The Truth About Datastan

We are in a state in which data reigns supreme. In “Datastan” (to use a term coined by the brilliant Arlene Goldbard) data is king and queen, though the kingdom is propped up by falsehoods.   This misinformation prevents the widespread development of generative, empathetic commerce, inhibits culture and strains community cohesion. 

So, what’s the antidote?  Many of us believe it’s the arts.

The inclusion of artistic perspectives in public and private sector discourse could help us to solve our most pressing issues, on both individual and societal levels, and create the future our children and grandchildren deserve.  But first, we need to drop the following delusions about Datastan:

Data is Objective / Reveals the Truth

Human intervention, even if passive, is required to make sense of data.  Therefore ambiguity is diffused throughout the processes of data quantification, because it is shaped by each interpreter’s experiences.  The “data as objectivity as truth” perspective is rife with flaws, but it illustrates that there is validity in subjectivity.  Acknowledgement of imperfection leads the way toward authenticity, and it is the inclusion of the artist’s intuitive perspective that wholly illuminates human truths.

Numbers Provide the Purest Evidence

Numbers are a form of evidence, but not the only form.  Evidence in its most potent form cannot be quantified.  It’s the provenance of memory, sensation, emotion.  It’s the provenance of the artist. The storyteller has just as much skill, if not more, than the scientist when it comes to deciphering human realities and laying them at our feet for inspection.

Data is Hard (and Therefore Reliable). The Arts are Soft (and Therefore Unreliable).

The idea that because something is "hard", that because it is scientific or technical it epitomizes truth is short-sighted and incorrect.  That which is hard may be strong, but it also acts as a barrier, may be brittle, and is inflexible, rigid and stiff.  That which is soft can also be very strong, and is permeable, adaptable, enjoyable and pliable.  There is truth in ambiguity.  Artists' work veraciously acknowledges the universal ambiguity of our individual human experiences. So you see, when important decisions are being made, there are considerable advantages to going soft. 

The reality is that everything humans touch is open to human interpretation.  It only makes sense that human information, or information that affects humans and the world we inhabit, should be viewed through human-focused lenses.  It is the artistic perspective that courageously retains clarity of vision, it’s the artist who hones intuitiveness, it’s the artist who is able to jump levels to see many truths at once, it’s the artist’s perspective that adds significance to fact.



Six Things We're Thankful For in 2015

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the U.S., we celebrate the many people we are thankful for: our friends and family members, our advisers and clients, and everyone who has joined us on our journey. 

There are also a lot of things we’re grateful for this year, and we’d like to share our top six with you:

  1. We’re thankful for the New York City MTA’s Poetry in Motion, for providing inspiration during our daily commutes.
  2. We’re thankful for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art’s Louisiana Channel. It provides us with introductions to new perspectives from our favorite artists, and introduces us to artists we would’ve been unfamiliar with otherwise.
  3. We’re thankful for Sarah Stodola’s “Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors”, for drawing attention to the routines, rituals and practices that resulted in the creation of cherished literary works (and for reminding the world that the muse is one hardworking mother!).
  4. We’re thankful for Elsie’s Parlor, for providing us with delicious, caffeinated fuel for early morning brainstorms.
  5. We’re thankful for Bevy Smith’s Instagram page, for its continual reminders that a "gratitude attitude" will get you everywhere.
  6. We’re thankful for Americans for the Arts’ Art and Business Council, for facilitating creative partnerships that unite culture, commerce and communities.

What are the things you're thankful for? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo by Comstock/Stockbyte / Getty Images

Is Hipster Culture Bad for the Future of the Arts?

Photo by OliaFedorovsky/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by OliaFedorovsky/iStock / Getty Images

Is hipster culture detrimental to the arts sector?  

In spite of its significant contributions to contemporary creativity – the transformation in the ways we think about and consume food and drink, technologies that have turbocharged social activism – the hipster generation has done remarkably little to empower professional artists.  After 20 years after the culture wars of the 1990s, too many arts and cultural organizations are forced to run on fumes in the name of passion. The arts and culture sector remains tethered to the limiting grant funding apparatus that inhibits financial operations, and therefore prohibits both opportunities for expansion and the ability to offer competitive wages.    Technological advances have led to an increase in art production, but it's incredibly difficult to make and sustain a living as an artist because of the parasitic nature of the contemporary audience (everyone wants art, but no one wants to pay for it.  Everyone enjoys art, but few appreciate the work that goes into its production). 

A generation that prides itself on advancing a sharing economy and congratulates itself on valuing experiences over things, has not used its penchant for innovation to elevate the arts and culture - the ultimate in shared experiences. 

Popular culture is largely reductive these days. Writers are recapping television shows after they air instead of creating more meaningful original content.  Successful films from decades past are half-heartedly rebooted for contemporary audiences.  Design trends are direct, sometimes ironic, rehashes of items from previous eras. We need to encourage artistic innovation that is not driven solely by immediate return on investment or number of unique visitors. 

Are hipsters too concerned with using art to curate their own images to truly empower the arts sector?  

The technology sector advocates for its workers to “fail better".  It's only fair that artists should be provided with the same "draft better”.