Meaningless Creativity

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In places where I can, I introduce myself as a creative technologist because it describes all I do better than any job title can. But beyond that, beyond being creative with technology, the term describes the intersectionality of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) with Art at the forefront.

My interpretation of putting art at the forefront of these disciplines is that the end result of combining them is a product that can be exhibited in a realm of arts and crafts. Something a lay man with no understanding of how it came to being can appreciate and possibly desire to own. This is how I imagine creative technology.

For some, building the skills required for the kind of creative art I relish comes a lot easier especially when it’s what they’ve had to work with or what they studied in college. One of such art is generative art. For a lot of software engineers who are bound to building and architecting traditional web apps for software companies, they are often stuck on improving the skills valuable to make them better at their daily jobs.

There’s so much going on already at every stack of software engineering from deciding between React, Vue, Svelte, Web Components, to deciding what database to use, to what provisioning tool to use. I am one of such engineers still figuring out the best ways to stay on top of skills I need to be good enough at what I’m getting paid for, as well as the skills I simply just need to scratch my artistic itch, hoping they may be applicable for work some day.

Various people have unique learning styles and one that I’ve found that works for me and I think for a lot of other people, is pragmatic (active) learning. Learning through experimentation. I can only speak for myself but it is incredibly difficult to pick up a book to learn a skill without trying and failing at it first. This is why I resolved that the best way to learn these skills I desire is by making things even when they are meaningless.

Steve Gardner (whose work I follow closely) talks about building meaningless things in his video here.

This along with Simone Giertz’s “Why you should make useless things” are big motivations for the kinds of projects I work on

I am by no means at a point where I’ve made enough pointless/useless/meaningless things as I would want and as such, I am behind on the skills I aim to polish from doing that.

When I realized my creative interest, I was living in Nigeria and had the most hours of each of my day were without electricity. This meant I needed to do meaningful things in the little time I could get both electricity and a stable internet connection1. I hated that this was an excuse I had preventing me from my creative dream. After moving to the US, I thought it would be easy to take advantage of the better infrastructure to dive into a world of dedicating a lot of time into research and experimentation. Unfortunately, for someone moving to the US alone with very little funds, it takes a really long while to reach a level stability where that is feasible.

There will always be reasons and excuses why we cannot do the things we want to do. I am finally at a point where I may consider my life to be somewhat stable and yet, it seemed I still could not make time for what I had long desired to do for creativity. There are purchased books to be read, adventures to be had, a dog to be taken care of2, meals to be cooked.

Regardless of the many responsibilities life may put on our shoulders, I believe we can always do those extra things we want to do when we lower our expectations. I lower my creative expectation by starting little projects and knowing I may not complete them in an expected time. However, this does not matter as long as I make fractional contributions until I have a majestic piece.


  1. The internet service providers in Nigeria excel at abrupt interruptions but they can be fairly okay if you are paying them a lot of money. I paid more money monthly in Nigeria than I would for 2 months of internet in the US sometimes just to be able to have a steady connection. ↩︎

  2. I can only imagine when human kids come into our lives. Right now I have to be there for my dog, watch videos on how to be a better dog. It’s an endless learning process for anyone who chooses to parent a human child or a pet. ↩︎

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