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

Getty Images

Getty Images

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.  

Hot Links | Changing the Landscape of Good Business | Rethinking Our Systems | Standing Up for the Human (Over the Machine)

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Some are new, some are not.  Nonetheless, all of the articles linked to below are fueling our ideas and discussions this week.

The Guardian sounds the alarm about the tech sector's influence on urban development (focusing on Google’s Toronto project), with a reminder that "Cities are real places with real people who have a right not to live with whatever “smart solutions” an engineer or executive decides to unleash."

It is time that we eschew the status quo and transcend mere problem solving?  Robert Ransick makes the case for radical reinvention of our current systems and their underlying structures - led by artists, but incorporated into multi-disciplinary approaches.   

More reports on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence: a report on a machine that can learn without human intervention and Elon Musk's worries about those who would create "AI Gods".

Oh another note - who needs machines, when you have musicians? Pacific Standard shares research on the profound connection between musicality and memory.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that fewer people are donating to charity, and the influence of those who do donate is increasingly outsize.  Although this may alarm many non-profits, it may represent tremendous opportunity for social-minded entrepreneurship and human-centered innovations.

Independent Sector is aiming to amplify the influence of innovation in the social good sphere, through the creation of Upswell - a "SXSW of the social sector”.

The WÆRK Questionnaire | David-Georges Renaud


Introducing The WÆRK Questionnaire, a regular feature in which innovators in culture and technology reveal what makes them tick.

Our first installment features David-Georges Renaud, a co-founder of Lingoji - an app that "injects culture into the characters" we use daily in digital conversations.

What do you do (please describe your work in five words or less)?

Creative solutions to current problems.

What is your favorite artistic genre (and why and how does it influence your daily work)?

I really enjoy my cinematic adventures, what influences me, specifically, are the frames used by Wes Anderson in his movies. The storytelling abilities of Steven Spielberg. The modern editing techniques of Edgar Wright. Christopher Nolan's plots development. The comedy of Will Ferrell... These are the details I look for when watching movies, details that stimulates my mind into thinking that anything is possible, that anything  in my imagination can be brought to life.

What's the best (creative or business) advice you've received?

Wake up early and always persevere. By following this simple method, displaying passion and being persistent, success is achievable. Gotta tirelessly work everyday to better oneself. 

What question do you wish we'd ask (please answer as well)?

I wish we'd touch on aspirations. As for future plans, I want to display my creativity by working for an award-winning agency, collaborate with other creative minds to really be different and disruptive.

What do you wish could be more influential, in the business world? 

I would like platforms like TEDx to be trending like celebrity news. This would require more interesting lectures which would lead to more discussions, more ideas and some of these ideas might flourish into the next big thing. Intelligence should be cultivated, our imaginations must be reminded that they have no limits.


We're Back!

Create the things you wish existed.

I am delighted to announce the refresh and relaunch of the WÆRK blog!  It’s a crucial moment for innovators, businesses, governments and, above all, citizen-consumers, who should all be asking: “what are we buying?  What are we selling? And what is the impact of our purchases on the Earth (and one another)?” 

We plan to challenge the idea of so-called disruption, and encourage the standardization of products and practices that prioritize people first.  We believe that the contemporary innovators’ dilemma can be resolved through the holistic incorporation of art and humanities perspectives into business, technology and scientific innovation.

Each week, we will share insights from creative minds who are leaders in human-centered business, connect our readers to articles on topics that we find enlightening (or of concern), and offer critical perspectives on the necessity for art in business. 

We hope you’ll visit us regularly.


With gratitude,

Sacha Wynne

Hot Links | Week of October 23

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Kind (as in the snack bars) is investing in the development of empathy, through a program funded by its corporate foundation.

Landscape architects and urban planners are pushing human-centered design into life-saving territory.  

Who says there's no critical thinking in Silicon Valley?  Alumni of the world’s tech giants on the pitfalls and perils of the so-called “attention economy”.

Jan Gehl on the relationship between life and form, and the importance of prioritizing the needs of humans and nature, in the development of “good” cities.

The robots are coming for the workforce, unless corporations choose humans’ livelihoods over almighty “efficiency”.   This alarming chart details the jobs that will be eliminated first, and should be a call-to-action for anyone who views it.

Art as the Crux of Human-Centered Innovation

Image via Sacha Wynne

Image via Sacha Wynne

Notes from our Founder and President's recent talk at the Pratt Institute in New York City.

The Arts at the Crux of Human-Centered Innovation

I’m not sure how familiar you are with business jargon, but industry has largely co-opted terms from the art and design world, and pulled them into what McGill University’s Nancy Adler calls the “dehydrated language” of management.  Creativity, design thinking, and storytelling - are buzz terms used widely in the corporate world, but few businesses are actually putting their actions, or their money, where their mouths are.  Art/culture/design, after 30 years of culture wars, is undervalued or devalued in a culture that is currently obsessed with STEM and big data. 

