Tag: technology

The Crossroads of Art & Technology

Good Luck
Technology really isn’t this scary. Relax.

There is an ever-growing crossroads where art and technology meet. As companies develop easier and shinier ways to put smaller and yet more expensive devices in the hands of consumers, the degree to which technology permeates those consumers’ lives grows. That technology not only makes communication and advertisement easier but also allows artists are more direct route for reaching new audiences, provided the artist in question leverages the tools available.

Art and technology have more in common, though, than just being a medium of expression and its means of distribution. Both are forms of alchemy. Both allow for the creation of something out of nothing.

This blog entry began as a blank text document. Paintings begin as blank canvases. New devices start their lives as empty documents, bits of graph paper or pages in a sketch journal. They all spring from the same source – our imaginations. And imaginations and artistic minds are much like processors, capacitors and bits of memory. The more there are in close proximity working in concert, the more powerful the outcome.

That’s why collaboration and the sharing of ideas is so important. Technology makes this easier than it has ever been, and art is still sought by audiences the world over. The more artists support and promote one another, the more successful everyone becomes as a result. And the more an artist leverages a resource like Twitter or Facebook, the more they can support and promote other artists.

So why is there a divide between art and technology?

Between social media, fundraising means and the advance of media-streaming methods, it should be easier than ever for purveyors of art, from the lowly aspiring novelist to the coordinator of major musical events such as orchestra concerts and ballet performances, to put their labors of love in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Yet some of these artists and art-friends refrain from using these accessible and free-to-use tools. Are they uncertain of the hows and whys? Unaware of their presence or power? Unimpressed by what might seem to be a passing fad?

I wish I knew the answers to these questions. To me, technology is nothing to be feared or scoffed at by the artist. This divide, which is all too real and yawning for some artists, should be seen instead as a crossroads. And as more artists embrace the technology available to them to make their lives easier and give them more time to create, and technology continues to be molded by digital artists and natives, the crossroads will continue to grow until it becomes a town square of its own.

And Philadelphia’s one of the best places for it to happen.

Sure, the west coast of the US is covered with tech talent, AAA game studios, big media moguls, what have you. And New York is the landing zone for art and fashion from the rest of the world. Philadelphia may never attract multi-million dollar corporations bent on harnessing technology or the most glamorous of glamor-making glamorhounds. What it has, does and will attract is fresh, interesting and passionate talent from all walks of life. Much like the technology I’ve discussed, it’s a crossroads for all sorts of people, from the tech-savvy to the artistic and everything in between. And you can bet that, this being Philly, when the exciting stuff starts happening and new ground gets broken as this crossroads continues to expand, somebody’s gonna be loud and obnoxious. Like the guys over at Geekadelphia or Technically Philly, for example.

In any event, I think what those of us who have technical inclinations need to impress upon artists is that the barrier for entry when it comes to valuable tools like social networks and streaming media is not as high as one might think. We need to educate, to network and to ignite imaginations. If we can do this for artists, the artists can in turn do it for the world.

That’s my take on it, at least.

Eulogy for the PC

Courtesy Zedomax

My wife’s corner of the living room is dominated by an anachronism. An aged, clunky CRT monitor squats on top of the bookshelf behind her desk. On that desk, now, is a shiny new Acer laptop with a wider display than that old beast, not to mention much faster & cleaner peformance to the oversized paperweight of a PC to which the old monitor’s connected. I keep meaning to move things around so she has a little more room, but I can’t help but look at that corner and think of Bob’s Big Picture feature on the death of the PC.

I’ve been building my own PCs for years. Ever since I got one sore knuckle and torn finger too many from the confines of a Packard Bell case, I’ve wanted to make the experience of working with computers easier and better. For years it’s also been the case that upgrading a system through the purchase of a pile of parts has been more cost-effective than buying something from a store shelf, to say nothing of the flexibility and lack of bloatware inherent with taking the construction & installation onto oneself.

But technology is moving on. My wife’s laptop cost as much as the upgrade I just put into my desktop case, and while the bleeding edge Sandy Bridge processor will satisfy computing needs for (I hope) quite a few years, her laptop is just as good. If the ancient external drive to which I’d saved our Dragon Age games hadn’t ground that data into powder, it’d have been a completely painless upgrade. That won’t happen again, of course, because not only are the hard drives we have today lightyears ahead of that dinosaur, we can always upload our save data to a cloud.

