death of originality and creativity

One of the odder analogies I use when I teach and present is that of cooking and compression. When creating digital media, it’s best to work with the original uncompressed digital file for the best final result. Using compressed (cooked) files, you’ll not get a clean final product. To show this, I take audiences’ minds into the kitchen:

You can take raw hamburger meat and make a meatloaf.
You could chop up the leftover meatloaf, add seasoning, and create taco filling.
You could take that leftover taco filling and add it to a pot of chili.
You could take that chili and…etc.
Eventually, the meat will be processed repeatedly until it turns into an inedible mush that still has artifacts left over from previous incarnations.


It’s an analogy that works for mp3s and jpgs, but it’s also what’s happening more and more with creativity and originality in our culture. Instead of new ideas, we’re recycling old ones. We’re using leftovers to fill us up instead creating a fresh standard.

They’re making a Broadway play based on the movie ‘Animal House’. Think about that while recalling what other classic movies and TV shows have been ruined by redux adaptations and reimaginings. Add that to the rote and repetitive grind of reality TV, pop music, sports, and other packaged entertainment for the masses.

And that’s just pop culture / entertainment. The same thing is happening in design, technology, and art where the mixup, mashup, reblog, retweet, adaptation, parody, and share are sometimes considered of more importance than the original.

Eventually, it’s all going to turn to mush.

Who will create fresh content and provide original ideas? Sounds like an opportunity for someone.

UPDATE: A few days after I posted this, James Lileks wrote a few great paragraphs (as always) that are related to this idea. Take a look at the last third of his post (after the dog and set parts).

Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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