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Sunday, 31 January 2016

ART and DG CONNECT: Instrumentalisation warning

Continuing from last week’s blog, I now ask this question: What part of, artists do not like to be instrumentalised, DG CONNECT, did you not understand?

Instrumentalisation – to use people as a means of achieving an end. ICT Topic 36: Boost synergies between artists, creative people and technologists – the State, in the form of the European Commission's DG CONNECT, using artists as a means of achieving their ends. This is a sinister development and a foretaste of what to expect in the future as technocrats, deluded into thinking that they know what they are doing, appropriate anything and everything in the service of the power of money. Time to resist while you still can! And if you do participate in the Tale of the Director General's new clothes, you cannot say that you were not warned! You too will stand there and proclaim that the very naked Director General is wearing the most exquisite suit of clothes. Such is the nature of self-constructed realities and collective delusion. It’s money talking! This is the corrupting nature of the Brussels bubble – and a bubble it most certainly is, full of people out-of-touch with reality, living in the past. But judging by what one also sees elsewhere in the world of STEM, they are not alone.

Instrumentalisation is wrong, but self-instrumentalisation is not, that is to say, artists leading the move and developing their practice towards the use of art for more utilitarian purposes, which they have been doing since long before DG CONNECT arrived on the scene. And there are examples and lessons to be learned from this self-instrumentalisation. If you want to know more about this, we refer you to the ICT ART CONNECT study report. And there you will find what? Read it and find out for yourselves about all the well-known examples and the lessons that can be drawn from them that were … never studied. Now why was that? Of course you may yourself not be aware of these, which is why the study report should have mentioned them, so that known problems would not be repeated. But why bother with such details when the poor taxpayer is footing the bill for DG CONNECT’s deluded adventure in wonderland.

The problem that we face is that the current drive to use art comes from people within the existing power structure and what is very clear is that they do not understand art and are just seeking to exploit it, often based upon restrictive cognitive biases, as well as STEM agendas, which lead to the positioning of art as a resource to be deployed in the service of those who hold power, i.e. those who have the money. This is often reflected in the words spoken by STEM people who advocate art-science and art-technology collaboration: it’s all about using art for communication, visualisation and, more recently creativity. This is just like the old artist-in-tow model from the 18th and 19th centuries – “hey sketch and paint that plant please.” This is not art. It is of often also the case that those in STEM also are engaging in image making; the remaking their own image to make themselves look more respectable. DG CONNECT serves to demonstrate the point.

The mind-set that treats art as just another way for STEM people to pursue their agendas and role as handmaidens is most definitely a subject for artistic study. There is plenary of material for satire, both of the descriptive and the plastic form. This is like finding a diamond mine!

To tolerate instrumentalisation or not to tolerate instrumentalisation, that is the question: whether it be nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.

You might have already perceived that, in CONNECTing with STARTS, I have chosen to take arms, and my arms are the instrumentalisation DG CONNECT. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself! So now they are being used to serve my ends …

What are these ends? What are the results? Revelation, you will find, is a slow process of discovery. But if you are artists you will already know this.

If there is to be self-instrumentalisation, then those who hold power, i.e., those with the money, will have to surrender that power and allow the arts to take charge of how that money is used. The message is clear – The European Commission, DG CONNECT, and others, they have to go. There are other means of undertaking international projects, European or otherwise. Is there anyone out there listening? Now is the moment to learn from the DG CONNECT’s nonsense and to begin to construct a different type of research and innovation system, one that is not founded in the past. Time to set Prometheus free! Skunk works!

There is more to bringing artists into ICT research and product development, than is dreamt of in DG CONNECT’s and STEM’s self-constructed and very limited reality …

And thanks to Will for allowing the use of his very elegant and poetic words, Julia xxx.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Art & DG CONNECT: The European Commission seeks artists to act as handmaidens to technologists

The European Commission, in the form of DG CONNECT, operating at the forefront of 1990s Ideology of Creativity thinking, is seeking artists to work with technologist, to bring creativity into ICT research, development and innovation processes, because DG CONNECT’s new ideology is that technologists and engineers are not creative people, which just shows how much they understand – very little. Terms and conditions most definitely apply. Most importantly, be clear that you will be a handmaiden and you should know what handmaidens are expected to do.

