As solar energy is quickly rising in efficiency and lowering in price, more creative solutions are being devised to fully bring this technology into widespread mainstream use.

Kyocera and Century Tokyo Leasing recently announced the construction of the world’s largest floating solar factory. The factory will generate electricity just off the coast of Japan, where many people are seeking renewable sources of energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

The site will be located on Yamakura Dam, which is in Ichihara City, Chiba Prefecture, in Japan. This is a great innovation not just because Japan is short on space, but also because it allows the solar panels to operate more efficiently, because the water acts as a natural cooling system.

One possible idea that opens many possibilities for solar power, is solar farms that actually float on water. According to recent reports, one company named Forward Thinking Architecture from Barcelona, Spain is taking this idea a step further, by farming food as well as energy from the sun. The company has estimated that their project will yield at least 8,152 tons of vegetables a year and 1,703 tons of fish a year.

Javier F. Ponce, one of the minds behind the project said that, “Facing the current challenges of cities growing, land consumption and climate change, I believe projects like the Smart Floating Farms can help change some of the existing paradigms which have led us to the present situation and open new possibilities which can improve the quality of human life and the environment. Based on a Floating Multi-layered strategy which combines Aquaculture(fish), Hydroponics(crops) and Photovoltaics(solar power), we aim that these floating farms can be located close to areas where food is more needed and potentially become automated Farm Clusters run by the use of IT technologies/software”

John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.

This article (Solar Powered Floating Farm Could Provide 9855 Tons Of Food Per Year) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

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Venice Residency


The Live Art Performance by Tom Estes at ‘’Parallax: Other Realms’ will inaugurate The Biennial Project’s expanded program of large screen digital projections at La Biennale di Venezia. The performance will coincide with Estes’ time at the newly founded Biennial Project Residency Project at the V70 building in Venice.

The path to a successful art career can be a twisting one, but one commonly traveled route is the artist residency. Not all residencies are created equal, and while some may help artists get a leg up in the art world, programs can be grouped several ways. There are hundreds of residencies out there, but only a few highly prestigious programs are invitation-only like those of Artpace, the Walker Art Center, UCLA’s Hammer Museum or — The Biennial Project Residency Project.

However, unlike many other residency programs The Biennial Project Residency Project selects only one individual to take part in our program at any one time. This years Biennial Project Artist in Residence for 2015 is London based Artist Tom Estes



The Venice Residency takes place in the heart of the historic city of Venice — an “open-air” museum with a cultural and artistic heritage of inestimable value. The residency also takes place during The Venice Biennale — which has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world.

For those of you who don’t know, The Biennial Project, the hosts of this event, have the collaborative goal that artists’ explore the nature and understand the perception of biennials within the art world and, and in so doing, develop a collective body of work that will be exhibited in as many biennials as possible. This year the President of la Biennale di Venezia, Paolo Baratta, accompanied by the curator, Okwui Enwezor, met with the representatives of the 53 Countries participating and determined this years theme for 2015. A “Parliament of Forms” rather than one overarching theme was chosen. The title and theme which is ‘All the World’s Futures’ is informed by a layer of intersecting “Filters” or a constellation of parameters that circumscribe multiple ideas, touched upon to both imagine and realize a diversity of practices.

In the search for a language and method for an exhibition in Venice, The Biennial Project and Artist in Residence Tom Estes have settled on the nature of the exhibition as fundamentally a visual, somatic, aural, and narrative event. In so doing, we have ask how an exhibition of the scale and scope of the 56th International Art Biennale can be addressed in its format and refresh it with the potential of its temporal capacity.

biennial-roadshow-200pxFor Estes there are new possibilities opening up around the next generation of mediated experiences. Of course, the artistic possibilities of virtual reality are tremendous, but the implications are far greater for many other fields. From advertising and fashion to pornography, virtual reality is on the cusp of becoming a part of our everyday lives. Like a child in a world of new technologies, Estes references these new technologies and tests boundaries and deciphers our sense of reality with play and curiosity. 

Thinking through the lens of 20th-century cartoons, Atari video games, The Sims, the writing of Oxford Professor of Philosophy Nick Bostrom, the innovative and self-reflective film Tron, and other children’s entertainment, this Live Art Performance explores the coexistence of disparate elements within shared spaces. Gags betray complex meanings and socio-political satire, and unrelated objects, locales, and avatars interact in both the same dimension and time as well as imagined ones.

Through the work, Estes glimpses the possibilities and problems that emerge when becoming a digital entity. Clumsy and mischievous, in this performance work Estes becomes a “Virtual Drawing Machine’ by incorporating a DARPA-funded Exoskeleton ‘soft’ suit (currently under development at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University). Estes utilizes this technology with a sense of wonder and humor by reverse engineering to a past time in order to position himself to explore the potential of computers in an at-the-time esoteric field. Concepts surrounding animation, digital technologies and Science Fiction are expanded into a Live Art Performance that enacts a sort of hysteria around flatness and depth perception in relation to technologies, robotics, real and illusory spaces—physical, virtual, the internal, and the external.

