this may be a bit over simplistic but I think the more information the more we crowd out those original thoughts. We are so busy consuming information that we don’t take time to stop and ask “Why” or “How” anymore.


    Creativity is a practice/discipline not a gift.

    Maybe 1/2 Truth. (Or less.)

    Almost forgot ~ if churchworld 2.0 has to rely on the mashup vs. an original ~ rip off Ji Lee’s bubble project ~ next / first.


    Bumps to the 1st church or ministry that has what it takes to start an unmoderated forum board / chat room / im web presence to begin this dialogue.


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