An equilateral triangle with most of it shaded red except the top (pointy) bit which is shaded yellow. The red part is labelled 'The bit technology can do' and the yellow part is labelled 'The human bit'

Dave White, Head of Digital Education and Academic Practice at the University of the Arts in London, reflects on a recent conference he attended where the tone seemed to be somewhat ‘defensive’. Instead of cheerleading for tech, the opening video and keynote instead focused on human agency.

White notes that this may be heartening but it’s a narrative that’s overly-simplistic. The creative process involves technology of all different types and descriptions. It’s not just the case that humans “get inspired” and then just use technology to achieve their ends.

The downside of these triangles is that they imply ‘development’ is a kind of ladder. You climb your way to the top where the best stuff happens. Anyone who has ever undertaken a creative process will know that it involves repeatedly moving up and down that ladder or rather, it involves iterating research, experimentation, analysis, reflection and creating (making). Every iteration is an authentic part of the process, every rung of the ladder is repeatedly required, so when I say technology allows us to spend more time at the ‘top’ of these diagrams, I’m not suggesting that we should try and avoid the rest.

I’d argue that attempting to erase the rest of the process with technology is missing the point(y). However, a positive reading would be that, as opposed the zero-sum-gain notion, a well-informed incorporation of technology could make the pointy bit a bit bigger (or more pointy). The tech could support us to explore a constantly shifting and, I hope, expanding, notion of humanness. This idea is very much in tension with the Surveillance Capitalism, Silicon Valley, reading of our times. I’m not saying that the tech does support us to explore our humanity, I’m saying it could and what is involved in that ‘could’ is worth thinking about.

Source: David White