Culturing Creativity: Technology – Help or Hindrance?

This week on our Culturing Creativity series, we explored the uses of modern technology and creativity to determine whether it is a help or hindrance on the way to becoming a published author. We discussed how we employ technology and how (for the most part) we’d be lost without it!

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Episode Summary:

Main Discussion: Technology

Define Technology

Merriam Webster:

  1. The use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or solve problems.
  2. A machine, piece of equipment, method etc., that is created by technology.

  1. Modern Technology is the advancement of old technology with new additions and modifications and is all about doing things in a much quicker, efficient way by improving the workflow.

Most of what we talk about on this podcast episode refers specifically to modern technology.

Creativity in a World of Technology: Does it Exist? is an interesting article I came across when researching this episode. It raised an interesting question for me. And I thought we could use that question as a jumping off point.

Ashley: It does exist. The fact that people are still creating is proof of this. But, I do understand where this article was coming from. One of the drawbacks of technology is that some people end up not experiencing the world in real life. People are losing touch with offline activities which is often where our experiences/origins of ideas come from. On the flipside, technology allows for so many tools to help enhance creativity.

Sarah: It definitely does! Especially when you think about the fact that if it weren’t for creativity, we wouldn’t have any type of technology. And to further advance technology, creativity is a key aspect. I think the two go hand in hand more than what people think, but it is the way we use technology which either broadens or limits our creativity.

How do we think that technology can enhance imagination and creativity?

Ashley: For me, the main way is through the increased amount of information that is readily available. I think back to earlier editions of our books and the difficulty we had trying to get information about specific topics. But now we have Google, and other online resources so it is so much easier to access. Most of my ideas come from things I’ve read/heard, or interesting historical events I have come across. And now we can access old newspapers with the click of a button. Podcasts give us heaps of interesting deep-dives into a variety of topics. Secondly, the ease of connectivity with other likeminded people is huge. Finding writing groups, finding your audience through social media platforms, meeting technology with lets people from around the world collaborate and be in contact with each other is huge. I think about our journey writing and all the people from around the world we have met and how useful it is to improving motivation and generating new ideas.

Sarah: I barely know where to start with this question, because it encompasses so much. And so I guess I’ll touch on the things I find affect me most, but you could go anywhere with this. Like Ashley said, there definitely is an advantage to having research available at your fingertips. Not only knowing what things look like through google-searching images, but also understanding how things work. I can think of so many things that would be impossible for us without the use of technology—or at least a billion times harder. With our Ancient Greece book, we really rely on it to find articles, to research different places. But then also I feel things like editing would be ridiculously tricky without the use of technology. It’s not like I’ve never taken a red pen to anything, but it’s so much easier to edit, and see what needs editing, when you can simply press the delete button and reword something. And publishing… don’t even get me started! Outside of writing, much of the entertainment industry uses technology. For example, I listen to music with the aid of technology, where I get a lot of inspiration. Sure, before playback devices were invented it didn’t stop people from seeing concerts and the like. But there’s no denying technology makes a lot of entertainment forms available to us on more of an everyday basis. I think at it’s roots, technology becomes an important and pivotal method to publishing and distributing different forms of entertainment. Whether it be movies, music, books, audiobooks, podcasts, radio. For the entertainment industry, and therefore a large part of the creative industry, technology is a vehicle to get the media to the audience.

And, again like Ashley said, connectivity. These podcasts wouldn’t be possible without the technology we use today. I could only imagine what things would be like if we were trying to cowrite across the globe without modern technology—I just picture myself waiting for months for a letter to be delivered by ship that contains our most recent chapters. And, without modern technology (I’m speaking for myself here but I’m sure many people would feel the same) the last few years with the Covid-19 pandemic would have really, really dragged. Because of it, we have been able to connect with people and for the most part, resume our jobs, make purchases without going into stores… you name it. All of this has allowed creativity not only to continue, but to thrive.

