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Where culture dreams

Channelling William Gibson and Kevin Kelly at Belgrade Design Week, Jeremy Ettinghausen of BBH & BBH Labs looks at bohemias in the physical world and online. To be creative demands time and space, but with creativity also comes the obligation to create difference.

Where culture dreams

  1. 1. WHERE CULTURE GOES TO DREAM Belgrade Design Week Jeremy Ettinghausen, BBH Labs @bbhlabs/@jeremyet BBH Labs Thanks for inviting BBH to Belgrade. I hope you’re not going to be disappointed that the next 30 minutes is not going to be filled with a showreel of adverts from the last 30-odd years. But I will show you one advert that is important to BBH as an agency and important for this talk.
  2. 2. This was the first ad we did for Levi’s back in 1982 and has come to be emblematic for BBH and our belief in the power of difference. Not simply difference for the sake of it, but difference to create space for brands to grow.
  3. 3. I arrived at BBH from a very different place, Penguin Books. Publishing is a very traditional industry operating in a period of massive change. As Penguin’s first Digital Publisher I got to draw on blank canvas unencumbered by precedent. There were no rules and freedom to experiment.
  4. 4. WILD WEST It was like the wild west, with the whole digital frontier open and available. I could do things that were different because there was the space to do so. I also got to work with one of my favourite authors and there’s a passage from his book All Tomorrow’s Parties that I wanted to talk about today.
  5. 5. Bohemias. Alternative subcultures. They were a crucial aspect of industrial civilization in the previous two centuries. They were where industrial civilization went to dream... But they became extinct ... Authentic subcultures required backwaters, and time, and there are no more backwaters William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties This passage, this thought is about difference and space - the need to have spaces where creative people can experiment with different ways of doing things, different dreams. Gibson is talking about the physical world, real urban places and now we’re in a post-industrial, post-geographical world, so I thought we could look at bohemias in the physical world (‘meatspace’) and see whether comparable space to dream exists in the digital world (‘cyberspace’ - another Gibson invention).
  6. 6. Text A sort of unconscious R&D, exploring alternate societal strategies. Meatspace The Bauhaus movement The Kibbutz movement Burning Man
  7. 7. “We consider ourselves not just a company running a website where one can post links and discuss them, but the government of a new type of community.” Yishin Wong, CEO, Reddit Cyberspace Reddit Second Life Real Name policies on Google and Facebook
  8. 8. Each one would have a dress code, Meatspace Punks
  9. 9. Cyberspace Avatars & Duckface
  10. 10. characteristic forms of artistic expression, Meatspace Merry Pranksters Beat Poets artists and photographers of Montmartre etc
  11. 11. Cyberspace Every meme a characteristic form of artistic expression The GIF
  12. 12. a substance or substances of choice, meatspace Brassai with opium in paris Opiates always a popular bohemian choice Red wine and benzedrine for the beats LSD for the hippies
  13. 13. Cyberspace Artisanal coffee? Red Bull? Mountain dew? Prescription pharms? No, approval is the drug that keeps the internet ticking over...
  14. 14. sexual values at odds with the culture at large meatspace
  15. 15. cyberspace cybersex
  16. 16. and they did frequently have locales with which they became associated meatspace Montparnasse Mitte
  17. 17. Greenwich village North Beach Soho
  18. 18. And of course Skardarlija right here in Belgrade
  19. 19. Cyberspace Every social network is its own closed circle
  20. 20. The darknet And like the real world often viewed with suspicion and hostility by ‘the culture at large’
  21. 21. Eve Online - ‘what happens when the biggest trolls on the internet are given access to an advanced economy and spaceships’
  22. 22. Difference Needs Space Parallels between physical world and digital world shows that difference needs space to thrive - as Gibson says, time and backwaters, but...
  23. 23. There are no more backwaters. the backwaters are disappearing in the physical world. Commoditisation of cool and of property. Everywhere looks the same. A mobile phone shop on every corner.
  24. 24. Who owns the future? Jaron Lanier Cyberspace also crowded. More video content uploaded each hour than an individual can watch in a lifetime. Trillions of web pages. Billions of domain names. Where are the backwaters? Where’s the space?
  25. 25. The good news - it’s all space, it’s all backwaters
  26. 26. Space Needs Difference It’s what we do with those spaces that’s important. Own your own domain name, own some hosting, stay private, stay independent. The world doesn’t need another facebook app or duckface. Difference needs space, but space needs creative people to stay weird, stay different.
  27. 27. ‘Today truly is a wide open frontier. It is the best time EVER in human history to begin.’ Kevin Kelly It’s a great time to be alive and creative on the internet. The foundations are there, but we’re only just beginning. I called this talk ‘where culture goes to dream’. We, the creatives, are the dreamers. It’s our responsibility to create the spaces for us to dream, dream different and dream big.
  28. 28. THANK YOU Jeremy Ettinghausen, BBH Labs @bbhlabs/@jeremyet BBH Labs

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