Innovation is not just about science and technology. It's about arts and culture, too. Technological development and the arts have always had a symbiotic relationship. For example, the videocassette recorder (VCR) led to new markets for movies and television. Computer animation was once considered by some to be just a novelty until Pixar came along and redefined the entire genre of animated film.
But how should creativity be measured in the Internet era? Many traditional measures of creativity tended to focus on particular industries, rather than content creation by individuals. This made some sense in the past—producing and widely distributing content was expensive, something only a few broadcasters, newspapers, record labels, and studios were capable of. But today the Internet allows anyone, anywhere to instantly connect with an audience of billions, and more content is being produced on more platforms than ever before.
Researchers are only starting to come to grips with this challenge, and today the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the international business school INSEAD have made an important contribution. In its annual Global Innovation Index—a report that ranks 141 countries based on their innovation capabilities and results—WIPO adds new measures of creativity online. Specifically, the report measures the creation of online content by including two metrics focused on the creation of Internet sites—generic top-level domains and country codes TLDs—and two metrics focused on online participation in the creation of content—Wikipedia edits and YouTube uploads.
This does not solve the problem of how to measure online creativity, let alone its relationship to innovation. But we hope more people will follow this new report's lead and develop methodologies for quantifying online creativity and its contributions to innovation. Robust data are the bedrock of public policy, and 20th century metrics are inadequate measures for the 21st century economy.
As part of the report, WIPO also gave Google the opportunity to offer our thoughts on the role that the Internet plays in driving creativity, and ways to improve measurement:
...output metrics need to more rigorously account for the sheer quantity of art being produced. Today, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, and there are 440 blogs for every autobiography available on Amazon. Yet, if one is measuring only traditional, professional distribution channels, this creativity would not be part of the picture.
Derek Slater is a policy manager at Google.