The title of the work ‘Parallax’ is a term for an effect in optical instruments. Many animals, including humans, have two eyes with overlapping visual fields that use parallax to gain depth perception; this process is known as stereopsis. Questioning the use of human senses in deciphering reality, Estes transcends the categories that separate drawing from performance, the human from the nonhuman, and the animated from the static, while experiences of technological devices and flatness lead to fantastic and absurd implications for drawings and computer programming. As screens, portals, and shadows populate both physical and virtual realms, the artist poses question as to whether images are reflections or traces of the objective world, obstructions, fantasies, or entryways into other realms.

The Live Art Performance of Parallax: Other Realms will take place from 5:00 on May 4th, 2015, followed by a Champagne Reception organsed by The Biennial Project at VIA GARIBALDI 1791 Sestiere Castello Venezia, Italia

The Biennial Project Residency Project will be open to the public from the 3rd to the 8th of May. Arrange a studio visit by calling 44 + 7552091612 or by emailing
You can see more of the work of Tom Estes at

There is a Venice Launch party


In Association with Bath Spa University

7pm start till MIDNIGHT

Stimulus Ltd DJ SQUAD
Alex Čepalović
Rude Boy Ray Gange
Messrs Danny Pockets & Steve Smith

Live ART Performance by Tom Estes

Paul Sakoilsky Dark Times Editor Poem 4 Venice
Late Night Reading

Special Live Guest Performance 11pm START
Jaye Moni

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Han: The Robot So Human It Can Act Drunk


An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called ‘Han’ recognizes and interprets people’s facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital.

Meet Han who made its debut to the public earlier this year in January, during the Digital-Life-Design fair in Germany. A humanoid robot which can mimic human expressions greeted visitors on Saturday (April 18) at a Hong Kong electronics fair.

The robot head, known as ‘Han’, can also hold simple interactive conversations with the crowd. At the touch of a button using a mobile phone app, Han can smile, wince, frown, wink, or even act drunk. About 40 motors control his face to form delicate facial expressions, according to product manager at Hanson Robotics, Grace Copplestone.The robot can also respond to his environment, thanks to several cameras inside his eyes and chest.

“So Han’s really exciting because not only can he generate very realistic facial expressions, but he can also interact with the environment around him. So he has cameras on his eyes and on his chest, which allow him to recognise people’s face, not only that, but recognise their gender, their age, whether they are happy or sad, and that makes him very exciting for places like hotels for example, where you need to appreciate the customers in front of you and react accordingly,” Copplestone said.

During the Global Sources electronics show, in which Han gave demonstrations every hour, visitors could also have a simple conversation with him. One visitor, businessman Harbhajan Singh Sethi from Mumbai, joked with the robot, “I think you are perfect man for my wife,” to which Han quipped, “I don’t have to do whatever you say. I have my own free will.” Sethi said he found it fun to talk to the robot: “It was fun and it was interesting. He’s answering you. He’s answering you to the point.” Another visitor, Xiao Yong, who owns a technology company in the southern Shenzhen city, said he was also impressed by the robot.

“I think it’s very magical, because the robot’s facial expressions are very rich. When I greeted him, he responded. When I asked him to smile, he smiled. He can flirt and wink. It’s magical. It’s very well made,” Xiao said.

Copplestone added that some of the robotic technology, such as facial recognition, is available on open source; meaning robot developers around the world can use the same software.

A unique feature of Han is his human-like skin, which is created by a patented material called “Frubber,” short for “Flesh Rubber”, an elastic polymer. Copplestone said the human-like robot heads could serve a range of functions, especially where face-to-face communications is important.

“There are three markets we are really excited about. One is hospitality, so for example, the receptionist behind desk and hotels. The second one is entertainment, so casinos, theme parks and museums. And the third is health care, and that’s in two ways. One is medical simulation. If you can provide doctors with mannequins that have very realistic facial expressions on them, that provides a very beneficial piece of training to the doctor, and the mannequin can travel over the world to do that. Another area of medical care is for the elderly. We believe a human face on a robot makes it far more approachable, and efficient, and effective in caring for older people.”

The Hong Kong based company aims to commercialise Han’s technology on a different face, an Eurasian female called Eva, and plans to produce hundreds of Evas this year. The price is yet to be determined.


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Cybernetic Arm Goes Crazy On Canadian TV Show

“See, it’s very simple. All you have to do is to save the functions you want into the database. Oh, I err… left it on the wrong setting.”Furious masturbation mode activated.  This what happens when you start a computer in public and the most frequently used setting- porn- keeps playing from where it left off.  “Oh my! I have NO idea how that mode got programmed on there!!!”

But wait… there is more.

Cybernetic arm goes crazy on canadian TV show - Imgur2

It looks like it knows where it wants to go – so you might want to clear your history there buddy because it looks like it’s working just fine. No doubt this item will be an instant sell-out. Though it might be advisable to practice on a hotdog first.

