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Blog // Images // Sounds
August 30, 2011

Changing Lanes When There Are No Lanes

We live in an extraordinary era, with the economics of communication totally changing. What do I mean by that? Well, when I was young, we would tune into television or radio and hope to hear people that were interesting (to us), talking about things that were relevant (to us). It was a pretty inefficient process, […]

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We live in an extraordinary era, with the economics of communication totally changing. What do I mean by that? Well, when I was young, we would tune into television or radio and hope to hear people that were interesting (to us), talking about things that were relevant (to us). It was a pretty inefficient process, when you stop to think about it.

But, these days we have a glut of interesting “content” available to us, though websites, podcasts and the like. Instead of waiting and hoping that something interesting will pop up, we now have to sift through a lot of stuff that could engage us and then try to find the time to take it in.

The days of wait and hope are gone.

Case in point was the video below, of Chase Jarvis interviewing Sir Mix-a-Lot (famous for the hit single, Baby Got Back). I’ve been wanting to watch this one for a while, but only just found the time today.

It’s a wide ranging discussion that hits on a few points I’ve been discussing for some time. For example, the parallels between what has happened in photography and music since the advent of digital technology. If for no other reason, it’s worth watching the video just for this conversation about creative output and social media.

At one point in the conversation Chase Jarvis throws in the word “interdisciplinary,” which is a way of saying “knowledge that exists in more than one field of study.” Back in my academic days, for example, I was fond of claiming that all the best research was interdisciplinary. It was a way of suggesting that many new discoveries came when we looked at the places where established subjects (or disciplines) overlapped.

That’s a fancy way of saying, a lot of the most exciting stuff, today, comes from people who have a foot in more than one camp. Photographers who also direct videos, musicians who also design hardware, writers who also develop graphics, chefs who also design crockery.

The best people are often expanding the borders of what they do in ways that defy traditional definitions.

Of course, this can present practical problems. I had an incident recently when a client didn’t want to pay me for a job because someone in their finance department thought it was odd that a “music” company had been hired to do photography. I had to produce a business registration certificate showing that my company was set up to do photography as well as music.

A reminder that however creative we may think the world is, there are plenty of people who are used to having everyone stay in their lanes.

But, let’s think about a practical example. Say you are a wedding photographer. These days, couples also want some video, which usually means some sound and music. Oh, and wouldn’t it be nice to also have photo albums with original design. If the wedding photographer becomes successful, they might eventually have a videographer, sound/music engineer and even a graphic designer working for them. Until then, they may have to wear some or all of those hats themselves and be the photographer/videographer/sound/grahics person.

Of course, it’s always been like that for small businesses. Think of the cafe owner who might start out as a barista, but also learns to prepare food, do the books, design some graphics and even dabble in PR.

A few things are changing though. The tools are becoming cheaper and allowing us to work in more than one field. My recent experiments in Time Lapse were possible because they only required tools I already have. When time permits, I’ll compose music for those videos – again with tools that are already on my computer.

I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while. Back in 2008 I wrote a post entitled Generation Slash, which asked if this interdisciplinary trend might be a mark of my generation.

To some extent I think the past three years have answered that question. Yes, we are generation slash. But, we still live in a world made of lanes, marked with clear lines that define reality for a lot of people.

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