Debate Explores How Control Over Means of Production in the Cultural Sector Will Shape Which Stories Are Told

October 21, 2016

Register at for
The Emerging Means of Production: Anticipating the Next Digital Divide,
November 15 at the Ford Foundation

NEW YORK — Thought leaders in art, technology, and media will debate how emerging technologies are changing how culture is produced, distributed, and monetized in The Emerging Means of Production: Anticipating the Next Digital Divide, part of an initiative led by the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland.

As more high-quality, monetizable content moves online and onto virtual reality headsets, will the American cultural sector face a new front line in the digital divide? Will larger organizations, which can afford to acquire and monetize tomorrow’s means of production, capture market share before those without the same means even enter the market?  What impact will this have on the curation of content—whose stories are told, to whom, and with what frequency? What pressure will this place on smaller institutions? Alternatively, how might those same institutions flourish in this environment?

This debate will investigate the potential gap between institutions with access to tomorrow’s means of production and distribution and those without—and the economic and representational complications that may result. Debate participants include:

  • Simone Browne, Associate Professor, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin;
  • Madison Cario, Director, Office of the Arts, Georgia Tech;
  • Marco Castro Cosio, Artist, Designer, and Curator;
  • Matthew Pratt Guterl, Chair, American Studies and Professor, Africana Studies/American Studies/Ethnic Studies, Brown University;
  • David Kyuman Kim, Professor of Religious Studies and Associate Professor in American Studies, Connecticut College; and
  • Sydney Skybetter (moderator), Choreographer, Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University.

The debate will be at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, at the Ford Foundation. 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. 

This debate on technology and the arts is the third 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.

“Emerging technologies, from the proscenium stage to the light-emitting diode, have always affected the ways and means of the arts. Change is nothing new. Yet the arts face disruption in the form of emerging media platforms such as virtual reality, most of which are far cheaper than and more accessible than going to a theater,” said Mr. Skybetter. “Ultimately, the question we are wrestling with through this programming is, ‘Do we in the arts mimic and encompass other forms of media, thus ceding what has defined us for centuries, or do we stick to our proverbial guns on the gambit that there has always been an audience for the arts, and thus, presumably, always will?’”

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 Mr. 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 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 Mr. Skybetter, choreographer and Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University.

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 debate outlined above, “Generation Elsewhere” will include:

  • Technology, the Brain, and Audience Expectation: Vying for Attention in “Generation Elsewhere.” October 17, 2016, at The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.).
    As new technologies have dramatically altered 9-to-5 modes of communication, work, and leisure, have they also changed—consciously or unconsciously—what today’s audiences expect from their encounters with art? How will the cultural sector’s ability to develop and market its content compete in an era of cognitive and behavioral change accelerated by new technologies? This debate explores how the contemporary brain is changing as a result of its encounter with new technologies, and how this change must be addressed—even manipulated by—administrators and artists.

  • 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 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 posted to shortly after each event.

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


Joseph Heitz
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