But wait..  plot twist! This is not actually a robotic arm. This clip is from a French comedy show, Studio Bagel.

Though the lie was funnier of course there have recently been huge advances in robotics which are designed to help people with disabilities to move like an able-bodied person.

A father who lost his arm in an accident six years ago has been given a new lease of life by a hi-tech bionic hand which is so precise he can type again.

Nigel Ackland, 53, has been fitted with the Terminator-like carbon fibre mechanical hand which he can control with movements in his upper arm. The new bebionic3 myoelectric hand, which is also made from aluminium and alloy knuckles, moves like a real human limb by responding to Nigel’s muscle twitches. Incredibly, the robotic arm is so sensitive it means the father-of-one can touch type on a computer keyboard, peel vegetables, and even dress himself for the first time in six years.

Another example is the work of Cyberdyne Corporation in Japan has created an upgrade to  the existing physical capabilities of the human body.

HAL, which weighs 23kg, is comprised of robotic ‘limbs’, and a backpack containing the suit’s battery and computer system. It is strapped to the body and controlled by thought. When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles, and very weak traces of these signals can be detected on the surface of the skin. The HAL suit identifies these signals using a sensor attached the skin of the wearer, and a signal is sent to the suit’s power unit telling the suit to move in unison with the wearer’s own limbs.

People with physical disabilities, such as stroke-induced paralysis or spinal cord injuries, can hire the suit at a cost of Y220,000 (£1,370) per month, and Cyberdyne Corporation believes the technology can have a variety of applications, including in physical training and rehabilitation, adding extra “muscle” to heavy labour jobs, and even in rescue and recovery operations.

HAL can help the wearer to carry out a variety of every day tasks, including standing up from a chair, walking, climbing up and down stairs, and lifting heavy objects. The suit can operate for almost five hours before it needs recharging, and Cyberdyne Corporation says that it does not feel heavy to wear, because the robotic exoskeleton supports its own weight.

Researchers at the corporation said HAL had been designed for use both indoors and outdoors. Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai, the company’s founder and chief executive, originally created the suit for climbing mountains.


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Susan Kare: Icons For The First Mac Computer


Susan Kare, “Sketches for Graphic User Interface Icon” (1982), ink on graph paper at MOMA.  Kare was originally hired into the Macintosh software group to design user interface graphics and fonts; her business cards read “HI Macintosh Artist”. Later, she was a Creative Director in Apple Creative Services working for the Director of that organization, Tom Suiter.

This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good is an exhibition organized at MOMA by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Michelle Millar Fisher, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design. This exhibition takes its title from the Twitter message that British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) used to light up the stadium at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremonies. His buoyant tweet highlighted the way that the Internet—perhaps the most radical social design experiment of the last quarter century—has created limitless possibilities for the discovery, sharing, and expansion of knowledge and information.

As we revel in this abundant possibility, we sometimes forget that new technologies are not inherently democratic. Is design in the digital age—so often simply assumed to be for the greater good—truly for everyone? From initial exploratory experiments to complex, and often contested, hybrid digital-analog states, all the way to “universal” designs, This Is for Everyone explores this question with works from MoMA’s collection that celebrate the promise—and occasional flipside—of contemporary design.


Mac fonts designed c. 1983-1984 by Susan Kare. A member of the original Apple Macintosh design team, she worked at Apple Computer starting in 1982 (Badge #3978).

This year the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York jointly acquired Kare’s archive of these original drawings with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and selections are currently on view in MoMA’s This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good exhibition.

When Susan Kare sketched the icons for the first Macintosh computer back in the early 1980s, she only had basic black-and-white pixels to create a universal user language. Computer use had mostly been for the tech savvy and executed totally in text, and Apple was aiming for a device anyone could easily use on start up. Decades later, her smiling “Happy Mac” has greeted countless people as they booted up their Apples, and many of her designs are still part of computer interface, from the curly command sign to the trash can for delete.

Susan Kare (born April 6, 1954) is an artist and graphic designer who created many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. She was also one of the original employees of NeXT (the company formed by Steve Jobs after leaving Apple in 1985), working as the Creative DirectorAs Paola Antonelli, senior curator in MoMA’s department of architecture and design, and Michelle Millar Fisher, curatorial assistant, shared on the Inside/Out MoMA blog: “Using one box to equal one pixel, Kare designed intuitive icons for various functions a computer user might undertake (for example, a pair of scissors symbolized cutting text). The pictogram icons were designed to be an instinctive language that could be understood and loved by users in many different countries.”

This Is for Everyone is an exhibition about the democracy of design, and Kare’s icons are definitely for the masses in their simplicity and friendliness. Three selections of her graph paper work for the Mac’s graphical user interface (GUI) are on view, including some sketches for “debugging” that include an image of a flyswatter and a boot to target a pixel bug, and a running rabbit once paired with a tortoise to indicate processing speed. Alongside these sketches is a notebook open to a pair of scissors, shaded in below a couple of Apple logos.

