Monday, June 29, 2015

Technology always sparks the reactionary. I read something in anthropology, that early civilization was at odds with the development of written language for fear that it would make them stupid. I can't remember where or which but you get the point.  Too many frivolous technologies are developed to change the world. A sober picture of this "change" would be the reallocation of billions of dollars rather than something more meaningful. Written communication wasn't one of those.

In the silicon valley, so called tech evangelists believe technological progress is the solution to the world's problems.  The demographic of that region is diverse. The brain power of that region is dominated by those affiliated with Stanford University, whose student population is mostly Asian. But there are Arabs, Southeast Asians, Latin Americans, and also Caucasians, many of whom have lost touch with their ancestry living and working there.  I know this first hand.  You might think: sure, progress sounds nice for us on classist (my own terminology, not unlike racist) grounds, after all, we're just the descendants of desperate immigrants and/or "conquered" natives.

But there is more weight to the economic theory behind tech evangelism (zealous advocacy of a cause) than an ideological ploy for people trying to better themselves.  Thinking about the value backing money as coming from natural resource exploitation, as the stock market saw it, capitalism and global trade, this economic understanding has evolved in conjunction with depleting earth.  Imagine getting rich from tech instead of Steel, Oil. For people accustomed to that sort of thing, making money with intellectual property is optimistic. The most interesting development I've caught wind of from that scene recently was bitcoin.

But they get carried away. Writing about art now:  big tech picked up on the popularity of unrestrained human expression among restless youth. This knowledge would have seemed foreign to most developers and would have gotten to them by way of a marketing report.  They develop software, mostly for OSX, with private money called venture capital. Steve Jobs' genius was not for designing computer technology, but rather for tailoring it to dominate a consumer market (contrast consumers with military or industrial clientele.) To this day, "a marketing wiz" at Apple is more valuable than a programmer. A programmer's life consists of sitting in a computer lab.  Marketing teams are more in touch with folk psychology, they know what people are likely to purchase, they study their values. This is not how IBM worked.

IBM was initially developed with government funding, although I've heard the two companies have recently merged.  Developing technology in the private sector for personal consumption is bigger than you realize.  Most people don't know the foundation of modern computing was intended for military applications, a very different situation than PC (if the term ever seemed odd.) A good marketing team is therefore what makes PC even possible.  Does this help you understand the significance of Google, who came close to controlling all public information in the United States? Or Microsoft, still in every corporate office?  PC is tech modified for and sold to ordinary people instead of government and/or corporate insiders.  It's not exactly new, or particularly special.  OSX is just a consumer marketing application of UNIX.  If this interests you at all, my advice is GO TO STANFORD and study economics. 

Back to art. Private companies get a marketing report, there are many art tools and distribution formats surrounding this which were designed by men and women who work much harder than the average person, designed for the purposes of making money with OSX, the web. That almost anybody can effortlessly craft an image which 20 years ago would have been really impressive, upload it to the web and walk around thinking they are Picasso is absurd and offensive to classically trained artists.  The reactionary response is the more interesting one.  For controversial art forms that were budding in the late 20th century: photography, film, recording, the web is so saturated with it now that calling yourself an artist is about as poignant as calling yourself a Republican.  Ahh, to call yourself an artist at all...My hypothesis is that you will eventually relax with Macintosh, if it ever did anything to the arts, it was empower the reactionary.

The novelist still needs an imagination...harmony is still strength in illustrator in full bloom is still more dexterous than the Photoshop end-user. As far as web art is concerned, bullshit is hastily exposed to a world in which everything and thus nothing is impressive except the developers who are horsing the consumer technology that makes it possible.  I got into the habit of posting YouTube videos and thinking it was clever. I have to remind myself: it is clever, but it's not me who is clever no matter what I post, it's data storage and retrieval, HTML 5. If you saw the working conditions which enabled these technologies to be deployed effortlessly by the masses, you'd feel embarrassed taking credit for web presentation instead of getting something approved by a professional editorial staff. A lot harder, yeah, might even impress code monkeys from the silicon valley. YouTube and Vimeo are brilliant programming and brilliant marketing applications. I would admire this if I was you. The irony is that they should humble the average user, instead of what actually happens.




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