Meet the speakers (part 2)

At Digital Transformations, we want to get to the heart of things. We’re not satisfied with looking at the Digital Society. We want to look inside it, and inside ourselves. In all the excitement and trepidation surrounding the emergence of a digital society, we all – all who are affected by it, who try to express themselves within it, and who want to contribute to it – need to strip away the superficial layers of debate about change and transformation. Everyone will gain from such a debate. Artists and creative professionals will find new ways to respond to the changed environment. Businesses will find new ways to see and develop opportunities. Policy makers and educators will find new ways to share the benefits of these changes with everyone.

Meet Ronan Laffan

Ronan Laffan

Ronan is Chief Solution Architect at Version 1, a leading Irish and UK IT services company. Ronan has over 15 years’ experience in the delivery of technology solutions and is known in the industry as an innovative and strategic thinker.

Naturally, the digital society needs technical people, but the obsession with the mechanics of technology and the co-opting of the language of the creative process risks suppressing real creativity and crippling innovation. Ronan argues for a renaissance of the arts in the tech industry.

CONFERENCE THEME: NETWORKED PERSONALITY

We’ve always been social, but the digital society seems to have created the paradox of constant contact and alienation. We have no shortage of channels for communication, self-expression and re-invention, and yet authenticity, credibility and dependability seem to be increasingly elusive.

Communication is prolific, easy to engineer, and very visible. Connection is elusive, unpredictable, impossible to replicate.

In a digital society, will the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual's distinctive character be directly associated with one's own learning and habits? Will behaviour - on which identity rests and through which decisions are made - be wholly one's own, or will the machines and systems to which one is connected become proxies for identity? In what sense will we be legally, morally, and intellectually responsible for our creations?

Meet Liing Heaney

Liing Heaney

Liing is a new media artist working in Dublin, Ireland. She has been making work influenced by natural systems, cybernetics, alternative geography and feedback loops. Her work engages with a range of media from electronics, game engines, and 3D animations to analogue forms such as drawing and sculpture.

Liing delves into the isolating affects of digital technologies in physically remote and rural regions. She explores the links and tensions between geological time/pre-history and the “Information Age”. Liing reveals “the myth of the wilderness” in a digitised world and the physical components & limitations of digital infrastructure.

Meet Ian Keaveny

Ian holds a BA Hons Fine art painting/printmaking from Winchester school of Art and has had a number of solo and group shows. Since 2012 worked almost exclusively online and in digital media.

Ian gives us a brief survey of Glitch Art, with examples and its influence, issues of copyright, in relation to traditional art forms and practices, its aesthetics, Dirty new media and porn, its bypassing of traditional art criticism and gallery curation and its celebration of the broken as a response to an increasingly intrusive surveillance culture.

Ian has written “Glitch art holds much in common with pop art but it is much more cannibalistic and far more ruthless. When a paradigm crashes it takes no prisoners and the language you have used before no longer makes sense.”

Why should you be a part of Digital Transformations?

Innovation

Real innovation involves exploration, curiosity, and contact with ideas and experiences that are unfamiliar. Digital Transformations will start you on a journey of new understanding that can lead to new discoveries for you and your business.

Networking

The speakers, from the arts, media, business, education, technology and film will be joined by key influencers in the audience. This is a unique gathering of people, with whom senior managers and policy makers can establish potent new relationships.

Insight

To gain a competitive edge, you need to see things more clearly, and more quickly than others in your field. Digital Transformations will help clarify what the digital society is, without the jargon, and will use the imagination of artists and creative professionals to help you gain that critical insight.

Meet the speakers (part 1)

Over the next few weeks we will introduce you to our themes and to our contributing speakers.  But first we need to demystify the digital society. Stephen Spielberg wrote of technology “It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”

The news is filled with anxiety inducing stories of artificial intelligence programmes with the latent intentions of Skynet, of a jobless and inequitable future built on the backs of a robot workforce, where privacy is a commodity and our sense of self is an online performance.

Digital is everywhere – in education, health, government policy, art, heritage, economics – but is “digital” and “digital transformation” just Tech’s latest mantra? Is it just sloganizing?

What’s the difference between the digital society and the information age? Where can we see this digital transformation taking place?

Meet Glyn Darkin

Glyn Darkin

Glyn is Chief Digital Architect at Wipro Digital. He’s expert in designing, building, delivering and running successful digital services by applying the skills and experience learned through delivering solutions for some of the UK and Ireland’s largest brands: Tesco, Sony, Clarks, Levis, Sky, Lakeland, Toys R Us, RBS, usgrave, FBD, SEAI, and AIB.