Taking inspiration from familiar objects, history, and art, some of her designs were direct mimics like a dipped paint brush, others were more abstract like the four-sided command icon based on a Scandinavian map’s designation of points of interest. As she told the Next Web last year, she thought it essential that “symbols were based on everyday objects, when possible. For example, it seemed to me that more people had experience with a wristwatch than an hourglass.” Thus the clock became the icon of time passing on a busy Mac.

Working on a limited interface, each pixel mattered, and it’s impressive how even the more abstract icons became almost invisible through their usability. Even her more whimsical choices like the “dogcow,” originally part of her Cairo typeface and later used to show printer paper alignment, have the same language as road signs in that once you recognize them, that connection remains and you don’t forget. Kare went on to an influential career especially in pixel art and computer design, later continuing to work with Steve Jobs as Creative Director at NeXT, and even designing Microsoft solitaire and virtual gifts for Facebook. Going back to the early 1980s, there’s still a minimalist momentum in each GUI icon, giving a user-focused personality to Apple computers that would continue through to today.


Susan Kare, “Sketches for Graphic User Interface Icon” (1982), ink on graph paper. Gift of the designer, 2015 on display at MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art store in New York City has begun carrying stationery and notebooks featuring her designs. Beginning February 7, 2007, she has produced icons for the “Gifts” feature of the popular social-networking website,Facebook. Initially, profits from gift sales were donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, for the fight against breast cancer. After Valentine’s Day, the gift selection was modified to include new and limited edition gifts that did not necessarily pertain to Valentine’s Day. One of the gift icons, titled “Big Kiss” is also featured in some versions ofMac OS X as a user account picture.

Susan Kare is the designer of many typefaces, icons, and original marketing material for the original Macintosh operating system. Descendants of her groundbreaking work can still be seen in many computer graphics tools and accessories, especially icons such as the Lasso, the Grabber, and the Paint Bucket. An early pioneer of pixel art, her most recognizable works from her time with Apple are the Chicago typeface (the most prominent user interface typeface seen in Classic Mac OS, as well as the typeface used in the first four generations of the Apple iPod interface), the Geneva typeface, the original monospace Monaco typeface, Clarus the Dogcow, the Happy Mac (the smiling computer that welcomed Mac users when starting their machines), and the symbol on the Command keyon Apple keyboards.



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The Hipster Paradox: Collective Conformity And The Desire For Individual Distinctiveness

Portrait of young man with tattoos smoking cigarette

Bearded hipsters, with fix gear bicycles and hand-knitted beanies, seem to be everywhere. While they may strive to be individual, they have instead been caught up in one of the greatest mysteries of our time: The Hipster Paradox.  A paper just published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, has created a model of how the desire for individuality always ends up in ‘collective conformity’. 

Do you know a hipster when you see one? Have you ever been in the company of a hipster and tried to bring up the subject? Talking about hipsters in front of hipsters is more taboo than you might think. The term is rarely lobbed in the presence of those who would fit the label. Most often it is used to describe other men in a disparaging way. At the same time, hipster has a different ring to it. It is calls the authenticity of one’s masculinity into question.

Sociological investigations about hipster identity—like Kathleen Ross and Dayna Tortorici’s What Was the Hipster? A Sociological Investigation—have primarily situated hipsters as identified by tastes. But, as Mark Greif wrote, “[S]truggles over taste… are never only about taste.” Beyond this, hipster masculinity is associated with a specific group of men: they’re young, straight, and white. But they are also different from other young, straight, white guys—at least they seem to want to believe they are. They have an evolving set of tastes that encompass an eclectic array of musical interests, hair styles, body types, grooming habits, clothing, literary and artistic curiosities, culinary and libation preferences, and more. As a group, hipsters have a reputation as counter-cultural, androgynous, intelligent, creative and independent but are also mocked for only superficially exhibiting any of these qualities.

Hipster culture is popularly presumed to be more gender and sexually egalitarian. In fact, both men and women can be hipsters. But the most recognizable image of the hipster is a slender white man in his 20s, 30s or 40s and a great deal of hipster style plays on a cultural nostalgia for masculinities of old—a “vintage masculinity.” These performances of gender involve an astounding collection hipstertwinof aesthetics taken from specific periods of  history. Hipsters don’t adopt these masculinities in complete form (or the gender relations from which they emerged). Rather, they borrow bits and pieces, like styles of facial hair or dress or very particular cultural artifacts. They’re into craft beer and microbrews, they deride others for their “pedestrian” palates, and they have strange hobbies that might have been professions a few generations ago. They seem insistent upon finding small—but significant—ways to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps ironically, hipster men might be best understood as standing out by fitting in (with other hipsters).

Hipster masculinities rely on a specific interpretation of their performances of gender. They rely on a sort of “when men used to be men” understanding. But, they also seem simultaneously interested in incorporating the form but denying the substance of the masculinities they perform with their clothing, beards, and interests. For all their posturing, hipster masculinities appear (at least symbolically) intent on being taken tongue in cheek. Yet, if we’re to believe reports of young white men going to plastic surgeons for beard transplants, it’s clear that whatever this new trend is, it may not be undertaken as casually as the hipsters might want others to believe.

