The Speed of Creative Consumption

Nobody consumes art faster than teenagers in mid-driftsI’m not exactly addicted to TV per se, but I do love certain shows and I watch quite a few of them. In a given week, my wife and I are probably DVRing 6-8 different shows, not to mention the usual Netflix and DVD marathoning that takes place.

We lead balanced lives with plenty of exercise, cook our own meals, take walks, socialize, etc. Fitter, happier, whatever. I just like to unwind with a beer and some scripted television almost every night. I don’t see any huge problem with this.

But the other night, I was thinking about the utter amount of content we consume on our television. Maybe on average 1-2 hours a night? I bet that’s pretty average for our sociotype. Well, think about that two hours of scripting, acting, direction, cinematography, editing, and post-prod; not to mention the ideas. How much creative energy goes into creating all of that? And we consume anywhere from 6-10 hours of this in a week?!

And of course, this isn’t limited to TV. Think about the graphic design you see on the way to work. Or the information you consume on the internet each day. People create that stuff. They think it and they put it in play. And we take it in. Quickly, ridiculously quickly.

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Of course I bring this back to myself. The amount of effort I/we put into thinking, designing and building stuff for the internet. How quickly does someone consume that? A site I recently launched took months of planning, designing and approving. Our team works so hard to create compelling content and polish it up for the best possible user experience. Avg time on a page is ~20 seconds. And based on general statistics, that’s actually pretty damn good.

I’m by no means complaining, “no one appreciates my work”. Hell no. More so, I’m lamenting the speed at which we’ve grown accustomed to breathing in fellow humans’ creativity. I hate to think about how I burn through my ‘Art’ folder in google reader every day. So many beautiful things to see, and we tend to go glossy-eyed right over them.

As a designer, I see there’s something to explore here. How do you get a user engaged, and then slow him down, to spend some time experiencing what you’ve created. Sure, it’s about content, but maybe you also have to make things fun.

That’s a whole ‘nother conversation. Another time.

As a content consumer, part of me wants to change my habits, learn to slow down some. That’s an easy thing to say, I’m just not sure how to do it. After each episode of Sons of Anarchy, do my wife and I need to stop and discuss it? That just sounds stupid. But maybe that’s all we need to watch that night. Let the creation we’ve just taken in settle a little bit. Would consuming less allow us to focus more on what we do?

There is a potential positive here. Is the speed of creation increasing at the same rate as the speed of consuming? Are we able to consume this much because the means to create are both more efficient and available to more people. I’m going to go ahead and say ‘yes’.

By consuming more creativity, faster, are we really just exposing ourselves to more inspiration? Perhaps blazing through your RSS feed of 50s Americana photography doesn’t do anything for your appreciation of a specific photograph, but it could be expanding your intellectual and creative vocabulary.

One final thought: attention-span. After the first paragraph or three of this post, did you find yourself ready to take in the next post? Did you already get the gist of what I’m trying to say here and were ready to get the gist of something else? I got distracted three or four times just writing this.

I’m bored of this topic already.

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