I was watching this recently and it really made me think. We really are living in the ‘Future’. What we deemed the future since about 1900 till the 90s did not change massively but today, thanks mostly to the internet but also to technological integration, we are effectively living in it. If you discount the more preposterous aspects of the stories set in this fictional view of the future (flying cars, memory removal, precogs, androids) that are namely in the story to serve a plot purpose, most of the other technologies and even some of the ideals and style is very much part of now.
What we consider old or ‘Retro’ or even that now awful and misused adjective ‘Vintage’, is not that old. Yet we try to nostalgically capture these ideas, visuals, sounds of a bygone era that isn’t that bygone. See the current God awful 80s revival we are hopefully limping to the end of at the moment. Even the Futurist movement, until relatively recently seen as avant-garde and unpalatable, is now used for poetry book sleeves, album art and a photoshop plug-in.
The reason I bring this up is because I recently joined the teeming masses and bought an iPhone. First and foremost I was frankly disgusted by the abuse I got, from some people who should frankly know better, about having “sold my soul to Apple”. I won’t go into my feelings on this insipid and childish trend for brand worship (another sci-fi trait) as I have already spat my contempt at people for this particular sin on this blog already that you can read here. Most of all however I discovered how freeing owning a smartphone (of ANY BRAND, you sheep) can be and the multitude of pleasing and enjoyable activities it creates. The main one for me was the discovery of the App: Instagram.
A little background. I am a photographer and own only film cameras, including a Hasselblad 500c from the 70s and a Pentax. I also work in a pro film and photographic development lab. I don’t wish to sound immodest but I know my shit in this regard. I have only ever heard disparaging comments regarding the current trend for Photography Apps among people in the industry. I have now had the chance to use Instagram and a few other similar apps and I bloody love them! The effects they create would take hours to replicate in a real darkroom and equally would require considerable training in Photoshop to get it right on that too. The techniques used by some of my favourite photographers of the last 100 years is suddenly available at the push of a button and can make any photo look great. Like all technology it has made the previously inaccessible (or accessible to a select few) available to all.
And this is what got me to thinking…
People who call themselves the professionals are scared. They see the distribution of the long-held secrets and techniques to all and sundry as a threat to their work and they are RIGHT. More people than ever are discovering how easy things are to create nowadays in whatever field of work you’re in: Entrepreneur, Painter, Writer, Poet, Photographer, Translator, Fishmonger, Web Designers, Architects, Musicians, Butchers Bakers and Candlestick Makers are all suddenly confronted with being on EXACTLY the same playing field as the general public or their target audience/demographic. Every single business model has come crashing down around our ears and the biggest wigs in every industry have absolutely no idea where they or their chosen industry will be in 2 years let alone 5.
I personally find this thrilling. This means, for once, people who want to ‘make it’ and I think particularly the creative fields are actually really going to have to work for a living and really have to think about what will be new and what we can change to move things forward. So we will have to use these technologies in ways the general public aren’t and that is really going to separate the great from the good. When anyone can now produce a hi-res 1080p film that can be broadcast quality on their phone cinema is going to have to really up its game and no that does not mean 3D. It is (thankfully) already suffering a backlash so hopefully that will die a death too. I am about to release a new album myself and what I can do to publicise this and sell it has doubled since my last album. I was also able to record with such clarity and fidelity it is actually causing problems with distribution as the quality is almost too high.
This all means old ways are becoming irrelevant and most businesses use nostalgia and the ‘Vintage’ model in their marketing so as not only to quell the fear of the average punter but also to cling desperately to an older way of selling/producing things. I find this encouraging. I like that the businesses, and in a lot of cases Governments, are scared. It means power is returning to the people. The riots of last year made an odd point. Previously it was the police who had the upper hand as they could communicate and organise better than a disorganised mob. With Twitter and BBM the mob was in constant communication and had the ability to organise strategically against the police. Whatever your feelings are on that it is a telling sign of the shift of balance.
What I think will make the leaders in the field is what has always done so: Ideas.
We live in exciting, even overwhelming times where pretty much anything is possible now. It can be crippling and saturation is high in any market but as usual it is the truly great and new IDEAS that will flourish and lead the way for whatever is coming next. I myself am thinking of new things I can do to use this new-found freedom I have. Starting with my album I can market and sell that in a different way, even by not having a readily available physical copy but also my writing. Epublishing is booming but I don’t think has even scratched the surface of its potential. A whodunnit that lets you solve the mystery from clues via hyperlinks? The possibilities are endless. I, for one, am in the process of writing a longer, more ambitious poem that I want to release digitally that will hopefully use more multimedia to better express and enhance the poem. And then there’s the photos. Instagram has meant I can achieve a better looking image at the press of a button so taking more photos with better content that are more visually arresting should now be the focus. The advent of tumblrs and Pinterest have created online galleries to walk through, we are our own curators in a purpose-built gallery. Isn’t that cool!? Isn’t it exciting?!
People talk about the ‘Hipsters’ or the ‘Dickheads‘ ruining all this and I think I know why. It’s because they are buying into it, not actually using any of it. Buying an iPhone doesn’t make you a fool or a hipster, saying you bought it because you’re alternative does. Dressing in Tweed doesn’t make you a hipster, saying you’re doing it to get away from modern fashion whilst simultaneously buying it from Topman does. These ‘Hipsters’ are fighting the tide of progress deliberately to appear cool but ironically in doing so are buying into exactly what the bigger companies want. Even the ones that are following the future don’t really take the time or make the investment in whatever they’re doing and merely parrot another artist or form. Again, a lack of Ideas. I say buy the newest of the new, learn what makes it tick inside out and use it subversively. There will always be a place for older products and culture but why deliberately ignore this fantastic modern world in which we live when there is so much still to be done with it?
The Future is indeed bright. Largely due to the resolution.