Today the influential Techcrunch site published a powerful piece of opinion claiming that hand-made content was dead.

This contention is based on the revolution in dispersal of ’free’ information – and new industrial-scale commercial attempts to make money through a volume provision of data. (Techcrunch cites a firm called Demand Media who are particularly depressing in this respect because they seek a market in video tutorials based simply on large numbers of eyes and trending or hot topics.)

We think there is a great deal of merit to Michael Arrington‘s observations about the issues of information overload and of unique content creation being buried beneath manufacturing processes.

Basic economics teaches us oversupply of anything devalues the original and this is true for all forms of content. But, if creatives who use skill with their hands to work, whether it’s making original video, art or words are prepared to experiment, innovate and continue to follow their instincts, we see no compelling reason why they shouldn’t survive and thrive, even in an age of massive and impersonal data flows.

My advice to content creators is more subtle. Figure out an even more disruptive way to win, or die.

Knowingly or not, the implicit reference in this quote from Arrington put us in mind of one of the most famous pieces of graphic design from the history of the United States. Here it is.

Join or Die by Benjamin Franklin from Wikimedia Commons

Join or Die by Benjamin Franklin from Wikimedia Commons

It was hand-made by Benjamin Franklin, or one of his associates, in 1754 and Wikipedia has a brief description of its meaning at the time. If you’d rather take it on trust, the image stressed the need for common purpose between the (then) eight colonies against control from Britain, the colonial power. If you look carefully you’ll see the initials of the states etched close to the segments of the snake.

If you’ll excuse us stretching the metaphor, every all-powerful power crumbles in the end. Empires die, gods get replaced and technological innovations become obsolete. What endures (global warming and Hollywood disaster movies aside) is the human urge to create. So, find a way to endure until the situation is right for another small and successful economic revolution*.

Resourcefulness has maintained human-sized ingenuity in the face of similar economic threats for as long as there has been a recognisable process of manufacture and trade between peoples. It’s not yet time to despair and where there is a will, there is a way.

* We’ll be coming back to this theme in future posts.

Post by Matthew Buck

Co-Director of Drawnalism Ltd.

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