(2021-11-18) Eghbal The Creator Economy
Nadia Eghbal: The creator economy. The “creator economy” popped into our vernacular with surprisingly little moral inquiry, a phrase that is further bleeding into web3 as creators explore new paradigms for ownership. Never before has it been so easy to build a life around making things, and to do so on one’s own terms. From this angle, it’s easy to see how the growth of creators might be a good thing.
The endless pressure to publish in order to maintain social capital creates perverse incentives, which I’ve written about from the perspective of creators themselves. But I haven’t yet tried to articulate how t=∞ might adversely affect culture, from the consumer’s perspective.
If you’re reading books to try to understand something that no one else understands yet, that’s research. But if you’re reading books without any goal in mind, that’s entertainment.
A similar example from the consumer’s side is reading the news: Too much news is fairly useless for the average citizen, and perhaps even actively bad for one’s personal development
Is being a creator like research — directed towards some deeper aspiration — or is it like reading books all day: in other words, entertainment? If it’s the latter, what does it mean to glorify the indefinite pursuit of creation?
Eventually, the nonprofit becomes disincentivized to solve for their mission, because ending homelessness (its ostensible mission) would mean putting the organization’s existence (its actual mission) at risk.
Similarly, I wonder whether the creator economy, as it matures, will resemble less of its original promise (a way for people to do the things they love), in favor of a “creator industrial complex.” Part of the problem is that creativity comes in fits and starts, and can’t always be tamed into a predictable routine. If you’re obligated to create something every day, rather than when it feels right, you’ll start putting things out there that aren’t very interesting in order to fill the space.
I have a growing fear that maybe we’re all just a little too overresourced and understimulated, taking part in the constant onslaught of more content and degenerate internet pranks, whether it’s making a video or blog post, or an NFT or a DAO.
Creators-as-entertainment doesn’t feel so different from the world of record labels and talent agencies that we’re leaving behind. Maybe creators have more agency now, but they’re using that platform to transmit the same messages as before.
When I imagine a cultural renaissance that inspires me, I think about working together to address unsolved questions, tugging on threads in conversations that need unraveling, creating enduring artifacts for generations to pore over and iterate upon.