April 28th, 2008
Thinking about the power of the ordinary person makes me feel empowered. I’m seeing connections in Wikinomics and Buddhism. There has been such a lock for so long on the power of the individual and the power inherent and guaranteed to the singular. Granted, singularity provides one a clear voice and a regularity traceable to a closed and definable source, but from the singularity comes the deception and illusion of isolation and completely solitary creation.
Instead, what has always looked like singularity has really just been the filtration of the masses into a single pen or tongue. Whereas many have always provided the guidance, teaching, inspiration and background for creation, only one gets credit for the end result. I think what the peer movement is all about is returning credit to the common. It’s about non-sanction, it’s about peers. It’s no longer about money or singular claim and fortune. It’s about progress, innovation and fruition, by whatever means necessary and available.
I’m seeing connections with this thinking process and the Buddhist readings I’ve been getting into lately. They share the common, disparate act of losing the ego, or losing the conceived ‘one-ness’ that has penetrated and egged on or collaborative stillness. What happens when you give up the ego? You give up the walls of the ego, the invisible but pressing bindings the tininess of singularity calls for. When you lose the ego, you shatter the walls that hold you in, and you find yourself yearning and screaming for connection.
Not only can the loss of ego force you to extend beyond yourself, it causes you to really become part of something extraordinary. The ego is so limiting – the collective is where true power and insight can evolve into something larger than ourselves.
There are, of course, people who don’t find such change and evolution as a good thing.
“Composer Jaron Lanier worries that collaborative communities represent a new form of “online collectivism” that is suffocating authentic voices in a muddled and anonymous tide of mass mediocrity.” (Wikinomics, Tapscott & Williams. p. 16)
The fear here is a result of the beaming ego and the dynamics Western humans have always placed upon the power of creation and identity. The problem I have with Lanier’s view is two-fold. First, I’m not entirely sure that the authentic voice is something real. I’ve recently completed a research project on the ‘voice’ of composerAaron Copland. What I’ve realized is that the voice is more limiting and burdensome than valuable.
I may detail this in a later post, but to put it into a nutshell: The voice has two defining features. The first is that it allows the listener to instantaneously identify and isolate the music of a singular composer. The second is that is forces the listener to instantaneously identify and isolate the music of a singular composer. While it is good from a commercial and education standpoint, from an artistic standpoint, it is a death-knell.
To get back to the quote, Lanier laments that the collective is inherently stupider and less creative than the singular. I’m not sure where he gathers his data. The truth is that when many people start creating in the same medium, there will be a swelling influx of media. If more people have access to free and easy music-creation software, it follows that more people will create music. This means that the ‘market’ (blogs, online-stores, music forums) will see a tidal wave of new content, most of it muddle by commercial standards.
But as stated before, it’s not all about money anymore. As people realize that they can share their creations with each other, and even begin to collaborate, connections emerge, excitement over a medium skyrockets, and people become invested, fiscally and emotionally. What started initially as a venture to give people the tools to become creators, they become customers to a wide range of new products, including higher-quality music software, instruments, marketing tools, etc.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to mass sharing, collective creation and the loss of the ego. I’ve just started reading the book ‘Wikinomics’, and it’s kickstarted an inner dialogue. I really think there’s something important in all of this – I see the future of my generation as being the first to really get the chance to innovate on a global and free scale. And it’s damn exciting.