Technology, the Brain, and Audience Expectations: 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 explored how the contemporary brain is changing as a result of its encounter with new technologies, and how this change may be addressed—even manipulated by—administrators and artists.

Debate participants included:

  • 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;
  • Klaus Ottmann, Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs, The Phillips Collection;
  • Gabe Zichermann, CEO, Gamification Co. and Dopamine, Inc.; and
  • Brett Egan (moderator), President, DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

Baroness Greenfield opened the event with a lecture that familiarized the audience with the concept of technology-driven “mind change.” This provided a starting point for the debate, which centered around three primary questions:

  • Should art and culture now be catering [A] for an unprecedented mindset or [B] attempting to transform it?
  • If [A], how will art and culture adapt to the premium on sensation, short attention span, and diminished frames of reference?
  • If [B], how will art and culture develop a stronger sense of individual identity, reflective thought, and the ability to make connections?

Click below for excerpts of the transcript.


Susan Greenfield: Technology-Driven “Mind Change”

Eiko Otake: Reaching Audiences Today

Klaus Ottmann: Art and Disruption

Susan Greenfield and Gabe Zichermann: Where to Use—and Not Use—Technology

Bill O’Brien: “The cultural sector should be serving people, not the other way around”

Susan Greenfield and Bill O’Brien: Children and Digital Technology

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