In 2006, Adler asked the business sector “now that we can do anything, what will we do?”   The answers she proposed illuminated how crucial the artist’s perspective is to meaningful innovation in business.  The answers, provided by the private sector since were apparently: continued focus on STEM and Big Data, to increase efficiency and convenience. 

But should efficiency be prioritized over all else?  How many Frankenstein’s monsters has this quest for convenience birthed?  It’s acknowledged that big data is subject to human error – it’s not infallible – so why the blind trust?

We need business to turn to artists, because only they can lead the private sector forward in ways that that secure the future for nature and humanity.  Artistic ideas are grounded in universality, in reality, in the communities they serve.    Artistic innovation creates at its core: to teach and learn more about life, science must destroy.  It is art that builds and rebuilds as it teaches and learns.

For businesses seeking to reach customers, this perspective is crucial.  We cannot be explained through statistics, but we can be understood through our stories.

So, where do we go from here?  How can artists challenge the business paradigm?

1.     There is always room for more narratives that offer solutions, so don’t hesitate to create a new one, no matter how far out it may seem initially

a.     STEAM initiatives have powerful potential - The strengthening of an ecosystem in which the arts, humanities and sciences, along with the public, private and non-profit sectors operate symbiotically would be incredible. 

However, art need not be viewed as something that enables STEM. We need to articulate its inherent value.  The intrinsic needs to stop apologizing for lack of “rigor”. Instead, perhaps we need new measurement tools to gauge impact. 

b.     There aren’t enough human-centered solutions that expand upon the idea of “social good”.    There are so many needs that remain under-adressed and are ripe for innovation – from low employee morale to lack of work/life balance, from systemic racism to intra-cultural bias.

2.     The art/culture perspective fills gaps in the dominant narrative, by providing access to a plurality of perspectives and encouraging empathy

a.     The disparity between the election results and the prediction from mainstream media outlets exposed the chasm between stats (numbers) and stories (people).  Communities are real and vital.  There is a difference between the real self and the digital self, and art is provides ways of reaching people meaningfully.

3.     The symbiotic relationship between the arts/culture and business shouldn’t be approached as “selling out”, but rather in ways that create opportunity for generating and sustaining arts practice, which in turn bridges gaps between people.

a.     In a fairly recent New York Times article on tech innovation, writer Allison Arieff quotes Jessica Helfand – author of Design : The invention of Desire – “ empathy, humility, compassion, conscience are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation”.  It is the artists who can bring these “key ingredients” to the fore.  

b.     Silicon valley has made a mint from building businesses upon algorithms that target human behavior, but they are formulas and life is anything but formulaic.  This signals opportunity for artists to create new paradigms that replace focus on shareholder value with prioritizing stakeholder value.

Technology has changed the way we (and the speed of how) we discover, but there are billions of dollars invested in products and services that have no real meaning or value.  This is an opportunity for artists and designers – to co-create alongside the traditional industries (or on our own), in ways that do more than just produce distractions and insta-millionaires.  We have the power to create in ways that benefit and bring together all segments of society.

Solidarity at standing rock showed us the power of culture and community to bring about positive, human-centered change.  It’s no surprise that artists from within and beyond the community played integral roles on-site, helping to spread awareness and expand the sense of shared goals.  To quote Patti Smith – people have the power.

Hot Links | Createquity on The Impact of the Arts and Culture

Arts participation contributes directly to quality of life by increasing self-reported happiness and life satisfaction.
— Createquity

Our Founder, Sacha Wynne, recently had the honor of collaborating with Createquity’s research and editorial teams on a few articles.  This includes a recently published feature article that explores the impact of participatory arts activities on the health and quality of life of older adults. 

From Createquity: 

With both the U.S. and global populations aging in unprecedented numbers, this article sheds light on the promise of participatory arts activities in alleviating some of the challenges that come with getting older, and the ever-growing need for creative aging. 

In particular, the evidence on participatory arts activities and the health and quality of life of older adults indicates that:

            • Singing improves mental health and subjective wellbeing (i.e., perceived quality of life)

            • Taking dance classes bolsters cognition and motor skills, and even lessens the likelihood of developing dementia later in life

            • Playing a musical instrument has myriad positive effects, including dementia risk reduction

            • Visual arts practice generates increases in social engagement, psychological health and self-esteem

Just how the arts benefit society is one of the most studied topics in arts research…[Createquity] has sought to determine how the arts contribute to or detract from wellbeing in various ways, and the strength of the evidence supporting each mechanism. 

This week, Createquity released another article and an infographic summarizing their findings to date.  Per Createquity, “this will be the world's first resource that not only depicts the state of evidence demonstrating the various benefits of the arts, but tracks shifts in that evidence base over time.”

We encourage you to explore the findings of these pivotal reports.

The WÆRK Team