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Art informs technology

I get the impression from general discussions on tv and radio, and through print and online articles, that technology is the driving force of the arts. Or, that technology is more influential over the arts. We could go further and deduce that most any other field appears more dominant than the arts, as witnessed when we see art programs within our schools and other public sectors often given only a nod whenever the budget is revised, or sometimes these programs are excluded all together.

But how could it be about technology influencing the materials, tools, performance, and output of the arts without at the same time applying a reciprocal influence? I would rather explore how art has informed technology. So I searched online.

A search for how art has influenced technology, or affected technology, or “the influence of the arts on technology [or the technological industry]”, or “the fine arts [or applied arts] influence on technology “, provides for the following headlines in this general order:

  • Section 6: Overall Impact of Technology on the Arts | Pew Research …
  • The Impact of Digital Technology on Art and Artists
  • 7 Ways Technology is Changing How Art is Made | Arts & Culture …
  • The Role of Art in Our Lives and How Digital Technology Impacts It …
  • The Impact of Technology on Art – JStor
  • The Impact of Technology on Art. Art and the Future
  • How Will Technology Continue to Influence Art? – Cultivating Culture
  • The Impact of Technology on Copyright and Creativity | Grantmakers …
  • Technology and art: Engineering the future – BBC News –
  • How does technology affect art? – Quora



Clearly this list is about technology and its influence, also keeping in mind this list contains the most popular searches, or what is a more relevant list of articles for my search query. I’ll have to hone my search even further to see if I find anything about art influencing technology, not the other way around; maybe I should try the very last Google suggestion, “relationship between art and technology”. So I did:

~ 8 Contemporary Icons Explain The Relationship Between Artistry And Technology
~ The Relationship Between Art and Technology
~ The Connection Between Art and Technology – PIXAR
~ The Underappreciated Ties Between Art and Innovation
~ The Relationship between art and technology by Autumn Chase on
~ Art and Technology | ScratchEd
~ What is “Art and Technology?” | SFAQ / NYAQ / LXAQ
~ Art and Tech, part 2: the uneasy relationship between artist and ..
~ 8 Contemporary Icons Explain The Relationship Between Artistry And …
~ The Enduring Relationship of Science and Art

Unless the topic is about the development of computer icons, most of these articles are still about the influence of science or technology on art and artists today. Searches about symbology offer a particular insight to the more tangible influence of the arts on technology, but I’m searching more broadly.

One search above though is interesting, What is “Art and Technology” | SFAQ / NYAQ / LXAQ, by By Peter Dobey. The submitted comments in this article by developers, web professionals, and artists alike offer insights, even if not cohesive, as to the definition of “art and technology”, the intersection of the two worlds. In some ways this is what I’m after, how art and technology interact together, but specifically I want to explore the notion that art is actually the major influencing factor, and well, my outcome at best may be an indeterminate discourse. (More ideas will come from this publication, which is based out of our tech hub, San Francisco.)

So what am I comparing when we say “the arts” and technology? Or in other words, what are the arts; what is technology? The arts have been defined, and as I am targeting, as applied and fine arts. (Some would say they are no longer interwoven, and maybe they are completely free of each other as separate fields; but are they, and if so would they remain so in our ever-changing future?) The field of technology I am targeting is applied science, especially computers and information technology, and the resulting code and user interfaces.

For more about these questions I turn to the mission of the Bauhaus movement (Bauhaus Design School, 1919-1933) where the founder, Walter Gropius, became renowned for his modernist approach to art education. He broke down the traditional divide between the fine arts and the ‘applied” crafts and redefined the relationship between art, design and industrial manufacturing techniques.

In this way I believe we are moving closer to the relationship of art and technology. There is so much art and design around us that we assume it just happened; and indeed it did – we are creative when daydreaming, playing, gathering, and innovating. Our daily ventures and routines are a creative process influencing our endeavors, and then we call it art when we record these endeavors in some way.

One of the first things that come to my mind about art affecting technology is the influence of the arts upon Steve Jobs. The story goes that calligraphy made an impression on Steve Jobs and subsequently on the look and feel of computer fonts.

The tech icon recalled in his famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford University,

“It was the first computer with beautiful typography,” Jobs said. “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”

Job’s sensitivity to the arts influenced every part of how a mac was developed, not just the look and feel of the fonts and user interface; and in this way, we humans responded with great enthusiasm to these devices, down to our mobiles and handheld devices today.

Is this the effect of product design, not “the arts”? But I am suggesting that applied arts, informed as much by fine art as is dancing and painting, are “the arts”.

Recalling the earlier stages of internet development, I remember how web pages were created to resemble actual layouts on paper — the cool, hard surfaces of a web page became the rough edge of soft, tactile paper, or organic background patterns; and dials, knobs, and metal trim were developed to resemble analog radios and record players.

Developers were elated, or either charged, with building this new technology to display familiarity to the consumer, and what better way then through art. The entire development of software programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator are based on actual artistic tools and endeavors.

It could be stated that design, from industrial products like the ipad, mobile phone, or CPU, and their interfaces, are imbued by our creative psyche as is sculpture, painting, performance, and other forms of the arts.

It is obvious to me today that without the arts, without this vital form of expression influencing our technology we are all doomed. The visual language itself provides clues and signals to human nature, our culture and values, and our intents, and is well suited to influence our technology.

Technology has been shaped as much by how humans respond to it, and the creative synergy in this relationship, as the arts have been shaped by technology. But one assumes the greater influence of one over the other, and how does this perception play into the social framework and fiscal supports of our communities.

The debate and discussion will continue through this category of understanding the relationship of art and technology; but clearly for me I’ll stand on the side of how art has directed our lives through its influence upon technology.