Redesigning the future through technology + art

Emerge1For the past four years, Arizona State University has dared brilliantly creative and technical minds to answer some of society’s most complex questions through the Emerge event. On March 6, 2015, this year’s event showcased radically new visions of the future with the theme “The Future of Choices and Values.” In a press release for this year’s event,Joel Garreau, founding co-director of Emerge and Professor of Law, Culture and Values at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law said, “Humans today have unprecedented power to harness and reshape matter, energy and even life itself. Emerge asks what kinds of futures we should build together, at a moment in history when what we can do is almost unlimited.” By way of performance, technology and storytelling, the Emerge 2015 event gathered artists, designers, scientists, engineers, and audiences to explore the ways we create the future, and how we ensure it as the future we hope for. The event featured dancing robots, story-telling through Legos, an interactive design studio, and much more. The featured visionary this year was Radiolab host and creator Jad Abumrad who discussed innovation and the essential parts of creative process and imagination. LightWorks assisted Toby Fraley, a contributing artist for ASU Emerge and Scottsdale Public Art, at the 2015 Canal Convergence to promote his futuristic creation—the Artwork Forge. Fraley explored the question: Could a machine put artists out of a job? The Artwork Forge by Toby Fraley. Photo taken by Gabrielle Olson, LightWorks.Fraley’s creation of the Artwork Forge provided an interesting perspective on the convergence between technology and art. This clever art installation required you to drop in a couple quarters and feed a rough block of wood into the machine. The whirring of motors signals your attention to the window where you see your piece of wood being shaped by spinning blades. Next, the machine appears to require a moment to scour the internet, seeking what is popular among our generation’s choices and values. It almost appears as if the machine is “thinking” about what it should paint. Then, the next window opens up as you see your block of wood being spray painted and pencils being moved over it as the art is being created. A few minutes later, a 4-inch by 6-inch painting drops down a chute for you to take home and ponder the question—could this be the future of art? Watch the video demo below. The Artwork Forge is a strong example of how art and technology merge by bringing attention to how our choices and values have been affected by a culture reliant on technology and the internet. By compiling data from our personal preferences, social media, news trends, and revered masterpieces of art, the Artwork Forge produces a result that can be argued as an example of a “perfect” piece of artwork. But despite having all of the integral components of what a piece of art should incorporate, does the Artwork Forge accurately portray the unique creativity that human beings bring to works of art? Revealing these complex questions is an important part to how we envision and shape our future, especially as technology will continue to advance and impact our culture. Not only will technology shape our future choices and values, increasing levels of climate change and population will have an effect as well. Scott A. Cloutier, a Walton Fellow in the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, recently wrote a contributing article for Slate Magazine which highlighted the importance of the Emerge 2015 theme. Cloutier asks- How can we give people the greatest opportunity to pursue their own happiness? To answer this question, he challenges readers to think about the types of neighborhoods we would like to see in the future by basing design on sustainability and happiness. Cloutier argues that happiness and sustainability are interchangeable and that the need to intentionally design and redesign our systems in line with these values will create a culture mindful of environmental impacts, which will be even more critical in the future. He writes that ultimately designing our neighborhoods in this way “could result in a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.” Read the full article by clicking here. LightWorks believes in cultivating broader knowledge of the human component when we make decisions about energy transitions. By connecting with entities like IHR Nexus Lab and the ASU English Department, participating in panel discussions to explore climate fiction, and hosting lectures examining humans’ conception of energy from the past to present, LightWorks plans to continue demonstrating how humanities research can help us with modern questions related to science, technology, and the built environment. Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks