Hot Links | Innovating the Everyday | Busting Fake News | Singularity vs. Culture | Algorithms and Bias

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Some are new, some are not.  Nonetheless, all of the articles linked to below are currently fueling our ideas for/discussions on arts-led innovation.

Eyebeam announced their inaugural residents in a pilot program "that takes an artist-led approach to fighting misinformation and fake news”.

A Strategy + Business article reminds us of the necessity to innovate “the mundane”, and the value of improving the systems we utilize daily.

MIT Media Lab’s Joichi Ito on the dangers of singularity and the worship of A.I., with a call to action to "depend less on the accumulation of power and resources and more on diversity and the richness of experience” (our italics).

More from MIT today (and more disturbing information about A.I.): Nova reports on how human bias has been translated into artificial intelligence, and the scientists that are attempting to correct the issue.  

Pop Culture is Homogeneous and Quantification is to Blame

This is what happens when pop culture is quantified: a cycle of sameness that’s approaching critical mass.  The hackneyed beliefs that deftness with digits implies authority and that algorithms hold the answers are costing us dearly.  To be tethered to quantification is to be risk-averse.  It is to be inoculated against the essence of creativity.

Let’s look at the evidence.

Popular Film

Hollywood is insistent on churning out remake after remake, like a fast food chain that produces empty art instead of calories.  Its merchandising machine, designed to buffer the risk of disappointing box office receipts, distracts the public from the substance of the films it’s created to support.  The executives running Hollywood don’t have the patience to wait for box office receipts to grow, and no longer allow films the time to find their audiences. 

Popular Music

Turn on the radio and you’ll be struck by not only the monotony of the songs, but the sameness of the sound.  Not surprisingly, most of it is made by a handful of producers whose anonymous work is catchy and mundane in nearly identical ways.

Popular Photography

Editorial photography is dominated by the same names, doing the same things. They’re holding fast, instead of charting new territory, probably because publishers are risk-averse at a time that’s financially challenging for most magazines. 

Meanwhile the editorial ethos is being replicated blandly on social media.  Influencers across the globe use filters and flashes in attempts to duplicate the moods of Terry Richardson’s night life, Mario Testino’s sunscapes and Tim Walker’s sugary palette.  The artificial brightness of this Instagram fodder bleaches imperfections and erases depth to cultivate the all-important personal brand, incite covetousness and sell something.

Popular Nightlife

Two words: Brooklyn aesthetic.  Is there anything more uninspired than the globalization of “Brooklyn Cool”?

Popular Fashion

To quote Calvin Klein: "When I see motorcycle jackets for $2,000 that are distressed or ripped jeans from couture designers, I think to myself, 'Are they kidding me?' We've been doing this for 30 years. It's not new," he said. "I understand why it's young and cool, but there is a thing about respect for women and trying to make women look as beautiful as they possibly can, and also [creating] new things. There's a lot that's going on that's disappointing" (italics ours).

Popular Journalism and Prose

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you can’t judge a digital article by its title: the headline has devolved into a path to an advertisement.  Writers are forced to adhere to SEO at the expense of both message and craft, even though the increasing sophistication of search engines renders it largely unnecessary.  Meanwhile as magazines and newspapers struggle to gain readership, advertorial publications produced by consumer brands rise.  

What is this doing to the way we absorb information?  What is this doing to our ability to communicate and think in nuanced ways?  The advent of advertisement everywhere is suppressing quality creativity and impairing our abilities to connect – with ideas and with one another in significant ways.  The quantification of fundamentally qualitative products and services strips them of their true value and renders their creators impotent.

If everywhere becomes a point of sale, what do we become?

What can we do to change this? 

We can acknowledge the fallibility of data. The best expressions of human life are never formulaic and yet here we are, relying on algorithms. Because we are unpredictable beings, the only thing continued reliance on numbers will ensure is that change is inhibited.

The public and private sectors must begin to prioritize qualitative measurements as valid key performance indicators for arts/culture products and services.  This will nurture the development of diversity and enrich the quality of popular culture.

We’re all searching for meaning – for ourselves, for our families, for our communities and from the world.  Every experience we seek and every product we buy is driven by this quest.  Instead of stalking us with advertisements, it would be more effective for businesses to put as much into the shared creation of meaning as into the production of profit. 


Photo by violetkaipa/iStock / Getty Images

Weekly Links - April 8th, 2016


As we move deeper into April, change is upon us.  The articles that caught our attention this week refer to fundamental shifts in perspective that are essential to securing a sustainable future. Our favourite pieces serve as reminders that algorithms alone are not the answer.

The Chronicle of Higher Education articulates that theatre studies explore and express human actions repressed by technology, and are valuable in the digital age.

The Australian posits that it isn’t STEM but STEAM that will help us to realize our true potential.  That incorporating art/design processes into technical innovation is the best way forward.

Down with clickbait!  Jesse Weaver set Medium alight this week, with a rallying cry for the production of quality content and the empowerment of creative professionals.

We’re grateful for BBC Culture’s introduction to “digital detox zone” Libreria, a retailer that seeks to restore the sense of wonder, conviviality and conversation that are the provenance of the bookstore.