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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Art and DG CONNECT: Something old ...

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Well it turns out that something old in DG CONNECT’s case means that people from the arts have been involved with ICT research projects in DG CONNECT’s past when it was called something else (as was the ICT Programme).

We are looking at project titles such as Creating Aesthetically Resonant Environments in Sound, and The Educational Puppet Theatre of Virtual Worlds and Developing Collaborative Story Telling Environments for Children, with Children. There is even a project with a partner called ZKM – you know who they are? Yes of course you do, they are the famous Centre for Media and Arts, where artists work with technologists.

So when Robert Madelin, at that ICT 2015 DG CONNECT theatrical performance, asked ...

“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?”

All he needed to do to find answers to these questions was to look back to the late 1990s and early 2000s and consult with projects funded in Framework Programmes 4 and 5 under an initiative called Intelligent Information Interfaces (i3). To find out more about i3 and some of its art-driven projects, just look in the ICT-ART CONNECT study report where you will find ... Oh dear there is no mention of i3! Now why is that we wonder?

And armed with such insights, along with knowledge of all those artists in industrial research lab initiatives (over the period from the 1960s to the early 2000s), and all those other art-science/art-technology programmes that have been and gone, combined with understandings of industrial and societal changes and needs, he just might have been able to construct something that might have been useful. We say might, because one can never tell with technocrats, especially given that in another area, the social sciences, DG CONNECT are also engaging in another nonsense based on poor understanding of past work and future needs.

As for all those people at ICT 2015 praising the European Commission – what were they thinking saying such stupid things? Perhaps they were ... (Paul’s note – Apologies but I have removed Julia’s text!).

Now Commissioner Modas is here and wishes to make an apology too:

“When I said that more and more we all understand that innovation in the future will be on the intersection of arts and sciences, I was wrong, for which I apologise. What I should have said is that innovation in the past has been at the intersection of arts and sciences. What it will be in the future I have no idea and neither has DG CONNECT. In future I will be sticking to my own portfolio, and will leave Commissioner Oettinger to speak DG CONNECT’s words of nonsense. I wish him good luck for he will obviously need it.”

DG CONNECT has stated that their STARTS circus is going to be rolled out across Horizon 2020! In other words, a further waste of public money! And few will raise objections because what most people want is to get their hands on public money. This is the nature of the moral corruption that now pervades Europe’s research and innovation systems.

Here is an opportunity for the rest of the world to do things that are not circus acts. Artist-led research programmes with carefully selected foci, strategically driven to transform research and innovation systems, to transform STEM, to ... We have given this matter much thought and to do that we first had to know the past and understand the future potential.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Art, DG CONNECT and constraints

Constraints are parameters that guide processes and activities. They can be externally imposed such as through culture, deadlines or requests. They can be internally imposed unconsciously through developed beliefs and habits. They can also be consciously yet still internally devised in order to focus action towards specific goals that would not be explored in depth otherwise. Or they can be internally devised to ensure that matters that should be addressed are not! The design of constraints directly defines and confines a problem’s search space, thereby provoking new and potentially creative explorations, or not, as is the case with DG CONNECT.

ICT ART CONNECT, otherwise known as STARTS, is the product of constraints, mostly those of the kind that are imposed unconsciously through developed beliefs and habits, but also, the constraints that come from a culture that ‘does not know what it does not know’, and an intention to exploit art for the European Commission’s political reasons.

There are also another set of constraints at work, that rule out-of-order any thinking outside the limiting horizons of the European Commission political agenda, which at its highest levels, in harmony with the policies of most of the National Governments, is about abandoning the peoples of Europe to the power of money. Taken for granted here, are the neo-liberal agenda, with its defining features of global capitalism, economic inequality, environmental destruction, and cultural colonialism, where deviant cultures have to be converted to a secular and materialistic way of life though the imposition of European values. This is ultimate victory of Western Enlightenment thinking over anything that smacks of not being the rational and objective machine so much worshiped in the Western world, operating in the wider context of the economic machine, which exploits nature, another machine, in the cause of control and domination of people and nature.

All who oppose are evidently suffering from a deficit – which is also about classification and separation, which are also the first two steps on the path to genocide. There is a reason why most of the known cases of genocide are linked to European culture or its adoption by others.

