The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, a global leader in training and consultation for cultural organizations, will investigate the impact of 21st-century technologies on artists, arts institutions, and arts audiences through a series of four debates from October to December, 2016. The project culminates in a white paper to be released in 2017.
Technology presents profound opportunities—and challenges—for the global cultural sector. While artists and administrators have more tools than ever to create, distribute, and market their content, they also face a tidal wave of digital surrogates for that content. The debate series, conceived by DeVos Institute President Brett Egan, will ask artists, arts administrators, and thought leaders to consider:
The investigation is advised and co-curated by Tod Machover, composer, inventor, professor and head of the Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab, and Sydney Skybetter, technologist, choreographer, writer, and founding partner of Edwards & Skybetter Change Agency.
Four debates will frame the discussion, featuring thought leaders from the fields of culture, neuro-science, technology, and marketing. The series is designed to benefit arts managers, arts funders, artists, policy-makers, marketers, students, and academics.
“Anyone who’s seen a toddler ‘swipe right’ or has awakened to an iPhone on their pillow understands that as tech changes, so do we,” states Brett Egan. “Our debates respond to this new era—one we might call ‘Generation Elsewhere’—marked by tech that relentlessly distracts focus from the here-and-now. In a business that has, for centuries, relied on the attentive presence of paying audiences, we can’t ignore the depth and speed of this change. We are staging this series out of concern that, as a sector, we simply have not kept pace with its effects.”
“Over the past 30 years, technology in the arts has gone from being experimental, edgy, and exciting to seeming ubiquitous, app-like, and utilitarian,” says Tod Machover. “This investigation will serve to identify the truly significant value that technology has brought to the arts, and to re-kindle the explosive excitement of technological thinking. Truly inventive technology—hardware and especially software—is our era’s most vital and powerful creative medium for translating radical imagination into transformative artistic experience, for practitioner and public alike.”
“Emerging technologies, from the proscenium stage to the light-emitting diode, have always affected the ways and means of the arts. Change is nothing new. Yet the arts face disruption in the form of emerging media platforms such as virtual reality, most of which are far cheaper than and more accessible than going to a theater,” says Sydney Skybetter. “Ultimately, the question we are wrestling with through this programming is, ‘Do we in the arts mimic and encompass other forms of media, thus ceding what has defined us for centuries, or do we stick to our proverbial guns on the gambit that there has always been an audience for the arts, and thus, presumably, always will?’”
More information on “Generation Elsewhere: Art in the Age of Distraction” and how to register is available at www.DeVosInstitute.net. Attendance at each debate is limited and will be restricted to a registered audience. Segments of each debate will be carried via the web.
The series is made possible with the support of the University of Maryland.
June 2, 2016