I’ve often wondered what would happen if a great creative mind of the past came into our present world to see how we create and communicate today. Here’s my imagined conversation with Andy Warhol, whose creativity extended to almost every medium of his time. Here is his introduction to Facebook, after being asleep for nearly 25 years …
Me: Welcome to the future Mr. Warhol. That thing in front of you is an iPad and with that you can instantly connect with people from all over the world through Facebook.
Andy: The device is sleek and beautiful. But this Facebook looks stupid. How do you read this? Everything is small and crammed together. Why would you limit your personal expression to these little boxes?
Me: It does have a terrible interface but I guess it makes up for it in your ability to connect instantly with ideas and people from all over the world.
Andy: It looks to me like it is mostly cats, jokes, and inane self-help sayings.
Me: Well … true. People like to have fun with this. It’s a good creative outlet.
Andy. I see little creativity here. People keep sharing the same jokes and photos over and over again. I would use this tool to bring people together to discuss new ideas — to find the odd things that make you think. Sort of a creative salon like we had in New York.
Me: Well, the odd things probably don’t make it to your news feed. Only the most popular ideas appear.
Andy: And who is determining what is popular?
Me: Facebook. They edit your newsfeed and only show the items with the most likes and comments.
Me: Not always. Sometimes a new idea catches fire and goes viral. In fact, it’s an amazing opportunity for new artists to become known internationally. Like … umm … Justin Bieber.
Andy: Not exactly a creative revolution, is it? And how does Facebook stay in business?
Me: They collect all of your personal information and create targeted ads for their advertisers.
Andy: And do they give you a share of the money?
Me: No, in return you get to use their service for free.
Andy: So they own your very art, your writing, your photography, and anything you post … and sell this information for their own economic gain?
Me: Yes, that’s it.
Andy: That will never work. People would never let them do that. (distracted) Now what’s this thing?
Me: An iPhone. Most people are using this, or something like it, to connect on Facebook.
Andy: This small screen makes the thing even worse, doesn’t it? How can one expect to create something in a space this small? Do people really use this thing?
Me: Oh yes. Some people spend several hours a day typing into their mobile device and viewing content.
Andy: Fascinating. (lighting a cigarette) It seems inhuman. They do this of their own free will … or is this some kind of … punishment?
Me: Oh this is by their choice. In fact, it’s common to be using this device even when you are physically with your friends. Today, this is by far the most popular way to see art, photos, and videos.
Andy: Seriously? On this screen that is smaller than your hand? This is how people see the world? So these digital artists now have to create their greatest works … to be viewed on this little device?
Me: Well, yes. For a lot of creative work today … that’s true.
Andy: So let me get this straight. The world’s most popular way to communicate is though a company that is collecting all of your most private information and profiting from it. You are being forced to create your content in unreadable little boxes. The company censors what you see and suppresses everything except the most popular ideas. People are tethered to communication devices that track your movements and your beautiiful art and motion pictures are relegated to a space that fits in the palm of your hand.
This is a nightmare.
I’m almost afraid to ask this question. Did all of this come about because of a war that happened while I was asleep? Did the Communists win?