Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?

What role will human creativity play in an increasingly AI-driven world? At the heart of this inquiry lies the delicate balance between technological progress and the preservation of our inherent ingenuity. It was against this backdrop that a quartet of preeminent creators and thought leaders convened at SXSW 2024 to explore the shifts redefining the landscape of content creation and the internet itself.

Panel Description: The Internet was created for human interconnectivity. But what happens when AI-induced content farms and creators contribute to an ever-expanding sea of fluff that says…nothing? Individuality replaced by regurgitation. Thought leaders turned into thought users. In this panel, creators from diverse backgrounds—journalism, digital, marketing—discuss the Internet’s state of crisis and how we can take better responsibility for the ripples we produce. They’ll get deep into what we’ve all been thinking but are too afraid to talk about. Because everyone is wondering: Can our World Wide Web be saved?

“Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?” panel at SXSW 2024.

Moderated by Kerrie Finch, the panel brought together a array of perspectives from Chris Do, CEO of The Futur, Flavia Barbat, Editor-in-Chief of Brandingmag and Holly Fraser, the VP of Content and Editor-in-Chief at WeTransfer. What ensued was a riveting discourse that cut to the core of the creative process and its inextricable link to the evolving AI ecosystem.

Quality in an Age of Content Saturation

From the outset, Barbat painted a stark portrait of the modern internet, a realm where “quantity trumps quality day and night.” Her words carried a palpable concern over the proliferation of “proprietary content farms” and the insidious notion of “too long, didn’t read” content, warning that such trends risked undermining fundamental human values like “intuition and intellect.”

Yet, amidst this seeming deluge of mediocrity, Do struck a contrarian chord, championing the internet’s unparalleled democratization of content creation. “I love the internet,” he proclaimed. “It is one of the most democratic places for content to exist.” This dichotomy set the stage for a nuanced exploration of the delicate interplay between human creativity and the encroaching realm of artificial intelligence.

Chris Do, CEO of The Futur at “Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?” panel at SXSW 2024.

The Conundrum: Friend or Foe?

When the discourse turned to AI’s impact on the creative process, the panelists offered a kaleidoscope of perspectives. Barbat sounded a cautionary note, suggesting that while AI technologies may reflect and amplify human behaviors, they also risk undermining core values of intention and intellect. “If you’re not looking at the direction that it’s giving you and truly learning from the process of its corrections or its updates, then I think it’s kind of missed the point,” she cautioned.

Flavia Barbat, Editor-in-Chief of Brandingmag at “Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?” panel at SXSW 2024.

In stark contrast, Do embraced AI as a powerful ally in the creative journey, envisioning a future where these technologies could facilitate personalized learning experiences and help individuals discover their unique creative niches. He recounted his dream of developing “AI-specific TAs that can help people with their assignments,” a vision that exemplified the harmonious potential of human-AI collaboration.

Offering a grounded counterpoint, Fraser acknowledged the double-edged nature of AI’s ascendance. While recognizing its capacity to democratize content creation, she also warned of the darker undercurrents it could unleash, such as the amplification of hate speech and extremism. “It allowed everyone to put out whatever they wanted, and I do think that, you know, taste is subjective,” she reflected. “What I think is quality is not going to be what you think is quality.”

Moderator and panelists at “Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?” panel at SXSW 2024.

Authenticity: Preserving the Human Essence of Creativity

Amidst the abundance of content flooding the digital sphere, the panelists grappled with the profound challenge of maintaining authenticity and quality. Fraser offered a poignant reminder that creativity is an inherent human trait, one that cannot be replicated by even the most advanced technologies. “Creativity is an inherent human trait that we have in all of us that has been there since the beginning of time,” she asserted, underscoring the enduring value of human ingenuity.

Do echoed this sentiment, advocating for a raw, unvarnished approach to online expression. Drawing from his own experiences, he shared, “I’m almost sloppy with my words, and it’s okay for me because I’m just trying to have a conversation with someone, and that’s how I would normally talk.” This unapologetic authenticity, he argued, fostered a deeper sense of connection, transcending the curated perfection that often dominates digital spaces.

