Mobilizing the Arts for an Inclusive Digital Transformation

22 April 2020

Professor Christian Fieseler heads EU-project on the arts for a sustainable and inclusive digital future.

The consequences of the digital transformation for things like democracy, labour rights and privacy are extremely difficult to predict. While some private companies dominate the pace of technological change, civil society and government often struggle to make their voice heard.

Against this background, the research project ARTSFORMATION grows out of a recognition that the arts can be a valuable partner and change maker to help build a better digital transformation.

  1. The arts make it possible to imagine the future, and identify challenges that require our attention. A recent example is the Netflix series Black Mirror, which among other things grapples with the societal role of tech companies.
  2. The arts put technology into plausible and imaginable perspectives. Steep learning curves, intimidating new technologies and a reluctance to change established behavioural patterns means that many European companies are reluctant to integrate digital technologies. The arts can make technological benefits understandable.
  3. The arts enable us to think critically about different futures. It gives us ethical guidelines, as well as utopian and dystopian alternative worldviews of technological transformations.
  4. Art boosts democratic potential. Through making complex and difficult problems such as data ethics, filter bubbles, fake news and algorithmic governance visual and tangible, the arts inspire civic engagement.

How can artists engage with business and society?

ARTSFORMATION will work with artists ranging from stage arts, painting and architecture, to graffiti and street art, seeking to understand how arts and transformations go together. “It is very much about understanding the artist perspective, how they relate to technology and its social consequences”, says Professor Fieseler, adding, “we are creating avenues to bring them into a dialogue with business and society, to  become an even more relevant voice, and ask them to help us understand the digital transformation with new eyes.”

The project asks how business, politics and society can collaborate with artists to help imagine and build better, more inclusive and more sustainable worlds. “This will create new insights for business to become more sensitive, sustainable and innovative”, says Fieseler. “Ultimately, we will develop and share new, arts-based methods for innovation, policy-making and community building.”

ARTSFORMATION will run for three years from 2020 to 2023, with a total grant of close to EUR 3 million. The Nordic Centre for Internet and Society at the Department of Communication and Culture of BI Norwegian Business School will head the project, with Copenhagen Business School and Trinity College Dublin as academic partners. The artistic and civil society partners are WAAG Society in the Netherlands, LATRA in Greece, KEA European Affairs in Belgium, transmediale in Germany, The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Great Britain and European Alternatives in France.

Throughout the project, artists, policy makers, civil society and business representatives from across Europe will be invited to participate in workshops and exhibitions, investigating wicked questions of the digital transformation, such as data rights, economic exclusion, and resilient democracies.

See the Nordic Centre for Internet and Society for more information.

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