Hipster masculinity is all about proof of authenticity. Similar to any identity category worth its salt, membership requires some kind of validation, sometimes institutional of some kind. Hipster identities are less “formal” than this. They are internally validated. Hipster masculinity seems to require proving that other men have failed in their attempts to be hipsters. While Greif does not mention gender, it’s significant that he uses the masculine pronoun. As an identity, hipster masculinity seems to simultaneously—if contradictorily—claim: “Real men don’t care about masculinity,” “I don’t care what people think of my masculinity,” and, more subtly, “This (practiced) indifference is why I’m more of a man than you!” If we take a moment, stand back, and look at them without their beards, bacon and beer, this sounds like a fairly traditional story about masculinity.

Hipster masculinity may be less “new” than popularly imagined, and borrowing more from the masculinities it purports only to cite than the hipsters themselves acknowledge. Now mathematicians believe they have developed an equation to explain why the phenomenon takes place. Professor Paul Smaldino, in a paper just published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, has created a model of how human behaviour always ends up in ‘collective conformity’.


“Few would dispute that we humans make appraisals of our individual ‘distinctiveness’, that we differ in our needs to appear distinct, and that we take actions (e.g. we alter our appearance or expressed opinions) to attain our distinctiveness goals. Furthermore, preferences for distinctiveness and the associated remedial adaptation strategies are at work in the formation of social groups and networks, and in other cultural dynamics such as assimilation or polarization. However, in the broad literature on the psychology and sociology of distinctiveness, there is little mathematical precision in defining ‘distinctiveness preferences’, and little explicit modelling of the individual behaviours adopted to satisfy them or the collective dynamics generated by these individual adaptations.”

He put values in an equation for the ‘position,’ or expressed taste of a person. The mathematician then added in ‘information,’ which is a person’s knowledge of the reaction caused by expressed taste and ‘ideal position,’ where they wanted to be in respect to average. Creating a model using these assumptions, Professor Smaldino ran simulations where individual preference for uniqueness varies between rebel and conformist.


“Most formal models dealing with individual preferences for differentiation posit strict anti-conformity, in which agents adopt whatever position constitutes the minority at a given time. Such individual behaviour of course endogenously alters the distribution of positions and can produce interesting social dynamics. But it precludes the emergence of conformity, our core concern. Relatedly, Smaldino et al. modelled individuals with preferences for membership in groups with different degrees of numerical predominance but this model was not concerned with individual differences or distinctiveness within a population.”

According to a blog in Discover magazine, the University of California professor discovered our common desire to be different means we will always converge toward conformity. The only exception is when our definition of ‘different’ varies widely from one person to another. In this case, everyone splits off from each other other time, with no conformity taking place. In one version of the equation, Professor Smaldino looked at what would happen if only conformists and strict nonconformists lived on Earth. If there were only a few nonconformists, nothing would happen in society. But he identified a tipping point of eight per cent in which they would cause a division in what was considered the normal – creating a larger group with one identity. 

Last year, Professor Jonathan Touboul, a mathematical neuroscientist at the Collège de France in Paris developed a similar equation to explain the ‘hipster paradox.’He claims there is always a delay between the time a trend begins to gain traction, and the time hipsters begin following it. This delay is caused because people can’t be aware of what others are deciding, in real-time. As a result, hipsters gradually realize that the trend, and the decision has been made while making the same decision separately. This leads to them gradually conforming towards what then becomes the mainstream.

A true hipster, by comparison, would need to be constantly changing and adapting their style, personality and ‘authenticity’ as an immediate response to the trend, which the study suggests is impossible, and too difficult to maintain. Professor Touboul used a theory known as Hopf bifurcation. This theory looks at how oscillations, which in this particular case involved swinging between trends towards the mainstream and how hipsters track these trends, change over time. Put simply, the collective delay in recognizing a trend causes stronger oscillations and as time continues, the oscillations become larger.

The full mathematical theory is available from Professor Touboul’s ‘The Hipster Effect: When Anticonformists All Look the Same’ paper.

‘If you take large sets of interacting individuals – whether hipsters, stock traders, or any group that decides to go against the majority – by trying to be different, they will ultimately all do the same thing at the same time,’ said Professor Touboul.

‘The reason for that is the time it takes for an individual to register the decisions of others.

‘You cannot be aware of what other people decide in real time, it takes a while.’

He added that uncovering what causes this paradox ‘goes beyond finding the best suit to wear this winter.’

‘[It has] implications in deciphering collective phenomena in economics and finance, where individuals may find an interest in taking positions in opposition to the majority – for instance, selling stocks when others want to buy. Applications also extend to the case of neuronal networks with inhibition, where neurons tend to fire when others and silent, and reciprocally.’


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The Impact of Technology on the Arts


The internet and social media have increased engagement and made art a more participatory experience, and audiences more diverse. Yet at the same time, mobile devices, ringing cell phones and texting can create significant disruptions. Technology has had negatively impacted audience attention spans and has also contributed to an expectation that all digital content should be free.

