DeVos Institute Convenes Thought Leaders in Technology, Neuroscience, Gamification, and the Arts to Debate Technology’s Impact on Audience Expectation

September 29, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland will gather prominent thought leaders working at the intersections of neuroscience, tech, gamification, and the arts to debate how digital technologies are shaping the cultural sector, changing the human brain, and altering audience expectations.

With ever more digital substitutes, the cultural sector faces a growing disconnect between the traditional notion of the performing arts and today’s screen culture and attenuated attention spans. Technology, the Brain, and Audience Expectation: Vying for Attention in “Generation Elsewhere” considers the impact of accelerating technological changes on artists, audiences, and producers now and in the years to come. The debate participants include:

  • Baroness Susan Greenfield, Research Scientist, Author, Broadcaster, Co-Founder of Neuro-Bio Ltd., and Member of the House of Lords;
  • Bill O’Brien, Senior Innovation Advisor to the Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts;
  • Eiko Otake, movement artist, performer, and choreographer with Eiko & Koma;
  • Gabe Zichermann, CEO, Gamification Co. and Dopamine, Inc.; and
  • Brett Egan (moderator), President, DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

The debate will be 4 – 6:30 p.m. on Monday, October 17, at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Space is limited and will be restricted to a registered audience. To register, visit

Registration for this event has closed.

Baroness Greenfield will open the event with a lecture on her research into technology-driven “mind change,” familiarizing the audience with the topic and providing a starting point for the debate.

This debate on technology and the arts is the first in a series of four that comprise “Generation Elsewhere: Art in the Age of Distraction,” the DeVos Institute’s in-depth exploration of how 21st-century technologies are impacting artists, arts organizations, and audiences.

“Anyone who’s seen a toddler ‘swipe right’ or has awakened to an iPhone on their pillow understands that as tech changes, so do we,” said Mr. Egan, who will moderate the first debate. “Our debates respond to this new era—one we might call ‘Generation Elsewhere’—marked by tech that relentlessly distracts focus from the here-and-now. In a business that has, for centuries, relied on the attentive presence of paying audiences, we can’t ignore the depth and speed of this change. We are staging this series out of concern that, as a sector, we simply have not kept pace with its effects.”

About “Generation Elsewhere: Art in the Age of Distraction”

“Generation Elsewhere: Art in the Age of Distraction” examines the opportunities and challenges that 21st-century technology creates for the cultural sector. The debate series, conceived by DeVos Institute President Brett Egan, asks artists, arts managers, and thought leaders to consider:

  • What are the implications of these forces today? How might these forces accelerate, or change direction, in the years and decades to come?
  • How will audiences’ usage of technology to understand, navigate, and produce meaning from 9-to-5 affect their appetite for traditional art forms and institutions?
  • What action must artists, managers, architects, and arts funders take to keep pace with decreasing attention spans and ever-more sensational, inexpensive virtual content?
  • Which cultural producers and institutions will flourish in this new environment?

“Generation Elsewhere” is advised and co-curated by Tod Machover, composer, inventor, professor, and head of the Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab, and Sydney Skybetter, technologist, choreographer, writer, and founding partner of Edwards & Skybetter Change Agency.

Four debates will frame the discussion, which is designed to benefit arts managers, arts funders, artists, policy-makers, marketers, students, and academics. In addition to the first debate outlined above, “Generation Elsewhere” will include:

  • Virtual Realities and the Public Sphere: The Future of Cultural Architecture. October 27, 2016, at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island). What impact will an infinite supply of low-cost, high-quality, on-demand digital surrogates for art—available without leaving home—have on today’s cultural institutions?  Which cultural institutions will compete with most success in this environment? This debate investigates how tomorrow’s museums, concert halls, and arts centers will fare in a world changed by virtual and augmented reality.  
  • The Emerging Means of Production: Anticipating the Next Digital Divide. November 15, 2016, in New York, New York (location to be announced).  As more cultural content moves online and into the digital realm, will organizations that can acquire and monetize these new “means of production” capture market share before others even enter the market?  This debate will investigate the economic and representational complications that may result from this gap.
  • The Artist: Form, Means, and Meaning in the 21st Century. December 9, 2016, at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts). What new stories can be told—and new experiences created—that are maximally synergistic and complementary with evolving tools and techniques? How will artists map their work on to the changing contemporary brain? Can artistic practice somehow evade—or perhaps benefit from—the changes affecting audiences in virtually every other aspect of their lives? What must managers and theater architects know about artistic practice in the digital age in order to ready their institutions for new modes of creation and distribution? How can technology enhance and extend—rather than inhibit or replace—human potential for expression, connection, and collaboration?

Segments of each debate will be carried via the web.

The series is made possible with the support of the University of Maryland.



Joseph Heitz
Director, External Relations
DeVos Institute of Arts Management  |  301.314.0957


Katie Lawson
Director of Communications
University of Maryland, College Park   |   301.405.4622

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