Eight ways digital technologies are changing the arts

Inspired by the topics being discussed at the upcoming Regional Arts Broadband Forum, we set about exploring 8 ways digital technologies are changing the arts.

Broadband and online tools connect Australian artists and audiences globally, while also helping to cultivate local arts communities

Just take a look at the incredible work being done to invigorate the local arts scene by Marcus Westbury and the team at Renew Newcastle, a not for profit that finds artistic, cultural and community uses for empty buildings. The Renew Newcastle website and the wider attention the project has received online have helped cement Newcastle’s well earned reputation as a vibrant artistic region. Renew Newcastle demonstrates the good things that can happen when good old-fashioned hard work, creative thinking and sweat are used alongside online tools.

Unleashing the artist in all of us

Technology is democratising art and unleashing the artist in all of us, wittingly or unwittingly. Everyone’s a photographer these days and this is a very good thing. While of course art has never been the exclusive domain of people who would consider themselves artists (and rightly so!), technology such as smartphone cameras and ever more affordable digital cameras means that the tools required to create and publish different types of art are increasingly being carried around as a matter of course.

“Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.” – Clay Shirky.

Self-publishing was once seen by many as ‘vanity’ but thanks to the growing adoption of social media, attitudes towards content creation and publishing are changing rapidly. This has implications for how art is being made in regional Australia – while arts institutions still have a valuable and important role to play, all that’s required for many forms of art to be made is people with a willing & creative attitude. This has always the case of course, but broadband and social media are allowing each of us, no matter where we are to explore our innate creativity in new ways.

Unleashing the curator in all of us

With the exponential creation of new online content come two common experiences; information overload and a hunger for really well curated content.

As Clay Shirky also said, the trouble we often find ourselves in “isn’t information overload; it’s filter failure.”

While search engines and social media algorithms like Facebook’s News Feed are essential tools for sorting the wheat from the chaff, we posit that there will always be a place for the human curator. With the advent of broadband and social media, it’s increasingly the case that ‘we’re all curators now’. Enter the culture of the curator.

Said Curation Nation author Steve Rosenbaum, “Digital curation is the future of media: it’s more detailed, more multi-faceted and nuanced. And just more.”

Mobility = art anywhere

The mobility offered by smartphones, tablets and laptop computers reminds us of another fact that isn’t new but is now reasserting itself nonetheless; art can be made anywhere. Artists are combining mobility with tactile face-to-face collaboration, performance and digital tools in new ways. This emergence of the seemingly endless possibilities for artists to create digital art, or capture art digitally, anywhere and at any time offers both freedoms and challenges. To quote Jean Baudrillard, “It is always the same: once you are liberated, you are forced to ask who you are.”

Sharing live artistic experiences & documenting them for posterity

Here’s a fun exercise: imagine it’s 2030 and you’re the CEO of the National Film and Sound Archive. “The NFSA aims to develop a collection that has enduring cultural significance.” What digital artefacts from 2011 would you wish you had in the archive but don’t? Next exercise: make that digital artefact today for posterity. Ask not what documentary makers can do for you; ask what you can do for the documentary makers of the future!

New commercialisation and fundraising opportunities

The starving artist may be a romantic notion but it’s perhaps an uncomfortable reality for too many. New thinking about how to fund artists and help those who want to commercialise their work may be needed. Research shows that direct funding for individual artists has fallen by about a third since the mid 1990s. As Professor Peter Shergold has stated, “Few realise the creative economy contributes as much to the national economy as agriculture, and its importance is set to grow in the 21th Century.”

The 2010 report Arts Plus, New Models New Money, by Arts Queensland and the Centre for Social Impact proposed the establishment of a Foundation for the Artist. It would be the first of its kind in Australia and bring together public, private and corporate funding for artists. E-commerce and crowdfunding initiatives like http://www.kickstarter.com/ also offer potential for those who have creative arts projects and can market them well.

Collaborate with anyone, anywhere

Artists, patrons, galleries, fans and critics are connecting and collaborating in new ways thanks to social online platforms. Such experimentation and innovation appears to be needed.

As Julianne Shultz has said, “Every aspect of the arts is interrelated. Strong arts companies, in turn, require a pool of brilliant individual artists. If we ignore one component, that weakens the whole. It is artists, in isolation or together, who are the creative turbine at the heart of the creation of cultural value. The challenge is how to recognise, support and enhance that activity.”

Using online video to learn and teach art

Whether you’re an aspiring barista into latte art, mime or magician, there’s no shortage of online videos to learn new tricks from. Web video allows artists to showcase their skills, deploy video as an artistic medium in itself, and to learn from other artists. As TED Curator Chris Anderson has explained, free online video is accelerating innovation in creative endeavours.

“[Free online video] is creating new global communities, granting their members both the means and the motivation to step up their skills and broaden their imaginations. It is unleashing an unprecedented wave of innovation in thousands of different disciplines: some trivial, some niche in the extreme, some central to solving humanity’s problems. In short, it is boosting the net sum of global talent. It is helping the world get smarter.” – Chris Anderson.

With the increasing uptake of broadband internet, live webcasting of artistic performances as well as real-time online arts lessons over videoconferencing are likely to become much more common over the next few years. This will surely be a good thing for artists and art audiences, wherever they live.

What’s next?

What’s the most exciting use of broadband by a regional artist or art institution that you’ve seen recently? Tell us in the comments section below.

Written by John Elliott @elliottcountry and Reid Elliott @rdlltt. These views are their own personal views and do not represent their employers or any other organisation.

4 thoughts on “Eight ways digital technologies are changing the arts”

  1. Interesting! I had never thought about it for the arts field..I use teambox for managing my projects and for sharing documents, files, etc..This might help if you want to upload pictures and share with many people at a time. You can also communicate through the twitter-like messaging system it has.


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