Glyn is at the forefront of the changes in the technology that are transforming business and society, and he’ll lay the foundations for the conference with a primer of the most far-reaching changes coming our way.

CONFERENCE THEME: DIGITAL HUMAN

History – said James Joyce – is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. The narratives of the digital transformation have the recurring character of the digital human. A character that is sometimes an angel and sometimes a devil. It is the cyborg that absolutely will not stop, it is the uploaded consciousness, it is the child forever immersed in the endless online game.

Is the digital society defined by the interaction of human beings and the environment they occupy and create by their collective action? Or is the digital society a human being+machine now the unit around which identity, rights, legal identity and meaning revolve?

Meet plan b

plan b

Sophia New and Daniel Belasco Rogers – aka plan b – are British artists based in Berlin since 2001.They have recorded everywhere they have been with a GPS, each day for the last decade and the collection of all their text messages sent to each other.They will explore our practice of data collection, and its historically unprecedented current levels of capture. They will talk about their own experiences of making art from digital sources, using open source operating systems and software.

Meet Joanna Hopkins

Joanna Hopkins

Joanna’s work explores the overlaps between the digital society, the brain, how people behave and psychology. She has completed multiple projects within the social engagement, digital and residency based sphere, including the CURAM Artists in Residence Programme in NUIG.Joanna will present The Empathy Machine. An interactive video booth that works via a pre-programmed Raspberry Pi. It reads facial and voice detection, which then triggers a series of pre-recorded prompts and questions. The Empathy Machine invokes the idea that even though our daily interactions are becoming more computer based, an on-screen persona may never replicate the empathetic nature of a real live human being.Online doctors and medication is a rapidly growing area. If, without touch, and physical awareness or assessment, can diagnosis be wrong or not helpful at all?

Why should you be a part of Digital Transformations?

Innovation

Real innovation involves exploration, curiosity, and contact with ideas and experiences that are unfamiliar. Digital Transformations will start you on a journey of new understanding that can lead to new discoveries for you and your business.

Networking

The speakers, from the arts, media, business, education, technology and film will be joined by key influencers in the audience. This is a unique gathering of people, with whom senior managers and policy makers can establish potent new relationships.

Insight

To gain a competitive edge, you need to see things more clearly, and more quickly than others in your field. Digital Transformations will help clarify what the digital society is, without the jargon, and will use the imagination of artists and creative professionals to help you gain that critical insight.

The 1960s, in plastic

The future happens to us a lot quicker than it used to.

The late Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame, was interviewed for a documentary. He recalled a magazine article written in the 1960s, speculating about what the 1990s would be like – society, fashion and mores, appliances and the built environment. Two things struck Adams – first, to one who’d seen what the 1990s actually looked like, it was obvious these predictions were really projections of the fascinations of the 1960s. The 1960s, in plastic, he joked. But the other thing that struck him was that the biggest change came from something that already existed in the 1960s but was entirely absent from this future world of the 1990s – computers.

Something else is striking about this anecdote: Thirty years. To an inhabitant of the 1960s (unless you were Rod Serling), it would be ridiculous imagining how different society would be in ten years, since it would be largely the same, assuming of course that we all hadn’t died in a nuclear holocaust. Transformations take much longer to work themselves out.

Apart from the changing climate, which is really the working out of physical processes and not the outcome of humanity’s infinite and irrational variability, would anyone dare predict the society that will attend in even 10 years’ time?

Despite all the talk about from business and industry about disruption and transformation, business craves stability. Maybe not technological stability, but certainly regulatory stability, financial, political, social stability, and of course environmental stability. Stability is a state of affairs that persists over time. It is the antithesis of disruption.

And, in an era where everything is changing so rapidly, the period in which a state of affairs can remain stable is shrinking . And that is an inherent threat to business planning.

If a business needs to plan over a 5 or ten-year period, their ability to predict the state of affairs is going to be increasingly difficult. They are more likely to succumb to the 1960s-in-plastic syndrome: transferring superficial aspects of today’s world into the future, missing the profound and subtle changes taking place now, and assuming that everything else will remain equal.

