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.

…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?