In a powerful anecdote, Barbat recounted her philosophy of empowering human voices within organizations, fostering a culture of quality thought leadership and authenticity. “Even on the brand side, there is some extraordinary stuff that can happen when you focus on creating great quality content with the thought leaders that are across your organization,” she shared. This inside-out approach, she contended, could yield a potent antidote to the homogeneity that plagues much of modern content creation.

Moderator and panelists at “Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?” panel at SXSW 2024.

Strategies Embracing the Future

As the conversation turned towards envisioning the future of content creation, the panelists offered a wealth of practical insights and strategies for creators seeking to thrive in the evolving landscape. Barbat challenged her peers to consider the broader societal implications of their work, posing the provocative question, “Are we contributing the kinds of values and behaviors that you want to see in an overall society?”

Do, ever the pragmatist, embraced an ethos of adaptability and collaboration, advising creators to “learn to work with it, adapt or die.” He shared specific tactics for leveraging AI in content creation, from generating compelling titles and thumbnails to streamlining research processes. His approach exemplified the delicate balance between harnessing technological innovation and preserving the human-centric core of the creative endeavor.

Fraser underscored the pivotal role brands could play in fostering a more vibrant and representative creative ecosystem. She emphasized the importance of brands actively funding and amplifying diverse voices, facilitating the creation of original, resonant content that might otherwise remain unheard. “If brands can be more involved in this space, they can be part of the solution to getting more creativity and more original creativity out there,” she asserted.

Kerrie Finch and Holly Fraser, the VP of Content and Editor-in-Chief at WeTransfer at “Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?” panel at SXSW 2024.

The Enduring Power of Human Creativity

While the digital age has ushered in a period of unprecedented disruption, the enduring power of human creativity remains undiminished. The challenges posed by AI and the ever-evolving digital ecosystem are formidable, but they also present opportunities for those willing to adapt, collaborate, and maintain a steadfast commitment to authenticity and quality.

In the words of Flavia Barbat, “If you have the potential, then you also have the responsibility.” It is this ethos of intentionality and accountability that must guide creators as they navigate the uncharted waters of the new creative frontier.

Chris Do’s parting wisdom, “adapt or die,” serves as a rallying cry for those willing to embrace change while staying true to the inherently human aspects of their craft. And Holly Fraser’s call for brands to amplify diverse voices echoes the imperative to foster a more inclusive, representative creative landscape.

Kris Krüg and Chris Do at SXSW 2024 in Austin Texas

As the digital age marches onward, the SXSW panel’s insights offer a roadmap for preserving the essence of human creativity while harnessing the power of emerging technologies. It is a delicate dance, to be sure, but one that holds the key to unlocking a future where human ingenuity and artificial intelligence coexist in harmonious symbiosis, propelling the creative endeavor to new heights of innovation and cultural impact.

1 thought on “Broetry, Content Farms, TL;DR—Is the Internet OK?”

  1. uncleweed – making poems, paints, postcards and pods in a storehouse barn in a forgotten corner of Japan and sharing elsewhere with endless goodness and affection. hooray personal archeology.
    uncleweed says:

    Thanks for taking us in your backpack to the panels and breaking down the nuanced report.
    I have a *very long attention span* and dig long-form, deep- thinking, challengingly-engaging “content” which may take months or years to really understand or “consume” (from War and PEace to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History where the “addendum episodes” are 4+ hours.

    And, as I discussed in one of my spiels years ago “Art and Tech are Old Pals” and (odd as it seems) from pencils to tubed oil paints to word processors, blah blah blah – there’s always some getting used to newness and figuring how can benefit personal expression and (perhaps) the world at large.

    All that said, I’ve definitely become more insular in my use of the Internet and really publishing for myself, and *whoever wants to look over my shoulder is welcome to* – fast cuts and short riffs just ain’t my thing so much – in other words, using the Internet as a public notebook and then crafting a creative life archive for the long now.

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