Well-meaning people casually mention “content creators” and “making content” and I don’t think they mean to reduce art and humanity to an assembly line.
And yet with those words, they do.
Maybe most people knowingly toil to feed lumps into profit machines, eager to earn something in a society that’s gone sideways.
Maybe art died and human expression can’t exist without an ulterior motive.
But I don’t think so.
Even as AI brings empty promises of technology closer and closer, even as we can smell its hot silicon breath, people dare to labor and struggle to create with inefficiency and will and commitment.
Every “be sure to like and subscribe” is a grim reminder that The Algorithm demands and rewards fresh units that can be consumed, and I don’t fault a person for wanting to earn something for the time they put into their work, or to nurture a stream of income doing something they might enjoy.
But we can choose better words, sturdier words, soulful words, for what they do. Something important is lost when we use the lens of the algorithm profiteer to see a steady supply of revenue opportunity.
Were Eadweard Muybridge and Marcel Duchamp and Marina Abramovic creating content? Were Bob Dylan and Thích Quang Duc and Maya Angelou content creators? Each of us has a story and the uniquely-human capacity for expression that can challenge or comfort or inspire. It’s powerful and messy and stirring enough that just reading some of those names may make your heart flutter.
They cannot be squished into boxes that move down a line with Vrbo ads.
I don’t care if it’s the Sistine Chapel or a sassy TikTok, the enduring value isn’t revenue potential and I want to believe we all know that.
They are not creating content. They are writing and singing and sculpting and performing and recording and dancing and editing and color grading and animating and sketching and reviewing and teaching and painting and carving and reinventing and capturing and playing and sharing.
They are not content creators. They are artists and observers and teachers and critics and scientists and reporters and always, always human beings daring to make something distinctly and wondrously human.