Evolution of online creation: 2006-now

Digital Art

Do you think back to the early days of the internet with a fond sense of nostalgia? If so, you’re not alone. We’re in the midst of constant evolution, where digital technology is allowing for transformation faster than ever before. But it’s mentality, not technology, that is the primary shift worth talking about, says John Zobele, conceptual internet artist and musician. Not to ignore tech innovation (he points out shifts like YouTube going from 240p to 8k video), but a shift in creation mindset is what has come arguably even further. 

Per Zobele, “instead of making art for art’s sake, you’re making art for an algorithm.” 

Put yourself in a time machine back to 2006, to what Zobele calls the Wild West days of the internet, where you could post anything you wanted and it had the potential for traction amongst early creators. Fast forward to today: content creation is a legitimate career, an industry expected to exceed $16 billion in value by 2025. It’s almost impossible to avoid creating content that you know will sell if you plan to make a living off your digital work, but it’s a sensation more akin to producing for someone else than creating for yourself. 

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Playbar Pyramid, 2021

You know the feeling that everyone on the internet is talking about the same thing as you? Think: 2015’s the dress. I frequently have that feeling, but am quickly taken out of my bubble when bringing up what I think of as a universal topic outside of my internet world. That occurrence is significantly less common than it used to be, thanks to 1) the vast amount of content that exists online and 2) internal echo chambers created by the very platforms where that content is consumed and distributed.

The internet, Zobele argues, used to be a collective. Now, it’s a microcosm of culture operating in different spaces. Therefore, communal moments like the keyboard cat are increasingly unlikely. 

Now what? 2021 and beyond

Don’t get me wrong — more people creating more content allows more voices to be heard, and more incredibly valuable communities to be built. But what happens if we allow ourselves to grow comfortable in our own bubbles? Creativity is harder to come by in a silo.

So, where do we go from here, for those of us who miss the old days of digital creation? Archives help, but only if they exist. That’s why NFTs are so important, says Zobele.

“When you’re young, you make stupid things, then you grow up, and you think you’re cringe…and delete it. Five to 10 years later you want to relive those moments, and want to remember those moments — things come in circles.” 

Here’s to hoping that the new era of digital creation unlocks a lot more exploration, creativity, and communal moments.

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