And it’s not like I need my desktop to write. I do most of these updates in a text editor (gedit, if you’re curious) before taking the content and putting it into the blog, enhanced with pictures dropped into Photobucket and the occasional bit of rambling audio. I can do that with pretty much any device. Within the next year, fingers crossed & the creek don’t rise, I’ll be retiring this old workhorse of mine with some iteration of the Asus Transformer – hell, I’d write blog updates on my Kindle if it had a decent text editor.

My point is that as much as I love my PC, as nostalgic as I’ll wax about StarCraft II marathons and isometric views in games like Dragon Age: Origins and LAN parties and simulators like Wing Commander, there’s no reason not to celebrate the growth of the technologies we as gamers use to enjoy our hobby. The tech emerging on a steady basis is lightyears ahead of what many of us grew up using. From number crunching to heat management, the computing devices we use today are so superior to those old devices it staggers the imagination. If I went back even ten years and told myself that within a decade people would be using tablets in lieu of laptops and there would be laptops that turn into tablets on the horizon, I’d congradulate myself on being such an imaginative science-fiction writer. In my humble opinion, technology changing and evolving is a good thing, and there are a lot more benefits than drawbacks when it comes to embracing that change.

The thing is, as Captain Kirk pointed out once, “people can be very frightened of change.”

“They made the game easier to play and dumbed down the mechanics! TO ARMS!”
“This has nothing to do with the previous parts of the narrative because it’s using new characters we don’t know! A PLAGUE ON EVERYONE’S HOUSES!”
“WHAT? Visual changes that make things unfamiliar/derivative/different from before? KILL IT WITH FIRE!”
“PCs are no longer inherently superior to consoles? LIES AND SLANDER, I SAY!”

Start a bandwagon and you’ll be sure to find people happy to jump aboard it without forming opinions of their own.

In fact the lemonade (haterade?) being served on TGO’s bandwagon is rather refreshing, now that you mention it.

Technology Rots

Not what it once was.

Technology may seem like a purely static thing, unchanging as years go by. Something that’s painstakingly perfected and replicated through manufacture should persist in its level of performance and precision, right? Unlike houses and cars, which are some of the highest maintenance bits of property anyone can own, computers are completely self-contained electronic instruments. Websites don’t even have physical components other than the servers on which they exist, going back to the aforementioned computers. However, there are factors in play for both computers and websites that make them just as succeptible to the need for maintenance as your car or your home.

Computers do have moving parts: hard drive motors, fans, etc. But even if these ran flawlessly for years, their parts would ‘rot’ in a sense. As technology advances, software grows in terms of the ways it uses processors and renders graphics. From games to productivity suites, software is constantly finding ways to do more tasks more efficiently in a shorter amount of time. Just shaving a few seconds from a process can place diabolical demands on a processor from two years ago. Like replacing a struggling furnace in your house, upgrading your computer’s internal systems can have your system doing what it does faster and more efficiently for years.

Websites, similarly, suffer from what is colloquially called ‘code rot.’ As the average speed of our Internet connections increases, processors grow more efficient and browsers get better at displaying colors and graphics, older sites begin to look dated, shoddy or even incomplete. Better coding techniques and updated programming scripts can leave older, less efficient methods behind causing old animations and banners to either display incorrectly or not at all. And the chances of developers or programmers being either familiar with these old methods or willing to deal with their antiquated and inefficient ways and means are slim. It’s more often a better investment to look into a redesign, preserving the essence and content of your site while incorporating the latest design methodologies and programming techniques, as well as integrating SEO options and flexibility, something old sites very rarely accounted for.

Sure, some folks will keep a Commodore 64 or an original NES in the corner for the sake of nostalgia. And others will find ways to squeeze more life out of computers that maybe should have been recycled years ago, keeping their old workhorses shod. But more often than not, a time comes when one needs to take a hard look at the extant systems at home or the office, compare them to what’s available, and make the decision to invest in an upgrade.

I mean, you could also spend that tax refund on a coffee machine that tweets your favorite blend, but the novelty of that’s likely to wear off pretty darn quickly.

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