Terry Fenton wrote about artists as handmaidens in a 1969 paper called Two Contributions to the Art and Science Muddle: 1. Constructivism and its Confusions. Why, you might ask, is this issue still relevant in 2016? The answer is provided by John Dewey, who, around 1919, wrote this:

“Surely there is no more significant question before the world than this question of the possibility and method of reconciliation of the attitudes of practical science and contemplative aesthetic appreciation. Without the former, man will be the sport and victim of natural forces which he cannot use or control. Without the latter, mankind might become a race of economic monsters, restlessly driving hard bargains with nature and with one another, bored with leisure or capable of putting it to ostentatious display and extravagant dissipation.”

Humanity has now become that monster, and scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians have become its handmaidens. Now DG CONNECT has decided that artists must become handmaidens to the monster and help those other handmaidens in their quest to turn our planet into unconventional and compelling products, of which there are already far too many.

You will have noticed that in December 2015, the world’s politicians meeting in Paris decided that they are not going to do anything about this thing called Global Warming. Instead, they have shifted responsibility for dealing with this problem to our grandchildren, later this century. Cleverly they have reached agreement to do nothing, while being able to claim that they are doing something. So it is business as usual. And DG CONNECT are also contributing to this business as usual approach, and are appropriating art for political reasons, one of which has to do with its image and that of the European Commission.

In the report produced by the Los Angels County Art Museum concerning their Art and Technology Programme (late 60s & early 70s), they reflected on the reasons why industries participated. One of the identified reasons was companies trying to modernise their image. This is what DG CONNECT and the European Commission are doing – image making, because they have a very tarnished image and a poor track record, especially in DG CONNECT. They also do not understand very much about how to use art in research and worse, do not want to understand.

There is no such thing a view from nowhere.

Art is the way to destroy this monster (and DG CONNECT) and to begin to construct a different sort of culture – one that does not make a virtue of living life like a plague of locusts. So be aware when you join in with the STARTS circus, that you are becoming a handmaiden of the monster. And if you do join in, please become subversive, and make of DG CONNECT the fools that they are, for it is highly unlikely that they will recognise that, making them look like fools, is what you are doing. This is the power of art – artists can have very sharp teeth and can bite without those who have been bitten ever realising this.

To be continued, because what is now taking shape will be a book about STARTS …

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Art and DG CONNECT – a post-action evaluation of ICT Topic 36: Boost synergies between artists, creative people and technologists!

"Julia!"

"Yes Paul, xxx"

"Thanks. But what are you up to now you crazy artist? A post-evaluation of an activity when the Call for proposals has not even closed! The projects will not start until early 2017, and they won't be completed until 2019-20 at the earliest."

"Yes I know, it's great! Your problem is that you are too logical. You’re far too bound-up in the notion of rationality and objectivity."

"Uncreative as well! Don't forget my creativity deficit."

"Indeed!"

"And I'm a man!"

"Well, so it seems! But don't you understand that an organisation that is spending eight million euros of public money, is over hyping and politicising a topic, clearly has some other agenda that involves instrumentalisation of art for dark political reasons, and, well, it’s going to be a huge success this thing that they are STARTing. And having dragged-in those European Commissioners to say stupid things, no-one is ever going to admit that the whole thing has been a waste of public money because they did the wrong things. What we are seeing is manipulation that needs exposing for it demonstrates the true nature of the European Commission. So it's obvious that the topic is going to be amazingly successful."

"You're right of course. So what's your post-action evaluation?"

"Simple! STARTS has been a massive success. Synergies between (uncreative) technologists and (creative) artists have been boosted. We are overwhelmed by the number of unconventional and compelling products and services that have been produced. Silos have collapsed and amazing dialogues have resulted. The increase in the transfer of knowledge between the ICT and the creative industries is astonishing. The culture of the ICT sector has been transformed. At long last there is an appreciation of the societal and economic added value of creativity. And we have achieved a more innovation-oriented mind-set."

"Of course you're right. Now that the technocrats have committed to spending eight million euros they will have no choice but to proclaim it as a massive success."

"Now Paul, you have a lot of experience of ICT product development and design, so tell me please how one can measure if a product is unconventional and compelling?"