The internet makes it possible for our organization to market themselves more effectively through online advertising, blog presences, and social media exchanges.  The internet has also played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art.

For arts programmers, the access to high quality media to review artists in advance of assessing them live has been a huge step forward.  Spotify alone has made it so much easier to get a first impression of an artist–no more waiting for press kits, accessing only what they’ve posted on their websites, etc.

Last-minute ticket-buying and the trend away from traditional subscription packages will probably continue, as the internet has freed people up from having to plan for most event attendance far in advance. This will affect the predictability of revenue. On the positive side, social media has been a wonderful tool for word-of-mouth marketing.

While it is impossible to know what internet and digital technologies will be like in 10 years, the trend of more information communicated more quickly to a more finely targeted audience with more immediate feedback from the recipient is likely to continue.  This leads people to delay their decision-making about how they will spend their leisure time. This has generally meant a decline in subscriptions, a decrease in advance ticket sales, and an increase in last-minute box office sales.

However, technology is helping them introduce more audiences to art. The digital world is a very populist force, leveling the world between rich and poor, educated and uneducated. An organization with a name like “Historical Society” has an invisible shield that bounces people who are below median income, do not hold college degrees, who hold blue collar jobs, who are a racial or cultural minority, off.  The ubiquity of the computer, whether through your home machine, school, or local library, means that all of those things that cause discomfort don’t matter.

There is the need for recognition that today’s artists must also be entrepreneurs. Digital technologies will level the playing field for all and old skool, professional artists will be left behind.

Technology has extended visibility to many isolated individuals who may never have heard about the services offered by arts organisations, explored the artform, or who may have financial barriers to membership. Organisations can show to them every day what they do, rather than expect them to find a printed annual report and program summary. Social media are concrete and immediate examples of arts living in the community.

Technology is also helping arts organizations extend their impact, far beyond a one-time performance or event. The internet and digital media provide an amazing opportunity for arts organizations to extend the impact of the arts. A live performance can be complemented greatly by opportunities for further engagement and education, and the ability to share information online maximizes our ability to provide these opportunities at a more in-scale investment ratio. Organisations can reach many more people with an article or video than with a one-time lecture, for example.

Arts organisations are now able to provide artwork that dates back more than 25 years to the communities they have worked with over the years. For many, these archives represent the only media history of their community.  The use of the internet has deepened and expanded the access for our constituencies that are often transitional, without a landbase, or have been historically isolated due to geography.

Technology has greatly improve accessibility to the arts field – from a monetary standpoint and from a logistical standpoint. People who live outside of urban areas are able to experience performances that are somewhat limited to large urban areas. Yet arts organizations will need to reconsider the level/type of interaction with their audience.

Technology is helping organizations reach more diverse communities – even on a global scale. The greatest impact will be the ability for non-profit organizations to share educational content and stimulating art and performances worldwide.  It will also spark conversations between diverse communities and help individuals develop a greater understanding – and hopefully, a life-long appreciation for the arts.

The internet will enable the performing arts to reach beyond a local audience, promote tourism, and make cultural arts created within a region accessible to the nation – and world.

Technology is making it possible to create community around a piece of art. There is a powerful opportunity for the arts to create communities around performances, shows, exhibitions and their themes and history.  For example, a Broadway show like ‘Next to Normal’ could (and probably has) created communities to discuss and share resources on mental illness.

Some organizations enthusiastically talk about the democratization of art and creation, while others expressed excitement about the challenge of meeting new demands and expectations, continuing the transition from passive to participation, from hierarchical to democratic, from traditional media to online media, from single art-form to inter-disciplinary.

The possibility to greatly expand and create a more diverse audience is very exciting because traditionally art audiences have been older and whiter.  Increasingly, we’re seeing content getting traction in surprising nooks and crannies of the internet – which definitely means a shifting audience.  The challenge will be for that audience to identify content with the creators and the institution, and not simply have it exist as more entertainment or noise out on the internet.  In the next couple of years, the role of mobile devices will only continue to shift how people curate their own experience and engage with artistic content.


The challenges that digital technology present. Arts organizations realize that with these benefits come drawbacks. While digital technologies have led to the creation of ever-more dazzling tools and apps, many arts organizations worry about the long term effect on audiences, the field, and their very mission.

A number of respondents worry about meeting increased audience expectations. People will have higher expectations for a live event. For audiences to invest the time and effort of going to a live performance, the work they see will have to be more engaging and of higher quality. Events will have to be more social and allow for greater participation and behind-the-scenes access. The event spaces will have to be more beautiful, more comfortable, more inviting and more accessible.

The audience has already moved from “arts attendance as an event” to “arts attendance as an experience.”  This desire for a full-range of positive experience from ticket purchase, to travel, to parking, to treatment at the space, to quality of performance, to exit – this will only increase over the next 10 years.

The greatest impact of the internet on independent publishers will be audience expectations. Audiences will expect everything to be available digitally, and will require an engaging experience instead of a static one.

