Art, Technology and the Internet of Things. Part 4 of 4.

In Conclusion

Contemporary popular culture – especially music, film and fashion – is dominated by nostalgia: sequels, “reboots”, “reinterpretations”, and “rehashes” are the norm. Could this be the manifestation of fear of the future, because we inherently know that a future dominated by technology, without mediation by the arts and culture, isn’t somewhere that we necessarily want to go?  Are we subconsciously rebelling against the inevitability of the unmediated Internet of Things?

It is important to consider the actual value of the things that we so freely allow to influence our lives. Consider this:  what would a world without social media look like?  Now contemplate a world without arts and culture.  You see, there are limits placed on joy in a life defined by efficiency, while there are no limits to joy in one defined by expression.  Digital technology undoubtedly provides tools that help us to manage our hectic modern lives, but it is the arts and culture that provide sanctuary from its difficulties. 


View Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

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Art, Technology and the Internet of Things. Part 3 of 4.

Part Three of our series on Art, Technology and the Internet of Things continues to highlight ways in which inclusion of the arts (or the artistic point-of-view) within the Internet of Things can address technology's shortfalls.

Collaboration as Means to Avoid Miscommunication

As its ability to convey nuance is limited, our increasing use of technology has contributed to fissures due to misunderstandings and fractured interactions between people.  As the arts and culture are the original means through which we communicate complex ideas, increasing their presence within technology may provide access to diverse perspectives, advance understanding, and strengthen the sense of community throughout the worldwide web.

  • By helping us to unravel symbols, the arts and culture encourage the development of greater understanding of the inner workings of the world.
  • The arts and culture encourage observation with all senses, as well as with heart and mind, and transcend language and culture, to connect people fundamentally. 
  • The implications for combining code and pixels with metaphor, rhythm, beat, etc. carry the potential to create both immense beauty and forge previously uncharted bonds. 
  • The arts and culture’s focus on universal truths facilitates cross-cultural translation.  Specifically, it can deepen sharing across platforms and boundaries. This will enable increased empathy for those who are different from ourselves, provide opportunities for collaboration and facilitate understanding of issues foreign to our immediate experiences. 
  • Data may be interpreted into stories.  Stories facilitate understanding and there are no better storytellers than artists. 

Collaboration as Means to Discourage Feelings of Isolation

The online world has exponentially expanded the social circle of the average individual, yet many of us feel alienated, despite maintaining hundreds of friends and attracting dozens of followers.  The arts and culture can help us to build authentic connections, in a world filled with those that are superficial. 

Creativity and imaginativeness are not the exclusive provenance of artists.  However, it is artists who traffic in the certain uncertainties of life, and whose work has the ability to heal, connect and decipher matters of heart and soul.  Our talismans, the song, the scene, the sonnet can successfully cure, strengthen and guide us through adversity and uncertainty in ways that the sciences and technology cannot.

  • Technology can bring people to a place, while art and culture find ways to fundamentally connect the people within a place.
  • Art and culture link not just to something, but profoundly to our emotions and to one another.
  • The incorporation of an arts/culture perspective into technology may encourage people to start showing up for one another, instead of just showing off to one another on social media.

View Part 1 and Part 2.

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STEAM Links Tuesday: Stanford School of Medicine's Compassion Journal

"The first publication of its kind, Compassion Journal offers a comprehensive view of compassion in its many forms — including how compassion is expressed in the arts and literature, the latest in the science of compassion, and the gift of compassion in the daily lives of people all over the world."

Art, Technology and the Internet of Things. Part 2 of 4.

Last Wednesday, we began a four-part series on "Art, Technology and the Internet of Things".  This installment, Part Two, highlights ways in which inclusion of the arts (or the artistic point-of-view) within the Internet of Things can address technology's societal shortfalls.

Collaboration as a Means to Lengthen Shortened Attention Spans

In our era of iThings, the “i” may well stand for “immediate” or “instant”, instead of “Internet”.  We expect to attain everything we want, on demand, and patience is longer considered a virtue.  Society is suffering for our shrinking attention spans in ways that we may not yet fully understand.  These unrealistic expectations of perpetual immediacy may be tempered by arts-tech partnerships.  For example:

  • The idea of “failing better” can be influenced by the draft /edit process, and may encourage more significant gains in each iteration or “edit” than other methods allow. 
  • Technology can facilitate contemplation and comprehension within the artistic environment, through participatory installations or by encouraging repetitive motion and/or thought as a standalone.
  • Technology can encourage focus by providing access to instruction and digital tools that facilitate amateur arts practice.

Collaboration as Means to Make Sense of the Proliferation of Information

We are in a time of the rise of the know-it-all: we want answers instantaneously, without taking the time to contemplate the world around us. We are trained to search, not to explore.  A perspective informed by the arts and culture can provide a sieve through which the immense volume of digital information and data may be filtered, to deepen understanding.  It is the presence of the arts and culture perspective, alongside technology that will truly empower the relationship between human and machine.