"Good question Julia. The answer though, is not something that those caught-up in ICT Topic 36 ideology will want to hear, for it could take many years to determine just how compelling a product is. That it is unconventional might be easier to determine, but the world is full of unconventional products that failed to even make a glimmer of recognition, because thinking up new ideas for products is the easy bit. And if you doubt this, just watch Dragons’ Den on BBC2.

“People who engage in technology joy-rides are developing unconventional products all the time, only to find that they have not thought about it sufficiently to even be worth considering for anything other than the also ran list in the history of potentially compelling product ideas. Ultimately what determines if something is compelling is the market, and that applies if one is selling something or giving it away free-of-charge through an open-source/Creative Commons model. But the chances of achieving this status are much improved by doing the right things at the right time, and one of the most critical phases is that which we call the front-end of design.

“The market is more likely to respond if at the front-end, important matters are properly considered such as concept development, industrial design, as well as the emotional dimension of design, interaction design, usability, and many other important issues, which today are all encompassed by holistic UX with its strong emphasis on front-end ideation. And to these critical issues one can add strategy and strategic vision, business models, timing, marketing, understanding of competing approaches or technologies, regulatory frameworks, social issues, barriers to adoption, …

“These are all things which those involved in the ICT commercial sphere, especially those working on consumer products, should know about and must today practice if they want to be successful. It’s basic and largely not the sort of thing that artists are familiar with. Self-evidently, judging by ICT 2015 conference performance Driving Innovation through Creativity and the Arts, it is largely also not the sort of thing that DG CONNECT is familiar with as well.

“In that conference performance one can see some very bad examples of design concepts, which actually undermine some of the speakers’ credibility and that of their organisations. Take the case of the car side window that is providing the child with in-vehicle edutainment. A compelling product idea? Not really. It is actually a very dangerous one. Someone in the audience noted that the child in the video was not wearing a seat belt which is illegal in the United Kingdom. But matters are worse than this, for just look at the child’s posture, and how the child’s torso, and hence its spine, is twisted. This is not a posture than anyone, child or adult, should be placed in. But this is not the worst of it! In the UK there is a law that requires children up to the age of 12, or until they reach a height of 135cm, to use a special car seat (restraint). Good quality ones are designed to provide some protection again side impacts. And the potential site of the side impact is the rear door and window, which is also the very place where the child is being invited to play. This is not good design, it’s technology joyriding!

“So, one should ask why such a design was pursued to the stage demonstrated in the speaker’s video clip. The speaker actually provided the answer to this question – they are caught-up in the ideology of prototyping, which is otherwise known as the road to making expensive mistakes.

“It’s like being back in the early 1990s watching people talking about prototyping as though it is some form of panacea. It’s actually a very dangerous and addictive drug that needs to be used with great caution.”

“So Paul, the more we look into these matters the more foolish DG CONNECT look.”

“Yes Julia. It’s like turning over a stone – all sorts of things start wriggling and crawling about. And it is not a matter of DG CONNECT looking foolish, they are fools – arrogant, and incompetent ones. And fools and their money are easily parted and the phrase incompetence at the tax-payers expense comes to mind.

“The point I am making, is that if you are in the ICT sector and do not understand the basics of modern design practices, and are looking to DG CONNECT for assistance, then we have beyond doubt achieved a situation where the blind are leading the blind. This is truly the Road to Serfdom… Post-evaluation over?"

"Not quite Paul. The stupidity of all this creativity nonsense, clearly exposes, to those who care to look, a significant strategic weakness in Western thinking, which those who are not caught-up in Western ideologies, like the Chinese and the Indians, can exploit.”

“Yes, Julia. Xerox PARC plainly understood though, for they clearly said of  their Artist in Residence Programme that started in 1992, yes that’s right, 1992, nearly 25 years ago – ‘it’s not about bringing creativity to …’ ”

“The 1990s once more and your 25 year rule, Paul – the EC does the right thing only 25 years after it was the relevant thing to do! And it is indeed the case that bringing artists into research, development, and innovation processes is not about bringing creativity to scientists, engineers and technologists. Deficit thinkers, however, having no other way of understanding the complexities of the matter, have no choice but to position artists in this way, for to do otherwise would undermine their ideologies and collective delusions. Oh, the delight of the fragmented and reductive mind, with its cognitive biases and its silent narratives – such minds speak so much about evidence-based policy making, about quantified knowing, but in reality they engage in behavioural policy making but do not realise this.”