Some point out the problem of managing expectations and meeting audience expectations on a limited budget. The internet and digital technologies are powerful tools.  The public expects content to be free. There is a lack of awareness of the resources (funding and staff) that it takes to manage and preserve digital content.  These costs will need to be passed on to users.

The effort to meet audience expectations will undoubtably influence artistic choices, or even entire art forms. Some ideas cannot be condensed into 140 characters or less. I hope technologies do not negatively affect artists to create solely for a Twitter generation.

Live performance will be diminished.  Younger people don’t want to show up at a specific time, specific place for live performance — they want to download music at their own convenience.  The power of live performance is lost as is the civic convening – and so the community building is lost. Some arts organizations have recognized this change, and are doing their best to adapt. Digital technologies are here to stay, and we as an artform should embrace them and learn how to work alongside them.  We provide scripts to those sitting in our tweetseats, so they get the quotes right. We must work alongside or face alienating them.

Audiences will continue to have shorter and shorter attention spans and will insist upon being able to use smartphones and other devices in the context of a performance.  As an industry, we should stop fighting and try to find ways to incorporate that reality into our daily lives.We will need to become much less tied to live, in person programming and certainly less ties to anchored seats in concert halls. Programming will need to incorporate much more personal involvement by the consumers or they will not be interested in engaging.

There is a real worry about audiences’ decreasing attention spans, and the long-term impact on the arts. As attention spans decrease, programming of longer works (e.g., Beethoven’s Symphony #9) will become more problematic.  As we move forward, we may need to consider ways to embrace the digital, connected world to better engage live audiences or run the risk of making live music performances irrelevant.

The greatest impact could be the expansion of our audiences, but the worst impact is the attention span of the moment of interaction.  I worry that it may shorten our artforms’ performance times. Technology has blurred the lines between commercial entertainment and noncommercial art, forcing arts organizations to more directly compete with all other forms of entertainment. Basically, we are competing for the “entertainment slot” in people’s schedules, and the more entertainment they can get via HD TV, Netflix, Video Games, etc., the less time they have for live performances, which also entails making an effort to get to the venue (as opposed to slumping on the couch in front of the HD screen). Also, movies, video games, etc., are both more convenient and cheaper than live performances.


Technology has also blurred the lines between a virtual and real experience. As the realism of participatory digital entertainment (video games, etc.) and the immersion ability of non-participatory digital entertainment (3D movies, etc.) increases, it threatens the elements that make the live arts unique–the sense of immediacy, immersion, and personal interaction with the art. 

We’ve long hung fast to the belief that there’s nothing like a live experience, but digital entertainment is getting closer and closer to replicating that experience, and live theatre will struggle to compete with the former’s convenience and cost.

For example film and cinema organizations talk about the pressure they face to preserve the “specialness” of the big screen when on-demand home viewing is already prevalent.  While streaming and piracy are increasing, organisations need to deliver the message that seeing films on the big screen with an audience is a singular, important cultural experience. As a film exhibitor, the challenge is to go through the digital convergence for projection and exhibition, a supremely costly change that doesn’t even have a long-range viability (these systems will have to be upgraded and/or changed every 3-5 years).  Finding the revenue for these digital systems is an enormous challenge and threat to ongoing activities.

Others working in film worry that the quality and quantity of movies will diminish. In the field of film production and distribution, more internet and digital access will result in far fewer movie theaters, as audiences have greater access in their homes to the medium. Already, as marketing dollars become more limited for films, production companies are shortening the movie lifespan in a movie theater and moving them to digital and television media sooner and sooner.

Organizations in the literary book tradition are facing similar challenges with ebooks. Literature and the book are being very impacted by digital technologies due to the growing popularity of ebooks and to the influence of huge online booksellers like Amazon. There are both good and bad effects associated with these technologies. These days books are more easily accessible to a greater number of people however it is difficult for the book industry to produce a sustainable amount of income whether for individuals and for organizations. It is crucial that the public understand the importance of supporting nonprofit literary orgs, publishers, independent bookstores, libraries and other supporters of book culture and in turn it is crucial for foundations and government to provide this support.

All literary magazines are in peril right now, so if magazines continue to exist it will be because of a paradigm shift in how literature is funded as an art form. I am loathe to believe that print publications will cease to exist because they are still more beautiful, but all publishers will eventually have to create simultaneous digital and print editions, I imagine, which will make the whole enterprise more expensive.

These disruptive technological and cultural forces will make it harder for some big scale artforms to survive. The more expensive arts producers ­– symphony orchestras, for example – will find it more difficult to draw enough audience to continue in the same manner they’ve operated for the past decades. Smaller groups will find it easier to adapt because they’re more flexible (they don’t require a large stage and hall). It is a grave concerned when you think of  the possibility of losing some of the greatest music ever written — symphonic music.

Others pointed to innovative experiments — like the Metropolitan Opera’s performances in movie theatres — as an example of what big institutions with funding can do. For opera, it has made it more accessible, by providing low-cost performance broadcast of Met performances. This has increased the potential audience for our live performances. It is a companies responsible to promote effectively to those audiences.

