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artistry and technology

Many years ago I found myself at the swedish head quarter for ABB in Västerås. ABB, founded back in 1883, is one of the leading makers of advanced robots, amongst other things, focusing on process productivity and the reduction of negative environmental impacts (energy saving etc).

You are greeted by an army of robots, most of them in typical ABB orange, exhibited like pieces of art in glass cases where they showcase advanced operations and exact movements. They are used in the auto industry for example, but play a key role in many other industries where automated processes are needed. The over-all feeling you get is exactly that; heavy industry, factories, big facilities and more than one Terminator flash back.

But art, artists and artistry really make the perfect partnership when it comes to humanising technology and/or showcasing technological capabilities. Add an artist and an idea, and you don’t loose any of the functional capabilities of this robot, but you gain a great deal of emotions. Knowing how much that matters in business (no, humans), it’s easy to see something like this being successful at a trade show.

Artist Alex Kiessling with ABB robot, via post at creative applications

Another (successful at that) example is of course Volvo Trucks and ballerina.

And on the humanizing robots note, here’s what happens when you attribute human characteristics to machines (anthropomorphism).

“but those little bastards can develop a personality, and they save so many lives.”

the revolution that wasn’t a revolution

A man in a large crowd stares into the camera. His eyes are wide open. If you didn’t know what was happening, you’d have a hard time telling if he had a stare of anger, victory or happiness. It was a mix of all three. He was in the start of a revolution.

There was a panel discussion at FutureEverything in Manchester some time back, about digital and the future. Ela Kagel, a curator focusing on free culture and the open web, had a talk about value transfer, crowd funding and the challenge of future revenue models for artists and cultural workers. It’s a very interesting subject, and indeed her project called Free Culture Incubator is too.

What I find quite interesting with this is that arts grants and other official cultural support functions have been about the process of creating art. Support for the doing, so that artists can then sell the final product. And although many artists, who have always struggled, may find bootlegging and copying a major problem and maybe even a spit in the face, they now have so many new ways of getting support for the process and the actual doing from a much larger community. A visionary idea or project like Molly Crabapple’s Week In Hell can get $17,000 from supporters that don’t know what’s going to come out at the end. We don’t just buy the final art, we buy into a thought, idea, culture or movement. Below is a graph of the different types of projects that get funding from Kickstarter.

“Are we prepared for after the revolution?”

That was the key question that made me squirm in my seat up in Manchester. “Are we prepared for after the revolution?” Well that makes no sense at all, which, seen as I can’t shut up, proclaimed loudly. I got a quiet stare back. The fact of the matter is that only if you’ve been asleep for the last 20 years can you wake up after a revolution. What we’ve been in for quite some time now (quite being the key part) is an evolution and not a revolution. An evolution that many have handled brilliantly and others not so brilliantly. But to blame it on being a victim of a revolution is crazy. Revolutions explode. Those prepared for this revolution are those who saw it as, and treated it as, an evolution early on. Those interested in, or at least realizing, the change. So the question has the answer already. For those who see it as a revolution; no, you’re not prepared.

Why is it important to distinguish a revolution from an evolution? Because it better helps corporations, organisations and brands making sense of it all. That it’s not making sense of something new, but continuously making sense of ongoing change. It might be about an implementation. Only not a solution, but rather a mindset or approach. The quicker they come to terms with the fact that never again will it move so slowly, the better. It’s not a change. It’s change.

But still, wise words from a man who wrote poetry from his thoughts about revolutions. Revolutions will not be televised because the actual revolution has already happened in the hearts and minds of revolutionaries. That cannot be televised. Revolutions, he said, happen within. Only the effects can be viewed and broadcast, and here’s how it looks.


Romanian revolutionaries taking over mass media, a good sign of a revolution.