In our Music and Computer Class (otherwise known as MUSI3390), I have both a Professor and Teaching Assistant who are individuals with the most strange and compelling personalities. The closest description I can think of is that they represent what my conception of a “true artist.” Their very happiness seem to derive from a certain niche satisfactions that differ from those of the typical masses. An example? Both of them have super stark humor and share a certain geekiness that exposes their strange pleasures in what they do. As our Professor programs MaxMSP demos to illustrate how to create low, high, and band filters, it is quite a pleasure to witness his smile that is equal to a child playing with a toy rattle.
I have had the fortune to be able to live in both an art and science (as well as hybrid disciplines such as computer science) to limited degrees and with various success. Suffice to say, not every artist loves their work, and not everyone who works in the art field is an artist (in its truest sense), and that can be applied to every area of study. However, from Day One of MUSI3390, it was clear that the two people at the front of the room were not only experts (within the parameters of the courses), but avid discoverers, explorers, and thinkers of their field.
So here’s the ultimate reason for this post:
Our University’s Fall Break was just a day a way, so in lieu of any actual pertinent “content”, we held a semi-closing discussion that wandered quickly into extremely heavy territory, breaching subjects that included, but were not limited to, mass-information possession, expression of speech through non-verbal means, and societal progression within the context of generation upbringing.
Our Professor initiated the discussion by posing the idea that within the creation of tools such as DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations such as Logic Pro) exists an imposing limiting factor and contradiction. Though tools such as Logic Pro or Adobe’s Creative Suite have grown to be extremely powerful and efficient, we as consumers are subjected to learning how to approach our own problems (in design, life, or w/e) with the tools that we are provided. Our Professor then asked whether our very own thinking is then limited to such ways of working. Are we chained and shackled in our way of thinking and nurturing creative ideas?
To a degree, yes, pre-existing tools do fundamentally narrow your way of approaching certain problems, but there are many people who are dissatisfied with the tools we have (not all our needs can be addressed) and set out to create their own. More than one answer exists, though I believed that our Professor’s instigated point was what our Professor was instigating was that as creative artists, we should not should attempt only to express ourselves or solve problems with what is laid out before us. As explorers of expression through art and creation, we are bound by the need and desire to achieve that holistically. Is the fact that we start from somewhere where the tools we have are not sufficient bad? I, personally, doubt it. There is a saying where creativity and ingenuity is born from the existence of limits and constraints. Need an example? Look at Steve Jobs.
Apple’s Steve Jobs, who recently passed away (RIP), was a visionary pioneer in this very sense. Respected for his work, Jobs actively sought design solutions to problems with society, frequently commenting on how companies such as IBM plain sucked. Why was it, that IBM “sucked”? Once when the Apple 2 existed, the ability retrieve an error message from typing code into a command prompt and thus investing several hours to learning how to code was one that products from IBM also had. Job’s philosophy to completely tailor the product for the consumer and exercise complete control over the creation pipeline for their products was an idea that quickly caught on to those who did not want to be bothered with figuring the more nitty gritty things out. Whether or not you are a fan of Apple, Jobs undoubtedly change the world in ways that many of us cannot perceive or may ever be able to perceive. Job’s influence on over 5 million people is paramount, and the fact that Apple is so successful is testament to Job’s ability to push at ideas that are worthwhile. Their products have also evolved our own thinking, expectations, and eye for certain aesthetics.
Why is this prevalent? Though Jobs constantly fought the limitations of what technologies we had and how they packaged for consumers, Apple’s CEO ultimately broke through and convinced all of us that he knew from the beginning what we had always needed. There is a small caveat, however, with Job’s Apple. The idea of personal and expressionistic speech is somewhat squelched under Apple’s march towards world dominance.
Many of us express ourselves through our speech, and thank goodness we have the Bill of Rights that protects our freedom of speech. There are those that also attempt to voice opinions and change views through the art that they create. I will use only a specific example, but suffice to say, there are many other modes of expressing voice. If I were to write a program or iOS software where its main goal was to increase awareness of a certain issue at hand (believe me, such programs exist), in the 1990’s, I merely had to put the data on a floppy and mail it to whoever I needed to. Today, for my iOS application to be successfully published and distributed through Apple, one must pay a fee (~$99) and subjugate their creation to the whims of those who monitor the Apple publishing pipeline. This creates two barriers, cost and uncertainty. I’m not as naive as to say that Apple is a ever growing company that will take over the world and ruin our lives (though the taking over world is a possibility), but it’s merely interesting to see how things have quickly changed over such a short period of time.
