The rise of the creative technologist – a new term but perhaps an old concept. When I normally speak about this, either formally or informally, I’m usually referring to it in the context of the traditional creative agency or for companies that wish to become more innovative in their digital work. But my main fascination with the subject comes from it’s cultural positioning and the incredible energy that it can bring to communities and institutions alike.
Biographical information – for once this isn’t self-indulgent tripe. I’m a self-taught coder without any formal training in software engineering and I’ve had to take an exploratory approach to every challenge in my work. Geek culture in the west of 2012 is the prevelant one (Avengers etc), we all have incredibly powerful computers in our pockets etc.
This is where it starts for me, at an exhibition of digital technologies in London in 1994. A new form of creation – being able to make things, build worlds, connect to people all around the world. There are no rules yet. No standards. There is very little commercial involvement. The technology is easy and accessible and, in Negroponte’s book, it’s the first time I read of technology being a culture. Anybody can come in and create.
The principles behind the web are emerging. Designers haven’t understood the medium yet. The technology largely defines it but is incredibly limiting. If we are going to make a system built for linking contextual text documents across the world into the web we now know, we’re going to have to get inventive. We are basically making things up as we go along. The ‘standards’ don’t exist yet.
Traditional IT brands, new disruptors and resurgent underdogs try to carve their piece of the internet pie. Corporate methods for corporate clients. Barriers are raised, lines drawn, politics, market positioning and the bottom line start to lock down and shape our digital lives. With this comes new roles and responsibilities – strategists and planners – taking the web out of the hands of the dreamers and do-ers and into the relentless process of the enterprise machine.
Fast forward. It feels like history repeating. The web standards explosion, the mobile revolution and the availablity of very cheap microcontrollershas enabled us to rewrite the rules. This takes a creative discipline. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be Digital.
Why this is a good thing. There are no such things as ‘gurus’. Be suspicious of anybody that claims to know it all. Hire explorers.
The word hack is being used to mean ‘to circumvent standard practise’. Lifehacks, culture hacks (Katy Beale), hack days etc. In the commercial world, the discipline of ‘Creative Technologist’ is now sought after, a reflection of the technical strand running through our everyday lives perhaps.
How you self identify as your discipline is something one must be very careful about. If I introduce myself as a developer, the chances are I’ll be given a Jirabuglist and a template to code. “Creative Technologist” has, therefore, become a convenient term to describe a multidisciplined digital creative with a specialism in writing code. Disciplines are merging and lines are blurring. I am grateful for the term, however one describes it.
In a nutshell, Creative Technology is the application of the discipline of technology to the creative process. It is agnostic to methods, processes and tools, but is exploratory and provides a technical eye over the development of ideas as they shape and grow through the collaboration of multiple disciplines.
Digital is multidisciplinary by it’s very nature. It is visual whilst also being technically delivered. Interaction requires understanding of user behaviours. If any one discipline hogs the process, then you will not create balanced, innovative work.
Creativity should be the price of entry. Creative first, discipline second. In the ideation stage, everybody (including the client and delivery managers) should be regarded as creative.
In the web we have a tendency to be self contained – we look at our own internal standards, tropes and trends. In collaborating with other creative disciplines, we deepen our gene pool of influences. From this, new paradigms emerge. One of the defining qualities of creative technology is the breadth and depth of the disciplines which it can apply to.
Examples of applied creative technology:
Artists – Josh Davis, Jonathan Harris, Jer Thorpe, Zenbullets, Jared Ficklen, Jared Tarbell etc. Extending traditional media forms and creating new ones. Their work often leads back to the setting of standards in other areas.
RGB plus depth. Kinect, Leap, motion capture and the augmentation of input and output.
Art reflects life so they say. And so much of our life can now be quantified by the data that we leave behind. This is both art and tool to help us understand how we connect.
In Chris Anderson’s book, The Makers, which this quote is taken from, he looks at how these attitudes are being applied to the physical. This expands the disciplines and the creative gene pool outside the digital realm completely. What happens when you hook up a Seamstress into circuit making?
Wearable tech – Lilypad, conductive thread. Becky Stern at Adafruit.
Does anybody here look like a technologist?
The new industrial revolution. Fabrication, manufacturing, prototyping.
A huge shift in the power base away from enterprise vendors and back to the makers of the web. HTML5’s default standards are driven entirely by the open source community. Even the big dogs have had to play to these terms. What happens when manufacturers, food growers, pharmacuticalscos have to do the same thing?
Hacking as a lifestyle choice. Taking things to the next level. Tuur Van Balen hacks yoghurt with prozac!
These are goals that are common to all of the above and they typify the culture that emerges from them. Something that I’m sure the museum sector will identify with. Furthermore, there is a relentless energy to many of these movements that can be harnessed to bring these values, and incredible innovation to ANY organisation. Charities, communities, businesses and institutions.
Ultimately, for me, this is the primary motivation. To have an impact on people.
Twitter: @Andrewdotdobson : web: http://www.andrewdobson.co.uk : work: TD at http://www.thegrandunion.com/
Creative technology A new breed of creativity @andrewdotdobsonAndrew Dobson | Museums on the web | November 2012 1