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The Column icon The Column: Issue 59

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

Today, the first day of 2008, sees the launch of creativeiworld, a new Internet destination where anyone who has produced original work is given the opportunity to share their work with others. I talk here of my motivation and reasons for launching
creativeiworld as a distinct site rather than integrating it with AbleStable, and my vision of how creativeiworld will develop.

The Public Forum

Guildhalls were once common public buildings in the UK where initially people paid their taxes and sold goods. They evolved to become vibrant contexts not only to exchange commercial products, but also to share cultural activities.

In more recent times, the more localized and smaller "community hall" with its emphasis on non-commercial activities contributed to the demise of the Guildhall. This together with the community hall's less central location as compared with the Guildhall which was always located at the very heart of the town, resulted in the loss of an important forum of cultural exchange.

The dominance of the marketplace in capitalism has resulted in a lessoning of social interaction as emphasis is placed on the sale of products for money over the exchange of goods and information. From the very early days of the Internet it became clear that re-establishing the social network which countered this trend was a fundamental human need.

Creative Community

I have long since planned a social network at AbleStable, but after work was underway it became clear the best approach was to deliver a distinct website with a single focus. AbleStable is a very broad site with hundreds of free resources, a directory of creative professionals, online exhibitions and more. The directory has a restricted membership of those wishing to sell their creative services. The directory is the "hook" that often gets people to the site as they either search for creative professionals, or they are a creative professional who wants to be listed. Once visitors arrive they start browsing the site and realize there's a lot more than the directory. They tell their friends and colleagues about the site, who in turn tell their friends - and so AbleStable has grown to become a major Internet destination for creative people.

In contrast to AbleStable, creativeiworld is not a website with resources that assist in the creative process. creativeiworld is the context where creative work is published, shared, and where those people who have developed original work can exchange advice and ideas with others doing the same. Artists and creative professionals are welcome to feature their work alongside those who are showing their work for the first time. It is a creative community without the tight editorial control which defines the content at AbleStable. The only limiting factor is that content must be suitable for a general audience.


In common with AbleStable there is no site advertising or affiliate links at creativeiworld. So where's the revenue flow? How does the site make money? The simple answer is that it doesn't. AbleStable and creativeiworld are not built as commercial ventures - unlike the software company 2BrightSparks I co-founded.

In developing AbleStable and creativeiworld I am motivated by the ambition to develop destinations where my values are expressed, contexts where my view of the world potentially influences others, and the opportunity of making a positive difference to our understanding and experience of one another. I believe that constructive communication is vital for our survival and betterment, and that creativity is a crucial quality in humans that provides the context to encourage this.


creativeiworld is run on a not-for-profit basis. Looking to the longer term it will be necessary to develop a constitution, register as a non-profit entity, and gain local, regional, and national governmental support to achieve its potential. When market forces come into play in the form of advertising and sponsorship, the nature of any activity changes as commercial pressures and agendas come into play. It is crucial that creativeiworld remains detached from the commercial world as its purpose is not to sell, but to share.

In common with AbleStable, anyone appreciating creativeiworld is encouraged to make a contribution to Oxfam International.


creativeiworld is as much about the real as the online world. The first phase was to launch the website, the second which is currently underway is to develop a prototype installation which shows work from creativeiworld in a visual exhibition that will be accessible in public areas in towns and cities. The exhibitions will be professionally curated to provide a rich 15 to 20 minute looping presentation of photographs, movies, images, and text.

The first prototype installation will be made in my home town and will consist of two back to back 50 inch high-definition monitors placed at eye level within a secure weatherproof curved metal casing approximately 2 meters in height. The installation will be easily movable on retractable wheels and the technology to feed the monitors will be housed inside the casing. The overall design will be attractive yet highly robust with added safety glass positioned in front of the monitor screens and rubber edge buffers at the base. The price of the prototype will be around £5,000 (around $10,000) which represents a sound investment given the very high volume of potential participants and audience reach.

The installation is planned to be situated in the town shopping area which enjoys around 22 million footfalls per year. It is important that the installation is experienced "on the street" rather than presented in a cultural building like a gallery which significantly restricts the audience demographic. The aim of creativeiworld is to be inclusive and the intention is to encourage contributions from as broad a range of people as possible.

The installation will have a minimal "footprint" and will have little impact in reducing available commercial space. There will be no advertising on the installation and only one web address will be embossed below the monitor screens on each side of it:

People will be encouraged to visit creativeiworld and upload their poems, pictures, photography etc. Work will then be selected and shown both on the website and when the general public view the installation. Audio will not form part of the real world exhibitions, however audio will be presented on the website. Music and audio is far more intrusive than visual content in a public context. Insisting on an audio element would otherwise significantly reduce the installations acceptance in many public areas.

The third and final phase will be to build multiple creativeiworld installations which will be located in towns and cities across the UK, then US, and finally across Europe and other continents. My ambition is to see creativeiworld as a significant Internet destination and its installations present in cities across the globe. People will not only have the opportunity of viewing their own work in accessible exhibitions that feature work from their local and regional areas, they will also share and communicate with other members of creativeiworld from all over the world.

The Art world has long distanced itself from being of interest to the average citizen by its support of work which has little relevance or resonance with the general public. Art is often viewed of as a specialist activity. It is the purpose of AbleStable and creativeiworld to provide the context, tools, and environment for everyone to explore their creativity, and in so doing, to encourage greater communication and understanding between us.


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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