Museums have a unique perspective on technology’s impact. It has greatly improved their cataloging efforts, but some worry that it will eventually reduce audience interest in the “real thing”. It will radically shift the way in which Fine Arts catalog and share information about collections; the museum as less the all knowing authority and more the conduit for rich institution-driven and user-driven information. It will also allow regional collections the ability to link to similar collections worldwide – as such local collections can be recontextualize and made meaningful in ways not possible without linked data and semantic web technologies.

Digital technology and the resulting accessibility of information and images, while fostering accessibility of collections online, have the negative impact of diluting the desire of individuals to visit the museum to see works of art in person.

And of course there is the demise of trusted critics and filters, which has happened as print media — especially local newspapers — have cut back on staff and struggled with decreased ad revenue as part of this digital transition. Without critics, there is a worry about how arts audiences will gauge quality. Digital technologies have essentially made it impossible for book critics to support themselves in traditional ways; possibly the next 10 years will bring the shift of book criticism to academic world, where salaries are paid for teaching, and reviewing is a secondary activity. Twenty-five years ago, working critics had full time salaries from newspapers, magazines, other publications. Today there are only a handful of critics able to do this.

Our chief concern for the literary arts is the increasing “validity” of self-publication among reviewers, readers, and writers. Online publishing and book sales through Amazon (for example) contribute to this problem. If there are no gatekeepers, it will become even more difficult to draw attention to works of genuinely high quality.

For some, the absence of critics and mainstream media previews of arts events means that arts organizations are shouldering an even greater burden. The demise of daily and weekly newspapers and the increasing fragmentation of traditional radio and television media outlets combined with the increasing consolidation of media ownership due to revised FCC regulations has marginalized arts coverage and criticism to a point where it no longer plays a part in the larger civic conversation. Hence, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach and engage potential audience members and arts participants, and has shifted the entire burden (and costs) to arts organizations that are ill equipped and unprepared to both engage in their traditional function (i.e., support the creation and presentation of art work) as well as build support structures to take the place of traditional media organizations.

It is the advent of the amateur. For those who are savvy and ahead of the curve, there is money to be made if the content is strong. It means the complete reversal of a contributed based model founded on single funding sources and moves toward an earned revenue model and crowd sourced funding. Now more than ever, artists need to be entrepreneurs and not just artists. You can’t survive now as an artist unless you have a strong business model.

Yet others worried openly about how artists will make a living as traditional revenue streams shift or disappear:

[The internet] is becoming the major distribution platform for documentaries, which is what we do. The DVD will be gone in ten years. Artists are going to struggle to monetize their work on the Web.

Access will be good for educational purposes and to increase awareness of the arts especially historical material in performance of all types.  However, issues of copyright and payment for that material, such as in apps and in streaming or downloading, are murky and hard to navigate for artists themselves as to value and fairness of payments to the artist for original content.

There were also some contemplative responses about the impact of technology on culture. One respondent pointed out that the ability to collaborate globally could lead to more cultural homogeneity while another worried about the future of non-digitized art:

Digital technologies allows for students and artists all over the world to be inspired by one another.  In some ways this is fantastic, in other ways, this breaks down the cultural differences that is so beautiful about having multiple countries involved in an art form.

Materials we have that aren’t available digitally will be lost from the human record.

Finally, several respondents summed up the issues facing arts organizations, connecting the challenges of meeting audience expectations with limited funding options:

Attendance at live performances will favor more fervent fans and those with disposable incomes who reside in cities, and the increased prevalence of simulcasts and livestreams will alter the viewing experience while also making it more democratic and affordable. Audiences will expect the digital presence of institutions to be well maintained and curated.

Organizations will continue to need to adapt and incorporate digital technologies into their programming. This will be a good thing for art consumers and patrons by increasing accessibility and improving collaboration. At the same time, organizations will struggle with funding to keep up with technology. Funders so rarely fund some of the infrastructure necessary to create top-notch digital programming, and that will be a major struggle.

Survey results reveal that on a purely practical level, the internet, digital technologies and social media are powerful tools, giving arts organizations new ways to promote events, engage with audiences, reach new patrons, and extend the life and scope of their work. “We can reach more patrons, more frequently, for less money,” said one respondent. “That’s been a huge change in the 30 years I’ve been in the business.”

But, technology has also disrupted much of the traditional art world; it has changed audience expectations, put more pressure on arts organizations to participate actively in social media, and even undercut some arts groups’ missions and revenue streams.

Beyond the practical, the internet and social media provide these arts organizations with broad cultural opportunities. There is an array of innovative ways that arts organizations are using technology to introduce new audiences to their work, expose more of their collections, provide deeper context around plays and exhibits, and break down cultural and geographic barriers that, to this point, have made it difficult for some members of the public to participate. Their responses suggest that the majority of these arts organizations, with enough funding and foresight, are eager to use the new digital tools to sustain and amplify their mission-driven work.

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