He probably didn’t know it, but Paul Trani set the tone. “[I don't like the term Creative...it's used too readily]“. You know what Paul, I couldn’t agree with you more. Everybody wants to be creative like everybody wants to be a geek (and there is another word which is rapidly devaluing). From the vacuous numptys on The Apprentice to every Dalston Douche that emin their way into their 15 mins…creativity is perhaps the most overrated word in the lexicon.
And yet, here I am, sitting at a conference called Reasons to Be Creative, bearing the lofty title “Creative technologist”…sitting, in fact, in the exact same seat I was two years ago when this conference was still broadly a tech conference for a now almost indefensible tech. I said once before that conferences like this are creative oxygen for me, this one in particular. I don’t know if John has been paying attention but their logo now shows a recharged battery, which, after a pretty hefty couple of months at the agency coalface, couldn’t come at a better time.
My own creativity has wavered, this I know. At the risk of giving a standard parent-and-manager whinge, there just aren’t hours in the day for the work I want to do in the face of the work I must do. Repeated throughout the day, by Grant Skinner, by Amit Pitaru, by Carlos Ulloa (who needs a separate blog post soon), is the need to play, to explore and to create. It’s something I’ve talked about at length and a central part of the culture of my team at work. I will say it again in the Elevator Pitch I’ll give at this conference in two days time. But now, sitting on the pisshead’s train back to London after marvelling at the ease with which Stefan Sagmeister once again makes being a world-renowned artist and creative seem, I *know*, really *KNOW* that I’ve been coasting, and that I’m not nearly as creative as I would like to think (or project) I am, not through a lack of ideas or skill perhaps, but because I simply haven’t picked up a tool and contributed to something.
It’s the thing I love about Reasons.to – it simultaneously lets you feel like you can achieve anything you want to, whilst at the same time, reality checking you that having the thought is not enough. You must do. Dominic Wilcox (whose work I did not know but instantly fell in love with) kept sketchbooks and littered his talk with cartoonish inventions that stick in the mind more somehow than his considered (and presumably well funded) work. The flow of ideas was irresistible…ideas of all scales from throwaway gags to incredibly emotive and thoughtful pieces of great depth.
I made some resolutions to myself today about the gulf that exists between having an idea and seeing it executed, even if that’s just a sketch, or an outline or a snippet of code or a todo list. It’s not difficult to find Reasons To Be Creative. It’s quite another thing to do something about it.
I’ve attended every one of the 6 Flash on the Beach conferences. It has been a yearly fix of inspiration, connection to an industry which I’m often isolated from in the corporate environment and straight up good fun. This reached it’s zenith in 2009 where I came out of the Brighton Dome hypnotised and dizzy with the possibilities of the medium. I’ve often equated it to the first time I encountered the web in 1994 which fueled a passion for the creative opportunities for technology that I carry with me now. That was an incredibly important event for me and it also marked the point at which Flash on the Beach had ceased to become purely a technically-focussed exchange of techniques and practices in Flash development, and instead became a creative propagator – a shot in the arm for a jaded developer.
Fast forward to 2011 and it’s very obvious that, a: we’ve come a long way baby and b: that FLASH on the beach is a definite misnomer. For instance, Flex is notable for it’s absence (I don’t think there’s a single session on it in fact) and the talk of RIA’s and the Flash Platform which were in vogue until the Jobsian witch hunt kicked in is not to be found. Flash is talked about only in terms of enhancing web content, and gaming, which is clearly the technology’s stronghold. HTML5, design principles, type, motion graphics, filmmaking, Processing, ofx all merit focus and one gets the impression that showrunner John Davey has been steering towards this point all along. It’s of no surprise to me then when he announces at the end of the conference that this will be the last event under that title.
I did make extensive live notes which I publish here in full (strictly only for the very curious and more for my own record than as a public-facing document), but here are some highlights, links and salient points.
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Andrew Dobson has been building websites and interactive applications since 1996 and is Technical Director at Grand Union.
Andy regularly lectures on creative technology and other geek matters and writes, records and performs as Digitonal
He lives in North London with his family, the world of cat, and a righteous collection of classic electronica records.
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