After a short moment for banter to continue, we were unceremoniously whiffed away to the next topic of things being thing-a-fied, the act of typically degrading a person, idea, or event to the mere existence of a reference. Consequently, when a thing is thing-a-fied, the inherent value of such a “thing” is removed, thus causing it to be thing-a-fied. If this is confusing, you’re not alone. The mere fact that we use “thing” to reference two separate, but intrinsically related, occurrences does not make our understanding of the concept any easier. The easiest example I synthesized from the discussion was the social media network we know today as Facebook.
Facebook has become a realm swarming with people of all kinds. We share experiences, personally magical or undesirably miserable, and discuss happenings. We “like” exclamations or thoughts, and learn a lot about our acquaintances without actually engaging with that individual. If I were to post that I had an eye-opening experience backpacking through Europe, numerous comments or likes are to pop up (though I would definitely have fewer than most). In certain perspectives, there are two things that happened here. One, I compacted my life-revealing trip in Europe to a mere sentence, a totem hardly representative of the value of my experience, and second, I shared my thing-a-fied experience with no one in particular (note: the act of thing-a-fying is not limited to social flow and expectations on Facebook; such an idea is prevalent in nearly every type of area of interpersonal engagement (though some are more easily noticeable than others)).
Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that are great about Facebook, such as the ease of being to stay in touch with people you know. What is probably more important to note is the fact that a social hub such as Facebook, with the way it has changed human interactions, carries with it complicated and new forces that slowly change and mold our society. Today, many teenagers consider the implications of what people will think if a certain photo is posted of Facebook. It is exceptionally impressive, but shocking, to see and realize just how Facebook is integrated into current generation of students. I walked into my PSYC1010 class the other morning to see nearly 85% of all students who took notes on laptops on Facebook at the same time. Truly, Facebook’s methods of communication and staying-in-touch have become a world-wide standard.
What point this brings up, however, is how Facebook introduces its very own world of network and social standards that subsequently then merge with our own reality since it’s fairly difficult to keep the two from interacting whatsoever (after all, everything, even if it is non-real, in our lives, are thus real).
Granted, there are those who do not use or often use Facebook, but the influence of Facebook, as well as many other giant companies of today, is quite difficult to ignore.
New technologies such as Facebook or new products from Apple, are signs of changing times and the continuously changing needs of society. However, with these changes, there are those who are wary of adopting such new creations into their old lifestyles, after all, who are we to know whether these new things are good? Conservatives typically consider constant change as slightly risky and unfounded. After all, it is impossible to determine the potential effects (positive or negative) of integrating new things. Imagine human society as an amoeba. This being, despite all our complicated inner workings, our race and collective existence, moves as a unit and whole in one direction or another. We can consider ourselves as an amoeba, slowly moving towards an unknown destination. It’s this unknown destination that many of us worry about. Would it be better to remain motionless, stuck in the present, or is it more worthwhile to have society progress, even if our directional trajectory is not one of most optimal results?
WAIT A MINUTE.
I have suddenly realized the fact that I sit here writing this elongated and garbled post of what I deemed a perfectly fascinating discussion about the most arbitrary, random, yet applicable topics was an act of thing-a-fying. Oh, the horror!
I apologize for the ungraceful outburst and tangent. I suppose the ultimate goal I was trying to achieve was to express how wonderful, engaging, and thought-stimulating the conversation was. All the questions I have posed and tried to discuss here were not really meant to provide and answer or even lead to an answer. Actually, I rarely attempt to answer any of these questions myself. I have concluded, however, that a good answer to not answer and fundamentally deciding whether I’m actually thing-a-fying the discussion or honestly sharing an experience is too difficult to determine. We can only grasp and understand a finite amount of ideas and relationships at a time, so why worry about questions that encompass too large of a scope? Would being older and wiser help us better understand said topics?
Sure. Older people tend to have a better grasp on what life is and what it entails, but then, does this mean, if we could live infintiely, we’d understand life to its fullest and maximum existence? If we were to live for eternity, that would cause the relative importance and significance of all events, relationships, and facts in life to gain infinite importance, and thus, uniformly the same. It’s actually do the fact that our lives are finite (or limited), that once we reach the end of the line, our lives have been thrown into perspective. As we are young, we posses pseudo-infinite life perspectives since the end is nowhere in expected future.
Such thoughts have consequently led me into loops of confusion, though admittedly entertaining and fascinating ones. In the end, however, the only sound statement I can make from all this wibble-babble is: life is simply…complicated.