  • The mutability of data lends itself to review by artists and culture bearers, who are trained to expose order among ambiguity. 
  • Data requires interpretation and artists are experts in interpreting the living and the ephemeral.  
  • Analysts are not informed with a critical eye in the way that artists are.  Artists read between the lines to find authenticity.
  •  Artists identify themes that are unarticulated by individuals or groups or unidentifiable by a model or algorithm.

View Part 1.

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Art, Technology and the Internet of Things. Part 1 of 4.

Photo by scyther5/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by scyther5/iStock / Getty Images

Very soon, it is believed, everything – animate and inanimate – will be connected through the Internet.  This concept, known as the “Internet of Things”, is lauded as a revolutionary means to advance humanity by boosting efficiency.   Yet this reality, the connection between all things at all times, is nothing new: for millennia, the arts and culture have connected people, places and things across vast distances – and have advanced much more than mere efficiency.  

As technology’s influence ascends in public consciousness, the perception of the importance of the arts and culture to daily American life is waning.  Coders, software developers and other digital professionals have expanded our society’s definitions of creativity.  However, although the idea of creativity is lauded, the work of artists and culture bearers is trivialized as superfluous, out-of-touch, inessential.  The commercial value of art is increasing as dramatically as respect for the intrinsic value of art practice is diminishing.

In 2014, the Pew Research Center published a report on the Internet of Things, featuring predictions for 2025 by thought and business leaders in the technical and academic sectors.  Although no one can predict exactly what the Internet of Things will be, nearly everyone surveyed agreed: that widespread connectivity will be the norm in the future, that our personal information will be collected and used in ways that may both help and hinder us, and that the way we interact with the world around us will be transformed. 

The consequences of a connected future that isn’t holistic, that takes the emotional, spiritual and aesthetic needs of humanity for granted are potentially disastrous.  The unchecked ascent of digital technologies and digital consumerism should be probed by artists and culture bearers, to illuminate both the risks for the global citizenry and the progress that can be derived by a system in which the arts and culture facilitate a checks and balances system for anti-empathetic products and practices. 

Technology has its limits, and it is there where the arts and culture thrive.  After two decades of “disruption” by the advent of digital technology into daily life, artists and culture bearers are armed with the perspective, access and familiarity with digital media, to advance an inclusive future.  Collaborations between the arts/culture and technology sectors may address some of the societal concerns and heal the societal ruptures brought on by digital technologies. 

Parts Two and Three of this series will specifically address four ways in which these cross-sector collaborations can transform our current realities.


It Makes Us Wonder

Is the decline in fiction readers directly related to the decline of empathy in our society?

Literature, with its ability to highlight our universal experiences, is a powerful tool for the advancement of empathy and the building of interpersonal bonds.

How can we encourage the exploration of authors' alternate worlds, in an age where data retains ultimate authority?  What do you think?

It's Critical

In the recent past, traditional liberal arts education was merely undervalued. Today it’s being attacked outright, as the prioritization of applied approaches to education gain prominence in academic and economic dialogues.  Contemporary wisdom dictates that our youth should be directed toward STEM fields, but we at WÆRK believe that the dearth of the critical thinking, which is the fruit of a liberal arts education, is creating a crisis.

Using social media as a megaphone, anyone can broadcast his or her opinion to the world.  Too frequently, these often critical opinions are neither mediated by deep contemplation nor empathetic consideration. Broad context is often ignored, due to the rapid pace of online communication and unfamiliarity with bridging ideas that is nurtured through training in critical thought.  People “don’t read the comments” because they know that base, anonymous criticism drags dialogue into the gutter.  Online trolls may assault the ego, but they destroy the development of fecund conversations and communities.

As we face an increasing glut of information, the critical thinking education that is viewed as so disposable will, in fact, be more relevant than ever.  A background in critical thinking can help us weed through crap to find quality.  It may provide a checks and balances system for the increasingly unfettered digital economy, by encouraging wholesale consideration before judgments are made.  It may, invigorated by intertextuality online and off, encourage a richness of culture and conversation.

Photo by WÆRK

"Creative" Doesn't Cut It

Artists and culture bearers, I think it’s time to revise the lexicon; “creative” just doesn’t cut it anymore.   The language of creative economies advanced by Richard Florida, and widely adopted by the tech sector, runs roughshod over the relevance of artists and culture bearers and suppresses their influence.

These “new” creative industries are thriving financially, while the traditional creative industries are witnessing the devaluation of artistic skills and the disappearance of professional opportunities.  There is an inverse relationship between the declining viability of careers in the arts and culture in major U.S. cities and the increase in artistic references (often without attribution or context) in the marketplace. 

We must find the means to articulate the necessity of the artist and the culture bearer in the marketplace, our communities and our individual lives. We must innovate broadly to create opportunities for these highly-skilled professionals.  We must develop language to elevate issues relevant to artists and culture bearers, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of the creative economies.

WÆRK uses the term “artisanal creative” to refer to artists and culture bearers, but we’d love to hear your suggestions. Please share them in the comments.

Photo by WÆRK