Sunday, 17 January 2016
Art and DG CONNECT – a post-action evaluation of ICT Topic 36: Boost synergies between artists, creative people and technologists!
"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."
"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
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
“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 …”
“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 …