Artistic Expression in a Digitised Society #47 #cong19


I propose model of creative expression and consider the ways a digitised society redefines the model. It is an attempt to find a language with which to consider what a digitised society is and how the human voice can be heard in it.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. the three elements of artistic expression – creator, medium, audience – do not exist in a digitised society as we currently understand these terms
  2. we continue to rely on these concepts to help us find our place in the world and give voice to it
  3. the ability to express ourselves artistically is essential to personal and social health
  4. a society in which artistic expression is a commodity is less free

About Scott Coombs:

Scott is a business analyst for an Irish-UK IT Consultancy. His job is to write requirements for technology projects. He also started an arts-and-technology initiative called Digital Transformations, using art and philosophy to enquire into the nature of a digitised society.   Scott hopes it will make him fabulously wealthy..

Contacting Scott Coombs:

You can see Scotts work on on Twitter, Facebook, the Digital Transformation Website or send him an email.

By Scott Coombs

Anyone who performs a creative or interpretive act exists mostly in a social setting – mostly, because it is generally accepted that we all have access to some interior personal space that is both unique to us and not directly accessible to others. A person sees, hears, and feels the world around them and reacts in some way that is manifested in the working in some medium, some object we can transform to embody what we want to express. The result of that working then exists outside the person or persons that created it. The intent of that work is then received by someone who didn’t participate in its creation, but the work has meaning to the extent that the recipient reacts to it, drawing on their own experiences.

And of course the creator and the receiver are human beings. And of course the medium has no consciousness or will of its own, and is inert until the creator acts on it and invests his/her vision in it.

And it is unique – the creation of it, its purpose, and the experience – to every person who come into contact with it.
Take the world as we’ve known it, with its creators, its painters, sculptors, writers, playwrights and poets, and on the other side its audiences, its readers, viewers, theatre-goers, and in the middle the work, both the embodiment and the vehicle of what the creator has to say.

Can you think of any part of this world that isn’t being radically transformed by the digital society?

Start with the creators: where is that line between the internal and external?

Take receivers: well, there might not be any in a digital society. We are all “content creators” at some level, and our own interior lives are commodities too.

Finally, the medium: Steve Woodall, a book artist who used the relatively new technology of Xerox photocopiers, once said anything that shortens the distance between the artist and the audience is a good thing. The digital society creates the illusion that this distance has been eliminated. But it isn’t. It shapes you as much as you shape it.

And of course all of them or none of them may be human beings. And these changes are not confined to artists and audiences. They are happening to all of us. The author and philosopher Bill Neblett wrote in Sherlock’s Logic that you can’t say you know what you mean to say if you can’t in fact say it – that thought outside expression can’t be known. Whatever we may think in our heads, it can’t be understood until it gets out of our heads and onto the page, the stage, the codebase, or wherever. In a traditional society, the inarticulate private space is fairly large and largely sacred – it is the source of personal value and dignity and is accepted at least in part as being outside of the public world we try to share with each other. In a digital society that private space is small because so much of it is now public, and what’s left behind is denigrated. And without a private personal unrecorded experience where is the room for history – the telling and retelling of stories, and the truth about human experience that stories can reveal – when experience is equated with the sum total of ones public interactions?

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