It’s Better Not Knowing.
It’s likely that a number of people reading our survey spent their childhoods in awe of a seemingly supernatural Magic 8 Ball or a Ouija Board. Perhaps we wanted to know if our grammar school crush would one day be our spouse. Or, maybe we just wanted to know if we’d find career success.
“I don’t want to know. It’s all about surprises. If we knew what was coming it wouldn’t have the magnetism.”
Mark Liney, Group CEO
DesignStudio, a London-based agency
These novelty toys provided entertainment for our fresh minds, but they also pointed to a question that even adults obsess over: what will the future be like?
But this obsession becomes a bit of a paradox when we put a similar question to the adults in our study. Asked if creativity would drive the future of culture, our respondents often paused, chuckled and even implied that they’d look away from a crystal ball into our future (if crystal balls were indeed crystal balls).
“I don’t want to know. It’s all about surprises,” says Mark Liney, the group CEO at DesignStudio, a London-based agency. “If we knew what was coming it wouldn’t have the magnetism.”
Liney’s point about magnetism struck us, and it seems to be the lynchpin that most respondents felt would be missing if clairvoyance were indeed a sixth sense.
Who's really driving?
“Creativity has always shaped culture. I see that being a continuation of what has happened. I think that it will respond to culture and be incorporated in culture,” says Nick Marshall, designer director at Made Thought, a London and New York-based agency. “Creativity is really about sharing ideas with people. It will help the bravest minds and the biggest ideas actually be heard and taken on by other people in culture.”
What frequently emerged across our study was the theme of enabling the bravest minds to help their ideas be heard. This rang true where discussions around DEI, corporate governance and generally creating more equitable commercial and social outcomes were concerned. What resounded clearly was the belief that creativity will push us to evolve culture.
“Creativity is a huge cultural driver and creativity is what inspires people,” says Jolyon Varley, co-founder at OK COOL, a London-based social media agency. “Culture is in a total state of flux, so inspiration and flux is the future, as it always has been in the past, nothing's going to change.”
In 2003, philosopher Nick Bostrom wrote a rather intriguing (read: slightly terrifying) paper titled “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” In it, he argues that we’ll 1) “go extinct before we reach a ‘post-human’ phase,” or 2) “we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.” That was more than twenty years ago, before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al.
Let’s face it, the Metaverse is here whether we believe we’re already living it. Those leading the most impactful brands of today and tomorrow would be remiss to not ask their creative agency partners how this emerging digital world might shape their strategy. But do those partners even know how to respond?
We put this and a few other questions to New York City-based agency Matte Projects. Here’s a conversation between AUFI and Matte Partner and Chief Creative Officer Matthew Rowean (MR), and Matte Director of Partner Development Jenna Trinchini (JT). They help us make sense of the Metaverse and its effect on humanity, economy and the creative services industry.
“I think we're probably going to move away from a world where culture is about wealth or wealth displaying,” says James Greenfield, CEO at KOTO, a London-based agency. “As we move closer and closer into these smaller groups of cultural importance where we're no longer all the same culture all the time, I think creativity will be incredibly important for identity within the tribes with which we position ourselves.”
This mention of tribes or positioning ourselves within groups that have shared sets of values indicates an almost tacit reverence for humankind’s origins. Where creativity has been used for the accrual and cultural proliferation of wealth, we’re now at a crucial moment. The creatives we spoke to suggest that creativity should be pointed at that which ails or vexes us, such as endemic social, environmental and economic issues. A few respondents even made it clear that the very survival of early human culture depended on one brilliant, seemingly impossible creative act.
“I know it’s cliché, but what was one of the first major creative acts? It was fire. That has shaped the way that everything in the world has evolved.”
Emily Jeffrey-Barrett, Founder
Among Equals, a London-based agency
Much like our forebears who somehow had the brilliance to create and harness a flame, we have to use creativity to create a place for culture to carry on.
Still, Jeffrey-Barrett suggests that asking how creativity will shape culture is a bit like trying to hold smoke. “It has always shaped culture and culture has always shaped creativity, because creativity is a response to demand,” she says.
Yes, demand — even a need for something as fundamental as warmth.
“We look for systems and processes that maximise room for magic.”
Founder of Love+Money, a Melbourne-based agency