“It’s that old question, ‘Why so smart yet so stupid?’ The answer to which, we know.”

“Yes Paul, we do indeed. But there is more …”

“More?”

“Yes Paul. More! The Call topic ICT 36 mentions in the expected impacts, silo-breaking. Robert Madelin also mentions this in an interview he gave just before he started his new job as Senior Adviser for Innovation. But it is clear that the European Commission, DG CONNECT and the ICT programme if they know anything about silo-breaking and why silos exist in Western culture, are making a very good job of hiding this understanding, for if they did know, they would certainly not have specified ICT Topic 36 the way it is. And I must say most artists and creative people also do not understand this issue. Why should they?”

“Because they’re alchemists Julia!”

“Yes Paul, this seems to be how we are perceived. We are, as the Americans would say, the proverbial silver bullet. So more of that zone of discredited practice! Yet, I do know someone who does have knowledge and experience of silos.”

“Yes, back once more to the early 1990s! And there are worse revelations yet to come Julia!”

“Oh yes indeed Paul, there is far worse to come. By the end, when this series of blogs is complete, and then published in a book, all those governments in other parts of the world, who might also be interested in bringing artists into research programmes, will have a reference model of what not to do – it’s called the European Commission STARTS Platform, and ICT Topic 36. This is the price, DG CONNECT, that you will pay for not listening. Welcome, DG CONNECT to the nexus of Science, Technology and the Arts! Did no-one tell you about art and what it can do, and the notion of maintaining critical independence? Evidently not.”


So as minds in DG CONNECT cross the frontier that marks the boundary between 1989 and 1990, and they begin to experience the 1990s, back in 2016 …

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Art and DG CONNECT Theatre: ICT 2015 Performance ‘Driving Innovation through Creativity and the Arts’

The actors assemble on the stage, each knowing their lines, while those who will be their audience take their seats and wait expectantly for the start of the performance Driving Innovation through Creativity and the Arts. The odour of money drifts through the theatre with its stale recycled and specially conditioned air, intoxicating all who enter the room, inducing the sort of insanity that only puppeteers acting collectively can bring into being, as once more they proceed to construct one of their many convenient realities. And watching in another time and place, are Julia and Paul, who have come to see if, by some quirk of serendipity, something of substance may transpire, but mainly it is their intention to observe the playing out of what has already become a tragedy of errors and a comedy of errors both at the same time.

On the stage also is the one who will direct this theatre, and then they START, as one by one each plays their part, which is to heavily pitch themselves and their organisations, and it seems, to out-do each other in the number of times they speak the very special and magical word that is creativity, which is soon worn out with use, but left very much unexamined, nor it seems understood, for what is taking place before Julia and Paul’s eyes can in no way be described as the outcome of creative minds, except perhaps those found in marketing departments. And in noting all the emptiness, Julia speaks to Paul with silent words, which Paul, reading her lips, quickly comes to understand, as “some are clearly speaking of UX design.” Oh dear! The circus has indeed come to town, and consequently it will probably never be known if there is anything beyond this.

Julia now is pointing out, that Mercedes Man, has in fact, said virtually nothing, so to Google Paul does turn to seek out the results for Mercedes and this word Ideation, and lo and behold what does he find, but many pictures drawn by artists of future modernistic car designs, which, as Julia is now saying, is typical of men who to image making often turn when what is needed are the communication of that which might at least pass for words containing something of a more substantial form. And once again Mercedes are shown to be, literally, engaged in image making.

Looking now at a very futuristic automatic car, that on the web can also be found, she speaks again these words – “probably also much UX design.” Paul then says “yes indeed, most likely that which Buxton calls the holistic kind. Certainly, also, much focus on what we in the design business call, front-end design, which is where you will encounter this word, Ideation.” And, something else too, for Julia has noted Mercedes Man’s derogatory remarks about design thinking! So the intelligent observation is left for Julia, a woman to say: “that quite some time ago it became evident that design had, for many reasons, become out-of-date, which is also the case for many ways of thinking, and that too much emphasis was being placed on back-end design, but with this acknowledged and understood, there came about a different approach, that which we now refer to as UX design.” Obviously, this is way beyond the capabilities of image-making men and those ridiculous ignorant men in DG CONNECT to understand.

