DebateCreativity in fetters

Creativity in fetters

Reading time: 2:00min | Only disobedience will rescue creativity. Don’t paint yourself in the corner.

Pinterest is a search engine for images. The idea is simple: Pinterest helps you to find images from different areas to illustrate ideas. The pictures, or ideas for that matter, can then be attached to a digital pinboard on Pinterest’s website which can be shared with other Pinterest users: pin and interest together give Pinterest.

For my work, I often need pictures that illustrate my ideas. In connection with short texts, so-called mood boards are created, which communicate quickly and clear. Pinterest is an excellent resource for this.

All would be said about Pinterest if Pinterest did not fail again and again. For example, I am looking for pictures on the subject of mother and child in the kitchen. Because for some reason, the kitchen is supposed to be in the so-called country house style, I write in the search mask: Mother, child, kitchen, country house style. I get hundreds of suggestions, 95% of which are furnishing suggestions. That is due to the term country house style. Pinterest has learned from its users that country house kitchens are more critical than mothers and children. To get a usable result, I have to fool the algorithm. I write again: kitchen, mother, photography. Now I find lots of pictures showing a mother with children in a kitchen, and with a bit of luck, the kitchen will fit in with the country house style I’m looking for.

Picture: Hans von Sonntag

Taking that detour would not be a significant problem at first if Pinterest didn’t create a profile about me and my search behaviour after some time. This profile will sort out a lot of suggestions from the very beginning. For example, because I have never asked about Bauhaus kitchens, but I was once interested in garden ideas, Pinterest thinks I am a country house diehard. That has implications for all other subjects I might be searching for. In the end, and this does not take very long, I begin to think of myself that only the country house style best reflects the real me.

The desire to please me is Pinterest’s business model. The logical consequence is that diversity and creativity fall by the wayside. In the end, we all end up in self-made niches that eerily coincide with the niches of others. Categories are emerging – from which there is no escape. Once a country house, always a country house.

This congruence creates a reality that would not exist without the data from us users and then feeding the data into the algorithm. Thus, the reality of our creative orbit is not created by humans but by machines. Today our creativity is driven by digital big brothers who, in the spirit of George Orwell, make it clear to us that kitchens must be in a country house style, just as war is peace.

We’re be watched more than ever. Mostly not for safety. Photography: Tomy2, Getty Images

What to do? First of all, civil disobedience helps. I have got into the habit of regularly confusing Pinterest with funky searches. That brings back some diversity. What a preposterous workaround.