I’ve written before about creativity online and the failure of companies trying to stifle this creativity, but felt encouraged to do so again after having looked into the elegant events in the wake of a Stephen Colbert interview with well-known blogger and Stanford professor of law Lawrence Lessig – which quickly evolved into one of the more interesting displays of Internet creativty, through which Lessig’s point became even more clear. First, a brief background. On his January 8, 2009 show, Stephen Colbert interviewed Lawrence Lessig on the occasion of his recent book, Remix. This is the clip in question:
One of the main lessons to be drawn from the book is how virtual communities can augment the value of something, how it can take a simple events and make it spiral into a phenomenon that shows both depth and creativity. During the interview, Colbert warned, tounge in cheek, against anyone remixing that interview by adding, say, a funky beat. Needless to say, remixes started showing up on Youtube within hours. Some of them amazingly good. Here’s one example (gets better towards the end):
Stephen Colbert was of course “outraged” by all of this, and made a comeback on his January 21 show. The second remix above was featured as one of the examples, and Colbert countered with creating his own remix:
Colbert added fuel to the fire, however, by adding some rhytmic remarks prone for further remixing, and of course the results followed shortly:
The fascinating thing about this series of fortunate events is that the point I’m trying to make is the same point that Lessig tried to make in the initial interview — and Colbert made the point for Lessig better than any words could’ve done. True creativity in new media arise by allowing millions of creative users to legally shape your work into new products, to stand on eachothers’ shoulders, to take a simple concept and see how far it can be pushed. It allows users to shine and it allows the original creator to shine. This is the very basis of hybrid economy. It is the basis for all sorts of communities that take original work and go further with it. It might, legally speaking, be copyright infringment, but any company willing to stubbornly hold on to this paradigm will inevatibaly alienate their users — and even more so as the old-paradigm users slowly become outnumbered by coming generations of inforgs. Colbert has understood it, and if anything, he is making more money and becoming more popular in the process. It’s a win-win situation, and a lose-lose for the Lars Ulrichs and Microsofts of the future (yes, I have become a Microsoft basher).