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—available without leaving home—have on today’s cultural institutions, which largely require audiences to gather at a specific time, in a specific place, behave in a specific way, and pay handsomely to do it? Will tomorrow’s audiences—“digital natives”, “kidnapped” by technology from an early age – view their homes, replete with increasingly sophisticated technology, as a legitimate surrogate for the public sphere (the museum, the opera house, the theater, or the community center)? Contrarily, what types of cultural institutions, and cultural content, will compete with most success in this environment? What type of experience must tomorrow’s museums and concert halls facilitate to augment the value of the “real"?

Participants in the second debate of the "Generation Elsewhere: Art in the Age of Distraction" series included:

  • Liat Berdugo, Net Art and Special Programs Curator, Print Screen; Co-Founder and Curator, World Wide West; and Co-Founder and Curator, Living Room Light Exchange;
  • Justin Bolognino, Founder and CEO,;
  • Elly Jessop Nattinger, Experience Engineer, Google;
  • Thomas Forrest Kelly, Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music, Harvard University;
  • Philip Kennicott, Pulitzer Prize-winning Art and Architecture Critic, The Washington Post; and
  • Sydney Skybetter (moderator), Choreographer and Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University.

See below for video excerpts.

Thomas Forrest Kelly, Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University, discusses the past, present, and future of performance.

Justin Bolognino, Founder and CEO of, discusses the importance of presence and ephemerality to transformative artistic experiences.

Elly Jessop Nattinger, Experience Engineer at Google, reflects on the inclusion of technology in creating new experiences.

Philip Kennicott, Art and Architecture Critic at The Washington Post, examines the hostility towards traditional arts and the commodification of our lives.


Moderator Sydney Skybetter, Choreographer and Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University, moderates a debate on the makings of a successful artist, operating within an attentional landscape, and the varying degrees of “realness”.

Watch the Full Debate

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