putting context to your content

It's easy to be creative these days. Or is it? Because it's not simply enough to have a flair for writing a press release. Good design skills and some knowledge of technology is needed too.

by Matt Bond

I signed up for and started to populate a Pinterest account earlier today. I’m not sure if I’m late or early to the party on this one but hearing some figures which state the content sharing platform is now the third most popular social media site it’s looking very much like the former (I’ll skip over the fact that they were saying this about Foursquare not too long ago – what is happening with that?)

Anyway, I digress, while populating the 200 character profile information section I found myself writing that I’ve got ‘a creative mind but not always the creative skills’. For some reason, this resonated and made me contemplate my creative ‘self’, creativity in general and where it all may be heading as we see much more democratisation of content.

Now, I’m certain that there will always be a special place for that highly skilled photographer, filmmaker or designer, just as there will always be a place for a highly knowledgeable coder, engineer or programmer but for everyone else, those who fall somewhere in between the two (a creative mind without the creative skills perhaps?) we’re going to have to start segueing ourselves somewhere between the two in order to really maximise our own knowledge and therefore the success of our content.

Think about yourself right now. If you would describe yourself as more of a creative, then (if you’re not doing so already) now’s the time to start getting genned up on technology, immerse yourself in what’s coming, in what fields, and learn how it’s going to help you tell your story. (Better still, learn to use the latest technology to this end, and fast!) Likewise, technologists have to start thinking creatively in order for their tech skills to be accepted by the masses (for an example just look at many Apps – technical expertise in spades, but the most successful also have more than a dash of creative genius too.)

Myself? I’d say I was a creative thinker, or perhaps that should be a creative tinkerer? With a background in journalism, I can create a pretty good written account when required, I take a decent photo and have a good eye for design, I know my way around film and can edit, so yes I have a creative streak, but to label myself a true creative, I’m not so sure. (I think perhaps I lack the patience to be ever deemed a true ‘artist’)

But perhaps I, and others who I know are of a similar ilk, are becoming the norm? It’s becoming clear day-by-day that the boundary between creative and technology is blurring and that you don’t have to be a creative expert in order for your content to be successful.

For example, to be a professionally successful, independent photographer or videographer nowadays you not only have to know how to capture a stunning image but you also have to keep up-to-date with the ever advancing progress of image capture technology to stay at least on par with your competitors. Equally important is that you  embrace an increasingly large variety of social media platforms to develop networks and to give yourself more influence and reach online. (Both will equal more customers after all). The creator has to become a technical expert too.

Here’s a case in point. Have you heard about the new Lytro camera which, through the capture of the ‘entire’ light field, rather than the traditional ‘one’, allows you to capture an image and then set your point of focus later? This will have a massive impact on photography, and while it’s just in its first iteration at present, it is only expected to become more advanced, be better quality and ultimately the technology will become common place in all digital, mirrorless cameras (the SLR is dying out!; in case you hadn’t noticed)

Google too will, in the near future, be releasing augmented reality glasses that will be able to film and take photographs of whatever you’re seeing and to instantly upload these to the web to share, among a list of many, many other attributes. That this will bring about a major shift in what is socially or even morally acceptable is pretty much a given, they will cause a massive social stir, but that’s for a future post!

You also need to start thinking about adding context to your content. It’s OK to be able to tell your story but how are you going to bring it to life? What detail are you going to add that makes your story stand out from the rest?

Advances in mobile sensor technology is one of the areas expected to boom in the coming years. Your mobile device will soon come equipped with a massive variety of sensors including thermometer, barometer, advanced accelerometer, heart rate monitor etc. It will be able to not only snap a quick picture or video clip but will also tell viewers where you were when you took it, what the weather was like, how fast you were travelling, what your heart rate was at the time etc etc.

Essentially, content is being given more contextual value. It’s no longer about just the ‘who’ created it, it’s now about the where, the when, the why and how. All of that will become automatically linked to each piece of content too.

So, what’s the conclusion of this post? Well, to be honest I’m not so sure there is one. There’s no doubt we’re on a creative journey, most of us in the communications’ world have bought the ticket and boarded the aircraft. But while the ultra-creatives and technologists turn left to spend their journey in perfect isolation, where does this leave the rest of us?

As the democratisation of culture and content creation continues apace, we have to start making ourselves and our stories stand out from the crowd – it’s up to us to break out of the silos of creative or technologist and start to make ourselves expert in both. Thinking about how to add context to your creative and technological journey would be a very good place to start.

Matt Bond is Communications Specialist at Cornwall Council. He also blogs here.

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