Making is Connecting – a book review


Marketing is ultimately about creating.  Creating compelling messages, creating powerful design, creating and strengthening communities. What you create and how you create it is, of course, important for a client's bottom line, but these days, the opportunity exists to create impact on a cultural, social and even global level. We think this is an important perspective for marketing professionals.  With that mind, we're sharing a review of Making is Connecting, a look at creativity, inspiration and change in this new global economy.  Those looking to find or refine their digital voices -- or help others find theirs -- will find this book an interesting read.

The intro

David Gauntlett‘s new book, Making is Connecting, is an ideal read for any artist.  

(Note: we're admittedly dogmatic in our belief that it's more difficult not to make art, than to make it.  Everyone is an artist at something). If you're actively living life, chances are, you're an artist.  Surprise!  

Gauntlett shares a similar view of the core tenet of creativity:

"Making is about transforming materials into something new, but it is also about transforming one's own sense of self.  Creativity is a gift, not in the sense of it being a talent, but in the sense that it is a way of sharing meaningful things, ideas, or wisdom, which form bridges between people and communities."

The summary

The book begins with and garners its philosophical underpinnings from 19th century artisans John Ruskin and William Morris.  The general lessons from Rushkin and Morris teach us that, not only is it important to reject some of mainstream culture to generate some of your own in its place, but the process of making itself, will in some way help to shape our collective future.

"...we need models of good practise.  Criticising present realities is important but insufficient.  It can be hard to picture what the future would look like, and so to be making things, as examples future creative diversity, in the her and now, offers a powerful and tangible form of inspiration for others - and challenges the apparent inevitability of the present."  

One could argue that individual expression and creativity will always hold more value than the communications of professional media networks.  As the web gets better and better at connecting people through their passions, we hope to see the first real glimpse into a truly citizen-driven global consciousness. 

The remainder of the book focuses on five key principles: 

  1. A new understanding of creativity as process, emotion, and presence;
  2. The drive to make and share;
  3. Happiness through creativity and community;
  4. A middle layer of creativity as social glue;
  5. Making your mark, and making the world your own.

The first point resonated with us the most:

"The standard definition says that creativity should be judged on its outcomes, which are required to be original and paradigm-shifting...this way of understanding creativity is unsatisfactory because it rejects everyay activity that we would normally describe, in a 'common sense' way, as creative; and especially because it is about the final product, rather than the process."

It occurred to us that we might even take take this argument one step further, namely, to frame process as a 21st century currency for change.  Clay Shirky talks about how positive and powerful the cognitive surplus will be as more and more people begin to connect and create:

"The cognitive surplus, newly forged from previously disconnected islands of time and talent, is just raw material. To get any value out of it, we have to make it mean or do things. We, collectively, aren’t just the force of the surplus; we are also the people designing its use, by our participation and by the things we expect one another as we wrestle together with our new connectedness."

We would argue that one day, online participation and creation will eventually be expected of every digitally capable citizen.  An expectation, that is, of participation over consumption.

Stuff we don't agree with

Gauntlett warns about the perils of locked-down solutions like the iPad and iPhone, sounding an alarm that their parent corporation threatens the open platform the web was originally intended to be.  We don't believe Apple to be a closed company at all.

Why? Because:

  1. The app store and iOS are not in opposition to the open web;
  2. Developers will never stop building open html browser apps that run anywhere;
  3. Mobile is the best thing that's ever happened to the web and the iPhone is the best thing that's ever happened to mobile.  Both are, in part, responsible for driving creativity and innovation by citizens on the open web

Yes, it's a good book

Overall this makes for a very interesting read, especially if you are in the early stages of experimenting with and engaging in the online broadcast culture.  Finding your voice as a digital citizen isn't easy.  This book will convince you that creative activity will make for a better life and connected world for us all.