In another interview – the last TV interview before he died – Adam’s was asked about the impressions he’d like his work to have on non-readers. “Some people think it’s some kind of vision of the future, which it isn’t.” He explained that he invented the hitchiker’s guide, a precursor of handheld mobile devices, and the Babelfish, a precursor of universal instantaneous translation, as a way of solving narrative problems he had and the whole satire as a way of “looking at us”. He wasn’t trying to predict the future, and yet the future seemed to make his stories seem predictive.

If what artists create take a generation to become part of the world around us, then these creations are of no immediate concern to business. But what if it takes only 5 years? Can wise decisions be taken, a case be made, and money spent when the Rumsfeldian “unknown unknowns” are so close, so present, and so central?

Businesses, especially tech businesses, both shape and serve reality. But the relevance of the arts to this activity is even more important because the world being ushered in by digital transformation is even more uncertain, unstable, and unpredictable. It is artists that venture into that realm and create the ideas that lead to the realities in which business seeks its return on investment.

And as the Australian writer Richard Flanagan wrote, “what reality was ever made by realists?”

…but not as we know it

Assume creative expression is a system, and let’s try to reduce it to its basic elements. We build this model of creativity not because it’s right, but because it might help us see how much of our ideas about arts and creativity make sense only in a non-digital society, and how a digital society might turn those ideas on their head. All models are wrong; some are useful.

Anyone who performs a creative or interpretive act exists mostly in a social setting – mostly, because it is generally accepted that we all have access to some interior personal space that is both unique to us and not directly accessible to others. Together (the exterior and interior spaces in which we live) a person sees, hears, and feels the world around them and reacts in some way and for some purpose – that reaction is manifested in the working in some medium, some object we can transform to embody what we want to express. The result of that working then exists outside the person or persons that created it. The intent of that work is then received by someone who didn’t participate in its creation, but the work has meaning to the extent that the recipient reacts to it, drawing on their own external/internal experiences.

And of course the creator and the receiver are human beings. And of course the medium has no consciousness or will of its own, and is inert until the creator acts on it and invests his/her vision in it.

Just about every part of that attempt to abstract the creative process could be challenged, but this is a model not scripture so let’s play the game.

Take the world as we’ve known it, with its creators, its painters, sculptors, writers, playwrights and poets, and on the other side its audiences, its readers, viewers, theatre-goers, and in the middle the work, both the embodiment and the vehicle of what the creator has to say.

Can you think of any part of this world that isn’t being radcially transformed by the digital society?

Start with the creators: where is that line between the internal and external, when so much of what was private is now public, when what we see and hear in the world around us is filtered through algotrithms that are supposedly determined by our own behaviour and preferences?

Take receivers: well, there might not be any in a digital society. We are all “content creators” at some level. All we have to do is accept the terms and conditions of some cool thing that makes our lives easier, more fun, or that just makes us look good. We are being exhorted to control our own brand – our own interior lives are commodities too.

Finally, the medium: Steve Woodall, a book artist (and Collections Specialist for the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts San Francisco) who used the relatively new technology of Xerox photocopiers, once said anything that shortens the distance between the artist and the audience is a good thing. The digital society creates the illusion that this distance has been illiminated – a potentially dangerous illusion since traditionally if you couldn’t acquire the raw materials of your medium yourself you could purchase them and in either case once acquired you were in control. In the digital society, you acquire the materials for free (subject to terms and conditions) and once acquired the product controls you. You rent, you pay for use, and you sell your interaction with the material back to the owner. But also this medium is not inert, the way a page that you write on is, or clay that you mould. It is intelligent. It shapes you as much as you shape it.

And of course all of them or none of them may be human beings. And these changes are not confined to artists and audiences. They are happening to all of us. The author and philosopher Bill Neblett wrote in Sherlock’s Logic that you can’t say you know what you mean to say if you can’t in fact say it – that thought outside expression can’t be known. Or as Wittgenstein said “whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent.” Whatever we may think in our heads, it can’t be understood until it gets out of our heads and onto the page, the stage, the codebase, or wherever. In a traditional society, the inarticulate private space is fairly large and largely sacred – it is the source of personal value and dignity and is accepted at least in part as being outside of the public world we try to share with each other. In a digital society that private space is small because so much of it is now public, and what’s left behind is denigrated. How many of you have been asked to prove your friendship to someone by sharing one of their posts? And without a private personal unrecorded experience where is the room for history – the telling and retelling of stories, and the truth about human experience that stories can reveal – when experience is equated with the sum total of ones public interactions?