Looking from a different place and time, Julia and Paul review those questions that the panel are supposed to be considering, which mysteriously they seem to be either ignoring or just circling around, as they focus instead on pitching, as though in a competitive bidding process, to lay claim to be the partner of choice. And the audience too, obviously wishing to stake a claim to a share of the money, to the delusion, they also do contribute, with fine words of the kind that in another performance, were spoken to an emperor that many children, when quite young, learned about in a very famous and iconic storyline.

And of these questions – How can the arts inspire creativity in general? How can spill-overs from creativity in the Arts be harnessed by industry? How can spill-overs from creativity in the Arts be harnessed by society? – Julia notes that no speaker has questioned them, and not even raised any concerns whether the way they are phrased suggests that DG CONNECT clearly does not understand and has learned nothing at all. So much for DG CONNECT’s claim to be using art as a hammer! Probably they are, but to smash art!

So the performance draws to a close, but what is this? Julia it appears is making a note, writing down some words that one of the speakers spoke. She holds up her scrap of paper to Paul, and her mischievous smile appears once more, along with a wink, and for a moment Julia and Paul have become one, for evidently an idea for another episode in their surrealist performance has just be born, to deal with this very interesting statement: “… artists working on new technology for dance theatre, when brought into the brainstorming, came up with an idea that not a single scientist, engineer or designer could ever think of – projecting a virtual follow-me car onto the windscreen and the driver just follows this virtual car …” Oh dear!

And of summing up, what should be said? It was clearly an empty session, not at all about art, and a complete waste of most peoples’ time, and this stands in sharp contrast to the companion ICT 2015 performance known by the name The Innovation Revolution: Creativity and Arts in ICT, where much greater substance can be found, mostly because, the main focus was on what is termed the creative industries. Yet here too, strongly evident was the ideology of creativity.

Many questions also arise about whether what was being discussed in this other session was indeed art, or just artists working in other jobs, for it is indeed the case that not all those who from art school do graduate, follow careers as artists, but instead, to related jobs often do gravitate, so back once more to UX design! And just how imaginative and creative is all this? Julia and Paul ask this, for, without a doubt, even this session was framed within a well-defined and conventional mind-set with people saying very conventional things, through speaking of methodologies, intellectual property and such things. And clearly there was one who was very adept at pressing all the political buttons, who sang and danced so beautifully to the puppeteer’s score – Brussels is full of such singing and dancing people, which is one of the problems. Julia and Paul call them the Empty-headed Ones – they who speak a lot but say very little of worth.

Yet there was one, who, among all this talk of creativity, and the posturing, and the sycophantic praising of the European Commission, and people silently saying, “hey look at me”, clearly stood out from the grazing herd by not mentioning creativity, but instead, did of art speak, and in her presentation slides, even mentioned subjective knowledge, and in doing so, quietly established a credibility that no-one else did. And the name of this person is Laura Beloff, who clearly has more understanding than all the others combined.

Future generations will ask of this thing called STARTS, which Julia and Paul have noted is a manifestation of the ideology of creativity – why was it that so many people were so wrong?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

2016 starts – or should that be STARTS?

A year of writing and creating other things begins, and the compulsion to work on the writing of books has returned. The list of books that I want to write grows as time slips by, but the time to complete them diminishes as every year passes.

There is still much left to say about DG CONNECT and its ICT ART CONNECTing and STARTing, so 2016 STARTS with many more explorations about this fascinating attempt by a failing government agency to boost its image by associating itself with the arts.

And let us not forget that other bastion of collective delusion within the Emperor's Court, the so called Research Executive Agency, or more accurately, the Resource Efficiency Administration, otherwise known as REA, another bureaucratic organisation with an over-inflated opinion of itself, but which is far from being resource efficient. What artistic delight can I conjure to appear about this particular manifestation of the Emperor's Court? And there is also this art-science/art-technology community that says the strangest of things. And ...

Oh so many muses. Where do I START? With STARTS of course! Socrates was right, for the unexamined life is not worth living, and what examinations of life yet lie slumbering, waiting for the moment when, arising like unpleasant manifestations of demons rather than men reflected there, they torment those that of dreams rather than nightmares would rather speak? Poetics! Let’s now see what you understand for I will tell you nothing … What could this mean?