Creativity and the Web

I’m thinking about all those affected by the horrific storm on the East Coast.  I have several quilty/blogger friends, as well as quite a few family members who have been affected and hope that they and their families are through the worst of it.  I’ve been on a blogging break this week from the computer (I wrote this post earlier) but I just wanted to jump in and send my thoughts to those who are dealing with this “Frankenstorm” and its aftermath.  Take care, everyone.

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In my class at school, we just completed a unit that was based on this book by Nicholas Carr, titled, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains.  We had our Discussion Panels last Wednesday, and it was fascinating that the students were fairly perceptive and able to discuss how the Internet has impacted their lives, for better or for worse.  One young man is fairly sanguine about the whole thing, saying, “Well, it’s here.  We just have to deal.”  Another pair of young women took opposite positions on the question of whether print was dead.  The internet’s main impact, that of re-wiring our brains due to neuroplasticity, was skirted around, but acknowledged when they all complained of the inability to finish a book before distractedly checking their phones for texts or messages.

And I think it’s rewired my brain as well.  Carr goes through the history of civilization’s adding of new technologies, from writing to moveable print to the typewriter and onward to clocks and the internet.  I was interested in his discussion on tools: “The tight bonds we form with our tools go both ways.  Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies.”

 I thought about how quilting has changed from the time when I used to trace a pattern onto cardboard, carefully cut it out and tape the edges for stability.  Then I’d trace it about a bazillion times in order to make a quilt, following along the pencil line for the seam.  I did use a machine for piecing, but hand-quilting was the only way to finish a quilt.  That’s why my list of 100 Quilts took so long to grow: our tools were more primitive before the advent of rulers and rotary cutters.

He also references Frederick Taylor’s Time-Motion studies and how it has changed how workers do their jobs (above: a golfer takes a swing).  Before Taylor came along, “the individual laborer, drawaing on his training, knowledge and experience, would make his own decisions about how he did his work.  He would write his own script” (218).

I think of us at work.  Some of us spread all our fabric out into a lovely mess (like mine, above).  Others fold and organize continually throughout the day.  I like to doodle around with my computer when thinking up a new quilt. Some like to start cutting, throwing the cloth up on the pin wall to see what’s going on.  Carr notes that with Taylor’s regimentation of industry’s messiness, something was lost.  “What was lost along with the messiness was personal initiative, creativity, and whim.  Conscious craft turned into unconscious routine.”

I hope I never become such a slave to a pattern or a ruler or a system of making a quilt that I can’t make  a creative and conscious detour into creativity.  But sometimes I wonder when I make a copy of another’s quilt, using one line of fabric if I’m not caught in a type of quilt-machine using Taylor’s demands for proscribed motion.   Is this creativity?  Am I being creative, or just following someone else’s script and benefitting from their decisions?

And like many of you, I’ve been following #quiltmarket on Instagram.  Carr said more than once, and I’m paraphrasing here, that trying to control the flow of information from the internet is like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant at full blast.  The internet caters to the new! unique! amazing! as we all know.

I also have Pinterest boards full of ideas, most are quilts which I’ll never make, but pin them up there nonetheless.   Can we be creative 24/7, or is that too exhausting?  Has the Internet made better quilting possible?  More interesting quilting?  Given us an access to a wider range of styles and types?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I only know that sometimes the Internet affects us quilters, too.

So my question now, is how has the Internet affected you?  And has it been for better. . . or for worse?

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5 thoughts on “Creativity and the Web

  1. Interesting. I agree that I’ll never be able to make everything I’ve bookmarked. The only downside for me is being able to unplug. I love the online community.

  2. Great post, Elizabeth. Too many thoughts to post in a comment. I would say for sure the internet has changed my connection to other quilters, in a very positive way. I think I’m going to search out that book.

  3. I think I’ve benefitted from the internet greatly, but it absolutely has its costs. I don’t read books as often (though part of that is a need to keep my hands busy) and since my employment as a sub depends on it to find job postings every day, it’s tough to escape it. This summer I took an almost inadvertent blogging/blog-reading hiatus, and while I enjoyed the break, I found that it was difficult to catch up. Unlike a book, the internet doesn’t wait until you pick it up again. It’s so easy to become “out of the loop”. Watching the attention span of my almost-two nephew, the way he can already manipulate technology for good and evil, and watching my dad learn how to bookmark and use google for the first time this weekend, I worry that we’re forging a generation gap far bigger than the one we inherited. It is an interesting era, for certain.

    Great post!

  4. I think the internet has added to the fragmentation in my life. That is both good and bad–good in that I have a much wider exposure to the world and can enjoy things in small doses, but bad in that all that exposure takes my time away from other things and makes longer periods of focus less likely. Could I give it up entirely? Only if it were life or death!

  5. As the phrase goes “…everything in moderation”! From almost every perspective yes, I think the internet has had a positive affect on my life. Early on there were moments (nay, years) when it was too consuming, but necessary because of my career. In time, that takes care of itself and I think I’ve managed to ride the fine line – it isn’t my first thought each day (nor is the cell phone), but is great to have when I need to find answers fast. I still read real books, maintain paper calendars and address books. What I enjoy most is the ability to interact with people all over the world whose interests and abilities enhance my life and where possibly I make some difference in theirs.

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