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Sunday, 3 April 2016

ICT, Art and STARTS: DG CONNECT and those unconventional and compelling products

“Hi Julia, I see you have a book there about art, science and technology.”

“Hi Paul xxx. Yes, indeed I do.”

“Art + Science Now: How scientific research and technological innovation are becoming key to 21st century aesthetics, by Stephen Wilson. What's it about?”

“Well Paul, it's full of pictures and short descriptions of art made with science and technology.”

“So it's also full of unconventional and compelling products?”

“No Paul, it is not. It's full of what could be art. Whether all is art is impossible to say, but it's a book about art, because that's what artists do – make art. They do not, in general, create unconventional and compelling products, for such things are part of world known as design, unless you think of the work of artists like Jeff Koons in that sort of way.”

“I see that Arduino is one of the art objects included. Surely that's an unconventional and compelling product. The book says that this was developed by an international consortium of artists.”

“Well it's certainly used by artists, but also by maker communities, which are not necessarily the same thing.”

“And home hobbyists as well.”

"Yes, but the statement that it was developed by an international consortium of artists does not exactly tally with what is said elsewhere, for example in the book Participation is Risky. In that book the authors say that it was developed at an Interaction Design Institute in Northern Italy that teaches design students in new emerging fields of design intersecting with computer science and engineering. The teachers faced a problem that available programming boards were expensive and exoteric with difficult to learn programming languages. So they developed their own programming board.”

“That word again – design! And the relationship between art and design! A matter worth exploring at some future time, I think.”

“Yes Paul, design, not art, but as you say, a relationship worth exploring! And by CONNECTING with organisations like the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, DG CONNECT could have ... Well we will never know that they could have done. The desire to reconstruct their image was everything, hence the CONNECTION with art, and DG CONNECT once again damage European industry at taxpayers' expense.

 “So Paul, back to Arduino, and its development by academics to teach their students. A plausible explanation?”

“It is certainly plausible Julia, for academics often do that – they are a maker community too! I have seen this is several university engineering departments. And of course in this specific case there is now a dispute among the founders about ownership of the Arduino name, and the issue of the rather underhand way that one of them registered it without telling the others.”

“Indeed. Not exactly a paragon of openness, open innovation, and open-source.”

"So, Julia, Raspberry Pi! That too is an unconventional and compelling product created by artists?”

"Why not, because it seems we are now in the realms of all sorts of nonsense and fantasy, thanks to DG CONNECT, and we are now entering that zone of discredited practice. It will set back the serious participation of artists in research by decades.”

“Certainly in the West it will. I know too well what the reaction will be in US funding agencies. But there are new players in the game now, with different rules.”

“You mean countries like China and India?”

“Yes Julia I do. These are not like the Vainglorious Enlightened Ones, and they know full well that most people in the Western world do not understand their cultures, or respect them or value them. So these non-European cultures have the potential to become a competitive weapon that can be used to unleash the forces of creative destruction again the West.”

“So Paul, we live in interesting times!”

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