Software as the key artform of the 21st Century

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Isn’t it time we stopped talking about media and returned to the term artform?

A medium is ultimately physical in our understanding of it, no matter how enhanced or extended it may be.

For me, one of the main achievements of the digital revolution is to have separated creative content from media. Now, no longer bound by the existing hardware models with all their limitations, we are free to explore our various artforms via software, a far more natural environment for creative material.

Technology has always impacted upon cultural development, in particular the arts. All you have to do is look at the Russian avant garde and the impact of the machine on art, or in the explosion of media in particular, from radio on up throughout the 20th century.

The rising tide of digital technology as the end of the 20th century which has matured at the start of this century, given the wide dispersal of computers and the emergence of broadband globally, gave birth to a new internet culture which has impacted hugely on existing media.

We’ve been distracted by how digital technology mimics a medium really well, how it extends them and combines them with other technologies. Those three steps are present in each of the creative fields, most clearly in music. There it took on the genre of music completely, extended the creative options for musicians and spearheaded the new distribution channels for music. These cultural forces, experienced as rapid changes to humanity, are almost alive in how unstoppable and progressive they are.

Not all existing media fare well out of this, television as a medium was in trouble long before digital culture emerged. The structure of television, top down, one to many, rigid control of content, only a few outlets per nation, had been incredibly limiting over the years, and it had ended up myopically examining itself as the last century closed with top ten shows focussed on television’s own inventory. If music had faced similar limitations it would have withered and died.

The net disbands completely these kinds of structure, they have no place there. The recent economic downturn and the shift away from advertising saw those old models crumble alarmingly quickly, it became clear that the boom and advertising were all that was holding up the existing ways of doing business.

This dispersal of content creation opens up the very basics of each artform for questioning. As a creator of course, It matters not whether it’s individuals or groups of individuals, active independent content producers or production companies, all bets are off. And ultimately one major question we all face is that of production finance. Who’ll finance these?

Our focus now, both on creative work and it’s dissemination should be on exploring developing software with a view to creating work and it’s expression and communication. The creators of software whether it’s new services online or applications, are the structuring limitation or future liberators, the new artists in our mix. If Film was the artform of the 20th century. Software is the key artform of the 21st.

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Earlier thoughts on software here and here.
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