Now is the time to resist, and to find a way to out-manoeuvre Europeans and their cousins in the former colonies, for they surely have a far too good opinion of themselves and do not understand or respect those that are not European and do not want to be European. The opportunity now exits for the non-European world to exert itself, and to create the conditions which will also force Europe to stop being European. And if that happens then the planet and humanity will have a chance of surviving. The alternative is going forwards in the way that is defined by the past, which increasingly is how humanity is conducting its affairs, with both the old and the new Western powers, using their military might to enforce conformance with the European way. Fortunately, China and India are armed to the teeth as well, so bombing and droning are not options for the West. It is time to abandon your civilised killing and violence, time to give peace a chance, and time to turn your weapons into ploughshares.

Now is the moment in time for humanity to recognise that it is not seven billion individuals, but one living organism in which all people are connected together in ways that most Europeans do not understand, value, or even recognise. I am most definitely my brother’s keeper, for I am my brother. When a child dies of famine in some forgotten poorly developed part of our planet, part of me dies too.

We are hyper-connected and always have been.

“Hey Julia, how did we get onto this subject?”

“Everything is connected Paul. Everything! Art is not just about gazing at aesthetically pleasing objects hanging on walls! It is also about confronting uncomfortable truths. And one of those uncomfortable truths is the reality of DG CONNECT – they are living in the past.”

And speaking of the constraints and the past, next week we will examine an aspect of DG CONNECT’s past – a very specific constraint of the not knowing kind – which will come as a surprise to all those people, attending that ICT 2015 theatrical performance we wrote about a few weeks ago, who thought that DG CONNECT was doing something new and timely. Déjà vu! 

Sunday, 14 February 2016


DG CONNECT last week issued a proclamation decreeing that all artistic work undertaken with its funding will be part of a new artistic movement that will be known as DG CONNECTivism. The basis for the new movement is the ideology of creativity. Artists practicing in this new movement will be limited in terms of the topics that they will be allowed to explore. Enforcement will be achieved through the proposal evaluation process where a committee, working behind closed-doors, will decide what will be supported. Monitoring for continuing compliance will be achieved through a process called project review, where another committee, again working in secret, will ensure that only that which complies with the manifesto of DG CONNECTivism will be allowed to continue.

And if all this sounds familiar, something heard in the past, and even today in places, then this is because it is a very familiar refrain. But you want the money ...

This reminds me that I must write my article about the DG CONNECT, the Roman Catholic Church and the Soviet Communist Party.

Every honed blade needs its dull stone, otherwise the cutting edge would just be blunt metal, undifferentiated from other blunt implements, and not able to do that which needs to be done.

Thank you DG CONNECT for being our dull stone.

Julia and Paul 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Art & DG CONNECT: a ‘baker’s dozen’ of reasons not to participate in a proposal to ICT Topic 36

If you are thinking such things as "if we're not in the race …" or "it's worth a try …" and other such foolish thoughts, here are ‘baker’s dozen’ of reasons why they are foolish thoughts and you would be better devoting your energies to something more productive. I decided to do exactly this back in August 2014 and I have never looked back, and I was able to walk away because of experience, knowledge and insights, which lead me now to highlight the following:

1. Be honest, you and everyone else are primarily interested in the money so what you will create is a marriage of convenience which is not the basis for a happy marriage. You might be lucky and find someone who you do want to work with, but most likely you will be stuck with people and organisations who take more resources than they need, do very little in return, and who know little about the matter at hand. You will want a divorce.

2. Do you want to spend your time doing things that, you know are a waste of time, but some expert reviewing the project once it is up and running (if you manage to get one through the evaluation process) thinks that you should be doing, so that he (it is most often a man) can demonstrate his knowledge and that he is earning his review fee. Chances are he will not read all those useless paper documents that you will have to spend so much precious time writing.

