Happy accidents

Today I had a fascinating conversation that touched on how art and craftsmanship change as new technology allows an artistic process to evolve from manual techniques to more “instantaneous” and automated alternatives.

For example, when a film is shot on location, happy accidents can arise from the very difficulty of framing your shot in the real world. Perhaps there is an unexpected car or lamppost in the scene that must be shot around, or else incorporated into the frame. This very challenge can lead to new ideas.

If the set were computer simulated, and the lighting designed in post-production (two options that are becoming ever more readily available), such happy accidents might never occur. The argument could be made that convenient “improvements” in process can actually impoverish the outcome.

A counterargument could be made based on the following observation: A novelist experiences no such production hurdles. Yet the author, upon writing part of a scene one morning, might later that day have a random conversation or encounter which provides, the very next day, a new insight into how to complete her scene.

So perhaps we do not need to fear that evolving technologies will debase our art. The happy accidents that lead us to discover our best artistic impulses come not from the complication of dealing with the world around us, but rather from our own complicated human responses to that world.

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