Do we have any specific programs/mediums that enhance our creativity?

Ashley: Google maps – you can view any street in the world. I remember trying to find out what certain locations in our book looked like 15 yrs ago. Databases – like scopus, google scholar, jstor etc. Podcasts—the number of ideas I’ve come up with when listening to podcasts are significant. Collaborative work programmes like teams or google docs—the ease of utility of this allowing easy work sharing and real time receipt of feedback.

Sarah: For me I think of mainly the software I use and how impossible it would be to publish without it. Give me a pen and I could write, but there’s no way I could produce a book. We use Microsoft Word to do all our writing (though I know some people hate their program, it seems to work for us!) and I do the interior design formatting using Scrivener. It’s not perfect but we’ve managed to create a very professional looking book with it. My only complaint was the compatibility with Ingram Spark—I had to download a trial version of Adobe Acrobat Pro to convert our PDF file to grayscale, as it still had the CMYK color profiles imbedded in the file even though the interior was black and white anyways, if that makes any sense. And there was no way to change this using Scrivener. And, the internet for sure, which I use in a hundred different ways for researching and editing. One thing we’ve found helpful with co-writing is that we use the same online dictionary—Merriam Webster—to check spelling, word meanings, and even things like hyphenation. If there’s ever an argument about whether a word should be hyphenated or not, we look it up and nine times out of ten it will give us the answer. So that site is permanently bookmarked. But like Ashley said, google maps is a giant help, researching articles, finding images, working out how something works. And, video-calling each other (we use Zoom for this). Garageband for podcast editing, our website is powered by WordPress (though we own our domains and use our own hosting technology).

The drawbacks of technology:

Ashley: It can be overwhelming—too much information coming at you can make you feel handcuffed. I get this sometimes especially when I’m surrounded by so much information that I don’t know what to do with it. It can also be exhausting because people can reach you whenever/wherever you are—sometimes you need a break. Finally, like I mentioned at the start of this podcast, there is something about having visceral experiences. There’s a difference between reading books and looking at maps of the streets of Athens, and actually being in Athens. This can be extended to meeting with people as well. I get a lot of great inspiration chatting with the people in my writers group online/over zoom. But last week, I met with one in a park (following the covid guidelines) and the actual in person contact was so different. And I came away more inspired and with more ideas that I had before.

Sarah: Like most people, I think the biggest problem is how available and how easily contactable you become when having technology. I really like the ability to turn off read receipts, because I hate people knowing exactly when I’ve ‘seen’ their message. But even that’s not fool proof. I delayed answering a friend for a day last weekend because I was honestly just too exhausted, and I didn’t want to be glued to my phone. And then she contacts me again the next day saying she’s worried about me because I didn’t respond. That kind of thing, as an introvert, I find really frustrating because I need the time to recharge, and to actually be able to go about and live my life rather than being glued to my phone! The effect is multiplied, I think, when you live overseas and your family and friends are all in a different country. I love the fact they reach out and keep me included, but it’s a lot of texts and calls to field.

And, as much as I love technology… When it works it’s amazing. When it doesn’t… not so cool. Troubleshooting issues can take a huge amount of time, and we definitely ran into a bunch of problems when we were setting up our book. I’ve said it before, but Apple’s iTunes Connect was the worst for this.

I also agree with meeting people in person being way better than catching up over text—it takes so long to convey an idea over text or email. And there is nothing like living an experience and going to a place if possible to get a feel of it. While the internet is great, there are some things which you can’t get a sense of unless you’ve been there. These are usually trivial things people don’t notice so much, but add to the overall culture of the place. Like, for example travelling in China. You might know from the internet that the streets are busy, that it’s crazy and crowded, and that getting on off buses is a bit of a squish. But you might forget about scooters zipping along the sidewalk which you always have to be wary of, or Tuktuks that ride in the bike lane… things like that can bring a story to life.