3. Writing a proposal for an Innovation Action (IA) or a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) is very difficult and the chances are you will not write a very good one. But even if you do …

4. Do you really think that you proposal is going to be evaluated properly? Quite a delusion that you have! Chances are that it will not be properly evaluated, for all sorts of reasons: the wrong experts looking at it; their lack of experience in peer review; their cognitive biases; their hidden agendas; their misunderstandings that they should not be evaluating against that which they would wish to see; people who do not know the limits of their own knowledge, etc. Add to this some very basic yet common mistakes like experts not understanding the evaluation criteria, and, the sole expert with a negative view, out-of-step with the others, who, having decided that your proposal is weak, will drag down the consensus mark so that there is no chance of the proposal being funded.

5. The possibility that the Commission, a political organisation, have already decided who will be successful … surely you do not believe all that nonsense about proposals being fairly evaluated. Topics like ICT 36 are exactly the type where the Commission is most likely to manipulate the evaluation. Of course I must make clear here that this never happens!

6 ICT Topic 36 is not research! In fact it has been termed as “fiddling with technology”, which means that it is based on ‘end-of-pipe thinking’ where everything is decided, and you just get to look at it, make a few minor suggestions, and then everyone will dance around saying how marvellous ICT Topic 36 is. CSAs and IAs will consume your time in activities that are not research. The best you can hope for is that you might in the process find something of interest for later use … The fact that research is not wanted says a lot about the mind-set and level of understanding of the people in DG CONNECT. Read the descriptions that define what constitutes legitimate activities for CSAs and IAs, and then compare these with what is expected from a Research and Innovation Action, and you will understand what I mean.

7. You are unlikely to be involved in any art – more likely it is design that you will be participating in.

8. If you know anything about past initiatives that bring artists into industry/research projects, like Welcome Trust’s Sciart, the LA County Arts Museum A&T programme, Xerox Parc, and so forth, you will know that none of the lessons that can be learned from these have been incorporated into ICT Topic 36 – you can see this from the wording. Look carefully for the words that reassure you that there is protection for the artists and that you will not be exploited and then just discarded. Do you want to lose the right to use your ideas in any way that you choose?

9. After close to three-and-a-half years of engagement with artists, DG CONNECT are still caught-up in the same stupid notions of users and technologists suffering from deficits – this is exactly what they said at the very beginning in 2012. They still also hold to the (just as stupid) notion that special people called artists have special powers to address these imaginary deficits. They have learned nothing, which is no surprise for the mind-set from the outset was that they have nothing to learn, and they knew what art should be used for. Do you really want to be associated with such ignorant and arrogant people?

10. You can also see from the Call Topic wording that DG CONNECT are caught-up in the notion of the ‘elitism of art’, with creativity being the preserve of a few ‘special individuals’ called artists, and they think too that the ‘art object’ has a ‘special status’ which only people with money can own – the very things that many contemporary artists reject. They are the new wealthy patron of the arts!

11. You should know that organisations that appropriate art for their own agendas also end up imposing on artists, restrictions on artistic freedom. Surely you do not think you are going to be allowed to do what you want if it does not fit with DGCONNECTivism?

12 So whatever happened to distributed authorship? STARTS was put together behind closed-doors, and the infamous study was undertaken by a chosen few, who must be very special indeed, for they obviously had discovered the truth. So tell me please the names of the advisory group. We know a few, from quotes in the report, but who are the people that advised DG CONNECT? Not exactly the reference model of openness and transparency that the European Commission are trying to implement through things such as Science 2, etc.

13 The above is largely directed at people from the art world, but if you are a technologist you too should also be asking questions whether you should be engaging in ICT Topic 36. DG CONNECT have classified you as being one of the uncreative ones, not at all special in the way that artists are. This is insulting and completely wrong. It demonstrates also the contempt in which people, such as yourself, are held by this arrogant out-of-touch organisation. And this they have made very clear at every step of the way towards that which they decided upon over three years ago. One of the biggest problems that Europe’s ICT sector faces is an organisation called DG CONNECT and companies that still want to engage with them. What to do about the problem that is DG CONNECT?

Our condolences if you find yourself in a position of having no choice but to apply. Fortunately we did not need to put up with DG CONNECT’s nonsense and are not interested in obtaining a share of the eight million euro. And that, as they say, has made all the difference. And what a difference it turned out to be. What this is however, will only emerge very gradually. Enjoy participating in the various collective delusions, of which there are many – a new Axial Age, etc. etc. etc.