Culture and Consumption

There was an interesting Charlie Rose on Friday January 6, 2006. I used to think that if I had 15 minutes of fame, I’d like to enjoy about 5 of those minutes sharing my expertise, experiences and intellect on the Charlie Rose show. Now I’m not so sure.

There is audio of the show available, but I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it.

Rose’s guests for this short segment were John Doerr and Esther Dyson. The topic was a future-think subject related to the general theme of global competitiveness, innovation and flattened worlds. This topic is one I’m interested in, and last summer I put in for an NSF grant to study the relationship between creative technology development (viz. art-technology/emerging-technology) and innovation, my hypothesis being that these practices are a legitimate and valuable component of R&D, yet are not sufficiently capitalized nor accepted within extant R&D communities.

Why do I blog this? It was basically a love fest between Doerr and Rose, with Dyson left to bat her head back and forth like a spectator at a tennis match. At one point, when Dyson was trying to insert a word or two on the topic of where innovation occurs, I heard her say, “..and culture” and my ears perked up. What? Culture has a linkage to innovation? What is this? I think this point translates thusly: too much “Doerr-esque” fetish on the instrumental character of technosocial innovation (faster “pipes”, more handsets with television, increase science and math education, etc.) and less on rewarding and encouraging cultural innovators. I think this is a thorough-going problem in the United States. The linkage between cultural creativity and technical design, development and research is difficult to find and hard to create. A month or so ago I was at a presentation by a large research facility here at USC that has lots of Army money to spend. They described a number of projects and some of the challenges they were facing in creating the technology for the projects. Several of the more notable challenges were ones that have been addressed successfully by a number of art-technology projects already out there, but that world is largely invisible/illegible to the work practices of a traditional R&D community. And I suspect that, even if they knew about the projects and could have conversations with the art-technologists, there would be a difficult translation of idioms and practices, for instance, many art-technologists would be opposed on a variety of grounds from working amongst traditional R&D communities, particularly those that were involved in the military-industrial light and magic complex. (Probably for similar reasons that those in the military-industrial light and magic complex would have an allergic reaction to collaborating within the arts-technology community.)

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